I feel blessed.
Yesterday I tied the knot with the wonderful and lovely Dr. Beng Rivera, an activist doctor from the Head Alliance for Democracy. After months of delay, (which was partly my fault, partly unavoidable) we finally did it at the UP Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. It was a simple activist wedding. We sang our vows, a song we wrote for the wedding itself. Our families, sponsors, comrades and friends were all present during the activity. A mini-concert followed the reception.
We’d like to give a shout out to the artists who sang during the church ceremony, folk legends Lolita Carbon, Jesse Bartolome and Jess Santiago, as well as the church-based group Haranang Bayan and our friends Walkie, Sarah, RJ, Jon and Jonathan.
We’d like to thank the performers during the reception mini-concert, Jerks frontman and genuine rockista Chikoy Pura, Bobby Mondejar and friends who delighted our parents and relatives, and of course Brownman Revival for the amazing finale.
We’d also like to thank our ninongs and ninangs who were kind enough to help out in almost every aspect of the wedding. Ninang Betina Legarda’s cake and desserts were awesome as was ninang Chit Agacaoili’s dinuguan.
Special thanks to the people of Bayan who were all-out in their support for the activity. For those planning a wedding, we recommend Tess Leongson for your catering needs. To all those who brought food; Clay Cafe’, Lola’s, Aling Vivian, Pamalakaya and many others, you filled our hearts and our stomachs.
Our ninang, Atty. Josie Lichauco said it best; after the wedding is a marriage. And we totally look forward to married life together.
Here’s an article written by a long time friend in the movement, Ina Silverio on the how’s and why’s of the wedding. She wrote this before the actual wedding rites, but most of the stuff she wrote about the wedding did happen.
November 22 for Nato and Beng
Renato Reyes is getting married. Boy, am really getting old, and nevermind that I’m married myself. Nato tying the knot is the thing that really drove the point home: the then 17-year old friend who was most influential in my transition from ordinaryong-nilalang-na-may-ambisyong-magpayaman to aktibista-laging-walang-pera-pero-at-least-masaya is now 31 and officially saying good-bye to singlehood and starting a new phase in his life.
Nato’s a public personality. Of course he’s not a celebrity in the way, say, Sam Milby is (selling hotdogs, facial soap, mobile phonecards and generally being a media, uh, prostitute); but he’s well known because of his political advocacy and how he is a credible and worthy spokesperson on the progressive mass movement he represents.
His public persona — firm negotiator for rallyists when they’re blocked by the police and military; well-read resource person on issues as diverse as national sovereignty, charter change and musical traditions; thorough campaign officer and one of the youngest to become secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – is but a hard shell that covers an essentially mushy interior.
Among all movie and literary characters, Nato relates most to the John Cusack character Rob Gordon in the film version of Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity.’ Hence, the fact that he’s getting married is really a big deal. He’s had three, four relationships that either quietly imploded or spectacularly exploded; and I myself have been witness to his slow, circuitous process of self-questioning and ‘why oh why the hell didn’t it work?!’ assessment. Like I once threatened him, I could blackmail him over all the knowledge I have about how he falls in love and goes slightly crazy when it doesn’t work out (Remember that girl back in college you lent my comic books to, Nato? The one who played bongos? Harharhar!).
But that’s all blissfully in the past. Nato has had his share of broken hearts and nights of sleeplessness; but now he’s happy and on the way to even more happiness.So to whom is Nato committing to share the rest of his life to?
Her name is Geneve Emata Rivera, or as she is known to her colleagues and Kasamas in the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), “Beng.”
I myself know very little about Beng except that she’s a bona fide doctor and that she has a lovely smile. I am certain that she has more beautiful qualities apart from the smile that made Nato fall in love with her, and perhaps in the future I will have more opportunities to know her better; but at this point, it’s Nato who’s my main source of insight on Beng.
The mind-musical meld
Nato says that his compatibility with Beng is ‘mind-boggling.’ Beng rates their compatibility a nine on a scale of one to 10.
“From the first time I met her, I thought that Beng was different from any woman I’ve met,” he says.
Beng, for her part, says that she realized that Nato was the man for her after their first year together as a couple. “Halos wala kaming pinag-aawayan at ang gaan ng mga bagay-bagay para sa kin dahil sa kanya, naisip ko, siya na nga!”
Nato and Beng were introduced to each other during a press conference where he found out that she was a doctor. Having a corny sense of humor, Nato approached Beng with what he fooled himself into thinking as a ‘creative pick-up line’ – “Doc, may sakit ako….’
