Admit it or not—we Pinoys are suckers for romance. We love being witness to engagements. We cry at weddings even if they’re not ours. So when war correspondent and peace advocate Karlos Manlupig took to Facebook to ask for help in locating a Davaoeño couple whose engagement photographs he volunteered to take—but whose email address he inadvertently deleted—netizens took the cyber search to heart, made the necessary connections, and eagerly followed the developments.
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“Hey Davao netizens! I need your help,” Manlupig’s post last January 27 at 3:19pm read. “We were at the Sleeping Dinosaur view deck in Mati yesterday when this guy proposed to his girlfriend. I offered to take their photos but I accidentally deleted the email ad that they gave me. So please help me find them so that I can send the hi-res copy. Daghang salamat! Here are some clues: 1. Their names are Ralph and Diane based on their vests. 2. They are from Davao City.”
Moments after, Manlupig’s FB friends took notice of the post and immediately shared it, tagging their bike-riding friends—the couple’s vests indicated they belong to a bike-riding group—and others who might possibly find any connections with the couple.
It didn’t take long before one commenter, PuLa Na RoTom, recognized the guy in the photograph—his friend Ralph M. Allie—and immediately tagged and congratulated the soon-to-be groom. Allie possibly saw the tag a few hours after and replied, “slamat darb atak ramo puhon kasal. [Salamat darb, punta kayo God willing sa kasal.]”
Later, a Joanne Celle on FB tagged the newly engaged couple, commenting, “That's my brother, Ralph M. Allie, and his fianceé, Ael Morada.” Morada eventually acknowledged the tags and started thanking friends who were sending congratulatory greetings.
Morada and Allie are both members of the bike-riding club Legendary Team Bayot Davao. “Nabuo ang love story namin sa mga rides lang din,” she shares to ANCX over Facebook Messenger. They both knew they were headed for the altar anytime soon but were just waiting for the right time.
The wedding proposal happened at around 2pm of January 26, a Sunday. In the video that Morada shared with ANCX, one would understand why her spouse-to-be chose the spot and that time of the day. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue, although it was a bit cloudy. There seems to be a delicate, cool breeze.
Morada and Alli had been riding their bikes earlier that day and were on their way back home to Davao when someone from the group suggested they do a stopover at the Sleeping Dinosaur viewing deck, one of the most popular tourist spots in Mati City. Everyone agreed to a groufie. “We really make it a point to have a group photo taken especially if the view is nice. So hindi ako naghinala na may kakaibang mangyayari,” Morada recalls.
If there was any proposal that’s going to happen, she was expecting it on her birthday. “Alam lahat ng rider-friends na kasama namin na magpo-propose si Ralph that Sunday, ako lang ang hindi nakakaalam. Nakaupo ako sa isang bato sa deck, medyo malayo siya sa akin. Yun pala, nagpaplano na sila kung ano’ng setup. Then they called me to have the group photo.”
When the designated photographer of the group signaled to take the shot, Morada was requested to look behind her, and lo and behold, she saw Allie on his knees, ring on his hand. He popped the question. “I was shocked! Siyempre kinilig ako,” Morada gushes.
The group decided not to hire a professional photographer for the proposal, lest the whole thing ends up feeling and looking scripted.
At the right place, at the right time
Manlupig, who was in the area for a quick tour, saw the whole spectacle unfold. His group was on a four-day trip to facilitate a Peace Journalism training in Mati. “The plan was to go on a sunrise hike on our third day, but it never happened. So we decided to stop by at the view deck of the Sleeping Dinosaur on our way back to Davao City,” he tells ANCX.
Manlupig’s group opted to admire the majestic view from the side of the deck and took a few snapshots of the landscape with their phones; the group of motorcycle riders were still taking pictures in the viewing deck. He noticed from how the group was moving that something was going to happen. “From the middle of the pack, a guy knelt down and presented a ring to his girlfriend. I was tempted to take a picture but decided not to. It was a precious and emotional moment for the couple. I wanted to preserve it that way without a random dude snapping pictures,” he says.
Manlupig and company eventually joined in the cheering and clapping to congratulate the couple after Morada said yes. He then went back to his car to get his camera—a Canon 5D III with a Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens—and approached the couple to ask if he can take their photos. “It is important to record moments like this, and not everyone can have a photographer to follow them around on their engagement day. I know because I filmed my own proposal and pre-nup videos in 2016. It wasn’t easy,” Manlupig recalls.
“Mukhang mabait po talaga si sir Karlos,” says Morada, so the couple gladly welcomed the very kind offer from a total stranger.
The pleasantries and entire photo shoot was brief—about ten minutes; there were other people waiting to have their photos taken at the viewing deck. Afterwards, Manlupig asked the couple for an email address, which Morada readily gave.
Soon after, Morada was constantly checking her email, waiting for the photographs to appear in her inbox, but there was none. So she was surprised to receive a call from a friend the following day, informing her that Manlupig posted their engagement photographs on his Facebook page because he had lost her email address.
“I immediately went online and na-shock ako na maraming nag-comment at nag-mention sa amin,” she says, a little weirded out that their engagement suddenly became a public affair.
Albeit unintentionally, the couple is happy to have shared a bit of their love story to the online world. Meanwhile, we asked Manlupig if he’s considering wedding photography as a career. “I tried it once and it's not for me. I can't endure a shoot wearing clean and pressed button-down shirts. I still prefer my black shirt, jeans, and boots.”
Manlupig writes stories and documents photographs from the different conflict areas in Mindanao. He also does peacebuilding work—which covers capacity development, conflict transformation, and Peace Journalism — in the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia. That fateful day in Mati, however, he was just like any other Pinoy who loves to witness wedding engagements—except he had the better camera and offered to take the pictures.
Morada and Allie’s wedding bells will be ringing this March 30.
Photographs by Karlos Manlupig