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HOME > The Wedding Special > Articles > Friendster-inspired wedding (Judith Lopez Balean)

Friendster-inspired `wired' meeting ends in wedding

By Judith Lopez Balean
Philippine Graphic (Vol. 15, Nos. 30-31, January 3-10, 2005), pp. 56-57

Studio shot of Joy and I

"We started through the web, now we're going to be wed!" That's the kicker on our internet card-like wedding invitation and wedding special website which, incidentally, also sums up our story.

Though I was in a relationship then with a foreigner, my cousin Jing insisted that I check out Friendster, an online community.

Like other websites I visit, I checked out Friendster's features in early April 2004. Quite predictably, I got fixated with the Gallery section where profiles of Friendster users are arranged according to one's search preferences. I browsed and enjoyed reading the profiles of selected Friendster users. Among the serious-looking pictures that caught my eye, I returned to a profile that stood out from the rest. He looked so serious, but he had cropped his square picture to show only the features between his eyebrows and lower lip. Considering that he is a print and online journalist, a broadcaster and a University of the Philippines (UP) professor, he seemed a tad offbeat. Of course, by UP standards, one can argue that he is "normal." I thought it was weird for one to be serious without appearing so.

His name (Danilo A. Arao) seemed familiar; I was prompted to read his profile. At that time, I suspected that he was a classmate in one of my general education (GE) classes at UP Diliman or a fellow student leader - because he looked like an activist and a weirdo. (Sorry, my love, that's the reason I fell in love with you.)

My first message was just a short inquiry if he remembered a classmate named Joy (my nickname). I also gave him my student number. Aba, I initially found him to be suplado because when I checked the messages section of my Friendster account the following day, he did not send a reply. I ignored it for a while but after a few days, I got a message from him!

He seemed interested in contacting me but had reservations in giving me his cellphone number. By the middle of April 2004, however, Danny gave in. He even disclosed all his phone numbers!

My only purpose in getting to know him was to widen my personal network in my Friendster account. I initially did not intend to befriend him since I had no time for fun (besides, he didn't look and sound friendly). But he sent frequent text messages, sparking my interest, especially given his perceived "psychological imbalance." At that time, he seemed to be a good subject for sociological inquiry focusing on (deviant?) behavior.

I learned so much about him in a very short time. We did not have any qualms about asking very personal questions especially when we personally met in May 2004. I found myself floundering in "psychological imbalance" as well. That's when we decided to balance each other out.

We agree on everything in life, but we also have notable differences. An example is keeping my bills orderly in my wallet by having them in ascending order with the face in front. He does the opposite, since his bills are arranged with the highest denomination first and folded showing the back side. As a journalist, he is a late morning riser, while I wake up early. He wants the room cold; I want it warm. I want soft music like jazz, he prefers hard music like rock. I love to dance, he's got two left feet. I like fruits, sweets and chocolates, he doesn't.

However, we also share a lot of passions. We call them the five Fs - food, fries, film, family and fun. The "fun" things are reading, walking, surfing the net and discussing the national and global situations.

We both have "weird" tastes. We have visions of our house being spacious, with minimal furniture and dining sets in intricate shapes. Our dream house should be a combination of Filipino, Japanese Victorian, and Colonial styles (we also wonder what would it look like in the end). We also talk about child rearing in a different way. Sorry I can't elaborate because I don't want to be endlessly interrogated by well-meaning friends and relatives. But just to give you an idea, we plan to teach our children a different language that only our family could understand!

As I write this, we are in the thick of preparing for our wedding.

When we announced our engagement in September 2004, his loving sister Lorna lent me her wedding guidebook. It was very helpful and I used it as a reference in making my own preparations, together with those that we use in our family business. (Shameless plug: Aside from making dresses and selling wines, our company, Hannie, does wedding planning and packages.)

Being busy with my work at Land Bank in Legazpi City, particularly in assisting cooperatives, government and non-government organizations, I had to create a handy guide of my own in the computer. Thanks to email, it became convenient for Danny (who is based in Manila) and I to edit the electronic files I created. So distance was not a barrier in our preparations. He too sent me inputs through email and through cellular phone.

I used two spreadsheet files. One is named "Our Wedding" and contains the details, entourage list, the order of procession and picture taking, wedding program and sketch maps to the two receptions (one in Manila, the other in Bicol). The other file is "Wedding Activities" with a schedule of activities, list of accessories and materials to be used, schedule of expenses, coordinators and the list of guests.

We also have two Word files for the wedding liturgy, and the poem Danny and I wrote for our souvenir gifts.

With these in place, Danny created in late November 2004 the "Danny & Joy: The Wedding Special" website that gave our wedding a more "high-tech" look. Its URL is http://www.dannyarao.com/wedding.

Enhancements were also made with the help of one of our principal sponsors, Dr. Georgina Encanto. She gave us a photocopy of a rare book on Filipino wedding traditions which is only available at the UP Library.

We wanted to make our wedding materials unique, and conform to the way we nurtured our relationship - i.e., giving a traditional Filipino "touch" to information and communication technology (ICT). This is our concept of modern Filipiniana, which is the theme of our wedding.

Our wedding invitation has the size and look of an internet prepaid card. We made full use of our creative talents in conceptualizing and designing it.

Given our background in clothing technology, I designed my own wedding gown while my sister Yhambs designed the outfit of the rest of the entourage.

Our missalette measures 5.5 in. x 8.5 in. and is fastened by yellow and green ribbons. It has a hardboard metallic green covering with a pocket to insert the invites, list of entourage/order of procession, order of picture taking, sketch maps and reception program. It is secured by a green ribbon with gold band. Its contents are based on missalettes which I got from my parish in Tabaco City and from the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice at UP Diliman where we will be married. Our celebrant Rev. Fr. Jose Dizon helped edit it. Upon my suggestion, Danny wrote our own version of the "Exchange of Marriage Vows."

The wedding souvenir is a poem we wrote encased in a glass plaque with a stand. Prior to this, we opted to have it etched by a professional maker. But we decided to make it ourselves and as a cost-cutting measure. We decorated it with garden accent using our motif. It is wrapped with yellow or green paper made of fine abaca fiber tied by golden cord and sealed by ribbons with flowers.

After our reception in Bicol, we will also publish a wedding souvenir program which will be a compilation of our activities, pictures, wedding materials and other details.

We started our wedding preparation by buying our wedding rings a few days before Danny's birthday in September 2004. Perhaps Danny did it to make sure that I'd marry him. That was probably his unique (read: Weird) way of proposing. It happened about two weeks before he booked our wedding date at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice and one and a half months before the traditional pamanhikan.

As it happened, the pamanhikan turned out to be non-traditional, with Danny and I simply presenting the details of our wedding. We initially preferred to be married at the break of the dawn but there is no mass service at that hour; the earliest available time is 8 a.m. so we settled for that.

We've had our share of misunderstandings every now and then, but these are mostly petty ones. All in all, the wedding preparation is fun, with us inspiring and helping each other.

For us, getting married -"weird" preparations and all - is the best way to cap a relationship that started with a Friendster meeting. Hope the pious reader (yes, you!) can get some lessons from our happy story which happened at the onset of the crisis that besets the country.

Judith L. Balean works at the Land Bank of the Philippines in Legazpi City (Bicol). She earned a bachelor's degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City and a master's degree at Bicol University.

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