“It hardly made a dent on her; but we went out that same night with some friends. We went out with friends, and we performed a song by Sheryl Crow called Strong Enough. I felt that there was something there. We clicked musically, and there was something about her that drew me closer. I couldn’t sleep that night. This feeling was reinforced during our trip to Hacienda Luisita on November 15, 2004 . I got to know her better during the long ride to Tarlac,” he said.
It’s not known whether Nato made deliberate moves to get Beng to sit next to him on the three-hour trip to the Haciend Luisita picketline, but what’s certain is that he learned a lot about her during the car ride, and what he learned, he liked. He wanted to know her more, and looked forward to the coming days when he could see and talk more to Beng.
The next day, however, found Nato crashing down to earth.
There was a picket in front of the Department of National Defense (DND) and Nato was already late. He got on a cab, and while waiting for the traffic to move, his celphone beeped.
It was a text message from Beng, only it wasn’t for him.
“It was a missent. Beng was texting her then boyfriend.I was hurt. It was a day of mishaps bevause it turned out that I had left my wallet at home so I had no money to pay the cab,” he says.
Nato didn’t go to the picket anymore. “I went home sad. I was under the impression kasi na she was single. Turned out she was already engaged,” he shares.
It’s a long telenovella with sudden twists and turns and dramatic moments how he and Beng finally got together. At the beginning, both sides friends discouraged closeness from developing between the two.
Walkie (Mirana-Africa, of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT), a close friend, cautioned Nato against pursuing Beng because the latter had a boyfriend and was in fact already engaged.
“Alangan namang maging mang-aagaw si Nato,” she says. “It was like the plot of one of those quirky Korean movies he liked to watch where the boy jumps off the train for the girl, but the girl doesn’t see until it’s too late and she gets on, train moves on, and the boy is left flat on the station pavement looking stupid. It was a hard time for him, but also for his friends who knew that Nato had already gone through a series of hellish relationships. We didn’t want him to get himself hurt again, so of course we discouraged him. In the end, it worked out for best. They were patient, and napatunayan nila na they really wanted to be with each other.”
Nato admits that it took months and months before things got ok. Inevitably, it was Beng who had to make the hardest decisions. Deciding to be with Nato meant letting go of a relationship with a person she cared very much about. It also meant rethinking her priorities because being with Nato also meant embracing her activism more.
“ It was a very difficult time for me and her, more so for her. She sacrificed a lot and went through a lot of difficult decisions on what she wanted to do with her life in the Movement. Me, I had to look back on all the harsh lessons from my previous experiences and tried not repeat them. She had to struggle hard to decide whether she wanted to take a chance with me or not. I had to wait (which is something I’m not so good at). We don’t really have an anniversary for when we became a couple. Our point of reference has always been the Nov.15 trip to Hacienda Luisita,” Nato says.
“Nothing has been easy for us, from the time we met, up to the time we decided to get married. Marriage in the activist context means a lot more difficulty. It is this difficulty, the sacrifice and commitment, which also makes activist marriage meaningful. We know there is a lot of sacrifice involved, a lot of trials and abnormal situations. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Beng jokes that she’s always wanted to get married to a ‘good provider’ (“Which is something Nato isn’t, mwahahaha!”).
“Seryoso, hindi rin naman si Nato ang tipong maghuhugas ng pinggan at magwawalis, e. Basta lang maging malawak ang pang-unawa nya sa mga demands ng trabaho ko, yun lang ang hinihingi ko sa kanya. I’ve had a fulfilling life as a single person and now I am ready for this chapter in my life na may kasama at may kadamay sa mga kalokohang gusto ko pang gawin, at si Nato iyon.”
The lessons of the closing phase of singleton life
Nato’s 31 years old, and he admits that before he met Beng he made a lot of mistakes when it comes to love and relationships. For all his intelligence and sharpness when it comes to the political line on issues affecting economics and politics in the context of social struggle, Nato, when it comes to the politics of love has been something of a dunce.
“All those experiences taught me the things that really matter in a relationship and what to look for in a woman, given my involvement in the Movement. These experiences made me appreciate love within the Kilusan, love that is not just for love’s sake, but for a greater cause. I was so attracted to the idea of being in love. I learned that that attraction or love itself weren’t enough, especially given my work and responsibilities. I learned things the hard way. I was actually pathetic. Lots of John Cusack-High Fidelity moments,” he sheepishly admits.
Beng, 32, also had three official failed relationships behind her; but Nato, he says, was a revelation to her.
