Sept. 26, 2009 would go down in Philippine history as Typhoon Ondoy brought furious a rainfall which caused the worst flooding that hit Metro Manila in 40 years. I think there were quite a number of weddings scheduled that day, others canceled but a few persevered despite most of Manila was already underwater, including mine. For Mon Gajete and Ericka Mangalile, no typhoon was going to stop them from getting married.
Since I lived in Marikina, flood was a part of our life. During typhoon season, it is normal for water to rise in front of our house up to our garage. On that day, I left at an earlier time since just to be safe and went to Junie’s (my girlfriend) house first in Fort Bonifacio area. I then realized how bad things were when almost all the roads were flooded in Makati and C5 or there was heavy traffic and I could not get to Ericka’s hotel at Crowne Plaza in Ortigas. Eventually, I parked my car in Rockwell tried to take the MRT from Buendia, but I stood in-line for 2 hours but all the trains were jam-packed and people looked like they were in a sardine can. With my camera backpack gear I couldn’t fit going into the train. I must be honest that there were so many times I just wanted to quit and tell the couple I tried but nature would not allow me to shoot your wedding. But, as I continued to talk to Mon and Ericka’s coordinator, they were really bent on pushing through with their wedding and I thought, I need to exert all possible means, I think my conscience will not permit me to just give up so easily and I was constantly encouraged and reminded by our mentor, John Mateos Ong, thru text (thanks sir!).
So we came to a compromise and with the time constraint we agreed to skip shooting the hotel preparations and meet at the Nuestra Senora de Gracia in Guadalupe (NSDG), where they were getting married. With Edsa at a stand still, I decided to walk from Buendia MRT station to NSDG. I arrive there around 3pm, in time to dry my clothes as I waited for the the couple to arrive. Up to this point I was really worried about my family as no one was answering their cell phones. Finally I was able to get hold of my sister through text and learned that the whole ground floor of our house was flooded, and they were moving anything they can save to the second floor which was why they were not answering my calls. Talk about stress! I really prayed at the church and lifted everything that was happening that day to God, not only for my family but everyone affected by the typhoon that day.
I really honor Mon and Ericka’s strength and dependence on God as I witnessed how composed and positive they were amidst the chaos around them when they finally arrived in church. According to Minnie, our wedding coordinator, their parents were already advising them to cancel the wedding, but they have worked so hard in planning this day that they did not want to give up and quit. To make things more challenging, I also learned from them that both of the couple’s homes were almost submerged underwater. I tried to do my best to make things light and fun for the couple, but I can see how calm they were. The wedding ceremony became very intimate as family and close friends witnessed their vows. In my count there were a total of 27 people including the couple. At first, the couple only wanted the wedding to ceremony and was considering canceling their reception. Minne was also telling me that the caterer was 50/50 if they can make it to Tektite Towers, the venue for the reception. But as we were about to finish in church, Minnie got a call from the caterer that they can make it to Tektite and the reception pushed through, praise God! It was during the reception that everyone got emotional as they reminisced on what happened that day but I really thank the Lord for getting everyone through.
I also would like to honor Minnie and her team of coordinators for supporting Mon and Ericka. From our team, Gavian, Robert, Kirch for braving the typhoon and walking in flood just to get to the wedding. Also, John Mateos Ong’s constant encouragement and sending another photog in place of Arlene who got stranded in the South. In the end, the Lord blessed Mon and Ericka’s faithfulness and calmed the storm to give them one of the most heartfelt and intimate weddings I have covered. I also salute the other wedding photographers that day who covered weddings as they showed how committed we are to our couples. God bless!