By José Abeto Zaide
Last Thursday, July 19, my wife Meng and I were invited to a wedding at the Archbishop’s Palace. Although we have reached our golden years in matrimony this year, we are only tenderfoot compared to the bride and groom who renewed their vows on their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary.
Judge Pete Santiago and his bride Tita Rose are blessed with four sons (J. Sedfrey, C. Simon, A. Stephen, D. Samuel). After earning a bonus of 10 grandchildren, they added another 10 more great grandchildren to swell the Santiago clan to 26 (and still counting…).
Judge Pete is man of consequence. Surprising for a poor hard scrabble boy from Tondo. Much earlier in his high school days, he was asked why he always carried a notebook in his back pocket. His answer: It was his codigo of parts of the textbook that he could not afford to pay for. By dint of hard work and scholarship, he would graduate through college and law school and retire as Regional Trial Court judge.
We realized that this Santiago nuptial was going to be something out of the ordinary. Three priests officiated – Fr. Dennis Soriano, Fr. James Castro, and Fr. Mau Ulep. (Talagang walang kawala si Judge Pete kay Tita Rose!)
Fr. Dennis extolled the example of the bridal couple; and he expounded on the virtues of love and understanding and all the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy. When the prelate came to the word, “patience….,” he heard Judge Pete murmur grudging consent.
Fr. Dennis always weighs his words, remembering that his parishioner Judge Santiago had candidly suggested that priests who have nothing better to add to the day’s reading of the New Testament may charitably skip the homily. (This must have been said, perhaps by force of habit, by a sitting judge grown tired of endless but irrelevant tirades of litigants.)
The soprano Karla Gutierrez provided the celestial hymns at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (BTW, it was at the balcony of our Embassy Residence in Berlin at Rudolf Kniest Strasse that her beau on bended knees proposed marriage.)
ON KISSING THE BRIDE Before the end of the ceremony, Fr. Dennis requested Judge Pete to reenact the kiss – because the photographers were not fast enough to catch a quick peck…(To which the groom quipped, “Baka mawili!”)
THE BEST IS YET TO COME. From the Archbishop’s Palace, our party hopped over to Shangri-La BGC for the cordon bleu dinner.
We had made the acquaintance of Judge Pete eons ago when, without fear or favor, he upheld the suit of a then aspiring entrepreneur, Oscar Violago, against a corporate claim which tried to muscle in on a torrens title using its wherewithal and political influence. We would learn more about this Solomonic judge through his son, Sedfrey, who would be Oscar’s scholar at the University of Brussels during our tour of duty in Brussels.
Judge Pete also has a green thumb, which he put to use in his hobby raising and cultivating bonsai. He gifted us with one of his works, which would be an orchard today if only I knew how to take care of it.
UNCOMMON FRIEND. Besides having an eye for his beautiful bride, Judge Pete also had a good eye for other things of beauty. He is an avid collector of works of Federico Aguilar Alcuaz – another hobby far beyond the modest means of an honest judge (but made possible because the artist and the judge are famously bosom buddies).
My wife and I found ourselves at the Artist’s Table. (Neither of us are; although Meng may claim to be a model.) We were seated next to a Medici, Eddie Chua, who, besides his collection of Napoleon Abueva sculptures, has probably the largest trove of Federico Aguilar Alcuaz works. I learned from Mr. Chua that Judge Pete has some of the best works of the artist (which I take as a professional assessment of the judge’s worthy collection).
Pete and Rose are daily church goers – every day of the week, except on Fridays. The last day of the week is reserved for Quiapo church, where he is a devotee of the Black Nazarene. Besides the old-fashioned religion, he has a regular feeding program for Quiapo’s poor.
Even the fourth generation of the Santiago clan has something to contribute for their great grandparents’ day. For our delectation, great granddaughter Yumi played “Fools Rush In” on her violin; and the Magnificent 7 ensemble of great grandchildren Yumi, Sophie, Liam, Zee, Sabine Kayla, Max, and Kai sang “Que Sera, Sera.”
Towards the end of the program, Grandson Carl introduced his hero, the man of the hour, Judge Pete, to thank all nears and dears who braved the threatening downpour last Thursday evening. Our celebrated groom’s short peroration began by thanking everyone profusely for sharing the moment. He ended by declaring that… because, however much he has held up his muse, he and Tita Rose would discover through the years… how different and apart they are… and it is time that they must again renew… and reach out to each other.
After hearing Judge Pete’s homily, the officiating priest Fr. Dennis’ face lit up like he had just struck a match: He just found a theme for his homily for the coming Sunday!
Is it a wonder that Jesus’ first miracle was at Cana?
* * *
We know very little else of Judge Pete’ self-effacing muse, Tita Rose, other than that she has been his inspiration and tower of strength. We know that she has declared that he was her one and only true love and boyfriend. Like any doting wife, she is happiest remaining in the background, proud of the success of her husband who is the undisputed Head of the Family. (Just like the neck – she only occasionally tilts the head in this or that direction.)
* * *
NEXT PROGRAM. Many batch mates are celebrating their golden nuptials this year. On Thursday, 26 July, Ding Wenceslao Jr. and his bride Sylvia will renew vows to commemorate their golden (50th) wedding anniversary.
EARTH MOVERS. Ding Jr. has grown his namesake father’s DMWAI (Delfin Wenceslao & Associates, Inc.) to reclaim two million square meters of Manila Bay. This man-made real estate now has landmarks like Resort World, Solaire and City of Dreams.
UNDER & OVER. DMWAI partners with major players on an unsolicited tender to decongest Manila by building a tunnel tracing EDSA for a motorway and subway system to solve our traffic woes. On the bright and salutary side, Ding is putting the finishing touches to the St. John Paul II church on prime property in the reclaimed land. He is handing over the lead to the next generation; but his hand remains on the tiller. The dream lives on.
FEEDBACK: [email protected]