For two years, Patrick Feliciano and Maricar Gertes planned their dream wedding. But in less than 12 hours, everything changed.
The road to that wedding started in Paris in 2017, where the majestic Eiffel Tower witnessed how Patrick went down on one knee with a ring and how Maricar said yes to their "journey to forever."
Since then, the two worked hard for the planned ceremony, saving up money as they work abroad while still fulfilling family obligations.
When they saw the San Antonio De Padua Church in Cavite, they immediately fell in love with the place and so they reserved it on the same day.
Other logistical concerns were booked -- the dresses, the hotel, the flowers, the food. All things were set, and so invitations were sent, and the couple excitedly waited to walk down the aisle and exchange "I do's."
Finally on January 12, the eve of their wedding, Patrick and Maricar were on their way to a hotel in Tagaytay where they were billeted for the wedding. There they saw thick columns of smokes coming from the Taal Volcano.
"It actually was so calm then. There were even a lot of tourists taking pictures around the area. Around 3 p.m. we arrived at the hotel. They booked us in and all seems well," Patrick said.
An hour after, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 3 on the volcano, meaning eruption is possible within weeks. Three hours more and the alert was hoisted to level 4, signalling an intense unrest and that hazardous eruption is possible within days.
Patrick and Maricar realized that their dream wedding was starting to crumble.
"It was really difficult... we have put a lot of energy and money during the wedding planning. Two years of planning down the drain. It was heartbreaking but safety is now a concern, so that became the primary reason to postpone our event," Patrick said.
The hair and makeup artist texted saying she was backing out due to safety concerns while offering a full refund. Other suppliers followed. Guests also started messaging them, regretfully informing them that they will no longer be able to come.
"I got in touch with our coordinator and it dawned on us to postpone the wedding... Me and my wife would not endanger other people's lives just to fulfill our dream wedding," Patrick said.
They got trapped in the hotel. All night, the couple stayed awake as the nearby Taal Volcano went on with its wrath, earthquakes continued to rumble, and ashfall spread quickly.
And yet the following morning, despite the worsening condition all around them, Patrick and Maricar stood their ground to fulfill a promise they both made in Paris two years ago.
Even in tears, the two quietly sat together as their wedding, though not quite what they originally dreamed of, happened before their eyes.
"I felt overwhelmed with what happened to us. I remembered how I thought we might die when the earthquakes started happening. Also the stress of coordinating with the guests and suppliers that we have to postpone the event, and the Two years of anticipation for our dream wedding," Patrick said.
Absent were the fancy flowers and carpet. There were no dazzling crystals and sumptuous food. The invited guests were nowhere, except for Patrick's parents and sister and Maricar's mother and three siblings.
The groom wore a plain black shirt coupled with a pair of jeans. The bride, still beautiful with her laid back dress. And so they stood in an almost empty church, in front of their family, and in front of God. Patrick and Maricar exchanged their vows and waited as the priest pronounced that from then on they are husband and wife, for better or for worse, 'till death do them part.
"I considered it as the best wedding because I feel relieved, we all survived and we received God's blessing. And though we do not have guests, mine and her family are there and that is more than enough," Patrick said.
He said they are still considering holding a ceremony like what they initially planned.
"I am currently checking with our suppliers especially the ones who are already fully paid with what they can offer. If refunds are off the table, we will be having a renewal of vows," he added.
But for now, what matters is that they are together, and no volcano could stop their journey as the new Mr. and Mrs. Feliciano.
"Kahit pa may pumutok na bulkan, lindol, ashfall, at baradong kalsada, 'di 'yun naging hadlang upang maikasal kami. Dalawang taon kong hinintay ito, kaya masayang masaya ako," Patrick said.