“Nung una, medyo mayabang, at akala ko bakla, hahahaha! Pero later on, hindi naman pala. What I like most about him is, napapakalma nya ako pag mainit na ang ulo ko at napapagaan niya ang mga mabibigat para sa kin. Mahalaga din sa akin ang pagiging musikero niya at yung hindi kami nauubusan ng pag-uusapan, kahit ano lang, minsan para na lang kaming mga baliw…”
The wedding on November 22
Nato describes his upcoming wedding as ‘Simple, pero rock.’ He and Beng have poured much energy into turning their wedding ceremony and reception into cross between a rally and a rock concert.
“We’re getting married at the UP parish of the Holy Sacrifice. Simple rites but with lots of music. It’s a labor of love by all our family and friends,” he says.
And the effort of all these friends and family members are all very visible. The wedding invitation is laid-out like a concert ticket, was made by Sinag de Jesus. Nato has also made full use of his contacts in the alternative progressive music world and succeed in getting legend Lolita carbon to sing the Bridal march. Jess Santiago and Jess Bartolome will sing during the marriage rites.
“All our friends whom we perform with will also sing!”
Nato and Beng has shunned the traditional bridal car and instead they will be riding a UP IKOT jeep from the church to the reception which will be held at the UP Bonsai Garden.
“There will be a mini-concert in the evening where our band friends will perform. The soundsystem and bandset (same kind we use in rallies) will be rented to us for free. The art work that will be put in display during the wedding and reception are courtesy of artists Ed Manalo, Orly Castillo, Boy Dominguez and UP Fine Arts Dean Niel Doloricon. The venue we got at a lower rate thanks to the help of Dean Paz and daughter Marty,” he says.
True to the tradition of ‘simpleng pamumuhay’, Nato and Beng will be serving simple but filling food: pancit palabok and a choice between puto’t dinuguan or lumpia. Desert will be kakanin, and dalandan juice and sago’t gulaman for drinks. The wedding souvenirs, in the meantime, are courtesy of the political prisoners of the National Bilibid Prison.
“We just want to share the moment with our family and friends in the Struggle. We’re excited about the mini-concert though, and look forward to jamming with friends.”
In his own words, Nato describes the primary witnesses (or like it says in their cool, hippie-psychedelic invitation, Upang Sumaksi, Mga Ninong at Ninang”): Former vice-president Teofisto Guingona( “A true nationalist); Dr. Carol Araullo (“BAYAN chair, and one who understands me more than most people”); Rep. Satur Ocampo (“The man went through a lot of trials himself and his partnership with Ms. Bobbi Malay went through a lot of difficulties during his time in detention under Martial Law. How we wish we could have that same kind of strength in our own relationship!”); Nanay Luz (“Isla Puting bato community organizer, to remind us of what we are and who we’re for); Former Inquirer editor Cookie Micaller (“She’s someone who has helped me understand my work better”); Rep. Francis Escudero (“Because he was cool enough and kind enough to volunteer”); Chit Agcaoili and Fidel Agcaoli of the National Democratic Front (“Super cool couple, our friends. Hindi madamot sa payo at gabay“); Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca (“His best advice is that he hopes we would never need his professional help); Tita Dara (“Beng’s ninang sa binyag, they’re very close“); Mang Gerry Acuzar(“He helped Beng get through that tortuous thing called the Medical Board Exams“); Dr. Bien Lumbera (“Nationalist artist, need we say more?”) Josie Lichauco (“She convinced me to be firm in setting the date of the marriage. So supportive right from the moment I started panicking”); and Betina Legarda (“So kind and helpful, yet sometimes she’s more hardcore than we are. She never fails to surprise me”).
With hope, happily ever after
Nato and Beng will not be going on honeymoon after the wedding. “No time for that. We’re both busy with our respective organizations’ preparations for the upcoming activities against the ASEAN conference. We have a meeting the day after the wedding, preparations for Human Rights Week. Maybe after the rallies in Cebu, maybe not in Cebu. We’ll see. We’re just looking forward to the rest of our lives as a married couple. We’re just happy,” he says.
Beng has a more pragmatic, but happily hopeful view of what’s in store for them.
“Tag-hirap, pero nahanda na namin ang isa’t isa sa ganitong buhay at na-realize ko din na andaming nagmamahal sa amin, at kapag alam mo kung bakit kayo magkasama, magiging madali na ang lahat. Ang importante, nagtutulungan ang isa’t isa, pag babagsak na ung isa, andun naman ang isa para mag-angat.”#