An exquisitely Filipiniana wedding worth remembering



By Boy Villasanta


Both bride and groom had arts in their veins and true nationalism as well in their choice of garb for both sides—the bride and the groom’s. They planned everything to the last detail, even though they hired a wedding planner, who ended up executing their every plans and designs.


For all these efforts, the wedding of JR Arella to long-time fiancée Merean Roca—both of them are from Quezon province—ended up like a piece for both history and art books.


Their Filipiniana-inspired motif organized by the Arella family of JR Arella has been a tradition. When his younger sister Jacqueline Arella married Raymond Palad some years back, the setting of the wedding was the historic Intramuros and most of the guests came in their Filipino dresses—Barong Tagalog in many colors, shapes and styles among men and Maria Clara-influenced cut among women and the reception was every inch in local color.


            So when JR got engaged to his fiancée Merean, they both planned the nuptial and march down the aisle early this month at the Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala in the Diocese of Gumaca in Quezon Province.


The Filipiniana-themed ambience was always the centerpiece of the special day. More than the wedding preparation, the 10-year romance of JR and Merean was the evolving factor of adapting a nationalistic fervor in the final touches of the matrimonial ceremony.


Arella is an artist. He paints and sculpts since he was a young boy. In high school, he went to the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) in Los Baños, Laguna but later moved to a school nearer in Lopez, Quezon where his mom and dad resided. In Gumaca, he went to the Holy Child School inside the parochial church of the town, where he met and fell for Merean, also an artist.


Both loved the arts so much that they always talked about music, literature, film, visual arts, theater, architecture and anything on humanities.  Their patriotism was anchored in the arts.

            After college, both JR and Merean taught the arts. But since he got employed by the National Museum in Manila as museum guide, he left the teaching load to his girlfriend.


           JR’s cousin, another artist and cultural worker-- Gemma Arella Suguitan San Jose—said both JR and Merean were the wedding planners apart from the official wedding planner they hired.


“They wanted a personal touch to the wedding preparation,” informed San Jose. The wedding planner was the one who executed the concept while the bride and groom were the think tanks. Among the things the planner was in charge of was the food which was also personally chosen by JR and Merean and the venue decoration which they also conceptualized. Materials were advised by them and were bought and prepared by the planner.

            “But of course, even if they were busy with their respective jobs in Manila, they still managed to come home to Gumaca to personally attend and oversee the wedding preparation,” recalled Gemma who was one of the sponsors during the ecclesiastical wedding ceremony and one of the emcees during the reception.


JR and Merean are from Lopez and Pitogo, both municipalities of Quezon, respectively.


On the eve of the wedding, the Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala was transformed into a colorful village without desecrating the event. The church entrance was bedecked with assorted blooms and foliage especially white roses for the arch and horizontal panels with native hats made of indigenous materials like buri and anahaw tacked on both sides. A long twine of white laces with intermittent pots of various flowers in each corner like sampaguita, roses of various hues and daisies cordoned off the aisle up to the altar. The façade was decked with flowers.


The bride and groom wore Filipiniana (JR in a heavily- embroidered jusi barong and Merean in an off-shoulder Maria Clara white gown with a long train). An after party change costume came with Arella in a shade of silk blue Barong Tagalog and Merean still in a white Maria Clara-cut top over a blue flowing skirt).

The bridesmaids donned local textiles/tapestry on their butterfly sleeves of their ternos and the men’s barong. Most of the members of newly-weds’ families and some guests came in Filipiniana although it was specified in the invite that well-wishers are requested to come in their Filipiniana-inspired attire though the couple did not impose any dress code as they are happy to see their well-wishers in national dresses.

The Diocese of Gumaca auditorium where the reception was held was decorated with as Gemma  echoed: “elements like baybayin (the native alphabet), lingling-o (types of flowers), Tayabas (now Quezon) products particularly the Lopenze siete colores abaniko (seven colored hand fans).”

Gumaca’s landmark, a castle (locally called kastilyo, located on the seaside northeast of the town) a trademark of its township was reproduced and perched onstage with matching twinkling little stars. “The details were perfect,” complimented Gemma.

In postscript, there was lyrical poetry in the vernacular written by JR to his wife which summed up their Filipiniana-type wedding: “May ngiti sa aking labi sa tuwing ika'y nakikita...mula sa pagsikat ng araw buhay ko'y sumigla...tunay na pag-ibig may taglay na ginhawa…(There’s always a smile on my lips whenever I see you…from sunrise to vitalize my life…true love has some kind of relief”)—free verse translation mine.



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Friday, 24 January 2020
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