34 Amstelstraat, Amsterdam. Next to Crocodile Bar, gay pride flag waving upfront. For seven bliss-filled days, this was home.
I’ve got a great story about a prince, okay a princely DJ, his luscious princess and the beat of fate. A tale of lovely destiny and destined love. A journey to the land of enormous women and bike lanes. A story about friendship and inappropriate luggage. It took two committed years, 32 promises, four smash hits, and seven years of friendship to get here. Let’s start from the beginning.
On a typical girls’ night out, the cavalry happily marched into 78orange to bask in the System F. the Ferry Corsten. The music is hypnotic. This rocks, we all say. He’s adorable, everyone agrees. The next day, Lia Colayco’s at a private party held in Ferry’s honor and it’s here that our story begins. They cannot keep their eyes off each other. They agree to spend tomorrow together, his last day in Manila. He flies off that night, but never leaves her again.
Long distance relationships are difficult. In Singapore, Lia’s life was measured in two-week cycles. Two weeks with Ferry, two weeks missing him, two weeks without him, then two weeks waiting for him. It was here that Ferry proposed. Treacherous love, more perilous with a foreigner. It’s unnerving to find love with someone not of the same culture, nor beliefs. There are definite consequences, and different mindsets. While constantly testing the steadfastness of your relationship, it bears the gift of learning first hand, the powerful magic true love beholds.
As all great love stories go, spending the rest of their lives together always starts with a trip down the aisle. It was decided a wedding in Holland would be, if not the perfect excuse for a trip to Europe, a beautiful setting for it. Castle van Rhoon in Rotterdam would be a most picturesque memory. While overflowing with Dutch history and tradition, it was neither dark nor foreboding, rather ethereal. Infusing as much of the Filipino culture was paramount. Dutch law only recognizes the validity of the civil wedding. Thus, there were to be two. The Dutch civil ceremony and a Filipino church wedding. This was how the Filipino-Dutch theme evolved. Believe me, this blend was predominant throughout. Giving me my first whiff of what was brewing ahead were the very Filipino-looking invites, on beige abaca-like paper, printed in Dutch. Like the newest trend in fusion cuisine, the menu was looking interesting. First dish, in more ways than one, was a very blonde and very blue-eyed groom proudly sporting his very first barong tagalog. Second on the list was the small-framed, large-luggaged Filipino contingent, counting down the days till they moved into their rented houseboats, or walked down the red light district. This was beginning to sound like a sumptuous meal.
Stop for a moment and let’s focus on the nightmare that this was. Forty-five people flying in from Manila, and around the world, all with great expectations. My hat truly goes off to Lia. If you’ve known her as long as I have, you’ll know this lady’s truly grown up. I can remember a time she could barely juggle her classes in college, let alone plan her own wedding. She’s come a wonderfully long way. The Corsten-Colyaco Info Guest Book, a 20-page pdf.file, sent to every person attending, can attest to this. The Holy Bible, folks. It contained not only every Filipino’s contact number and address while abroad; it had the schedule of activities for the days to come, and available guided tours complete with a brief history and background for each. Lia wasn’t simply planning a wedding, she was planning a whole trip! Included in this package deal were a trip to the Floriade – a huge flower exhibit held every ten years, a guided bus tour of Holland – from a wooden clog factory, to a fishing village, to a cheese factory – with all the free cheese imaginable, even a pre-wedding party in a hip club in Amsterdam.
Wedding day. It’s traffic. The whole bus is inching its way into Rotterdam, two hours away. Cessie, the maid of honor calls, a little out of breath, telling us everyone’s waiting and it might be better for the civil wedding to start without us. She calls back. They’ll wait, on one condition – we have to run off the bus when we arrive. My. In these heels, I’m thinking? But no matter, when we finally get inside the castle, the couple emerges, Ferry adorable in his barong tagalog and Lia looking every inch the radiant bride she is. The civil ceremony lasts about twenty minutes. Everything’s said twice. First in Dutch, then in English. The female judge formally asks both to give their consent to the marriage. It’s short and straight to the point, culminating with the couple signing their marriage certificate. A lot of cheers and jeers follow the speeches. Something seems to be getting lost in Ferry’s translations. No one’s laughing. It’s Lia’s turn to take over. She’s like John Travolta in Phenomenon, a car ride with a book on Conversational Dutch is all she needs to learn the language. Once she’s through translating, all the blonde people are laughing. The church wedding follows immediately. Infusing the best of two worlds, I see a mixture of church traditions. The Filipino rites of marriage, coupled with a visit to the altar of the Virgin Mary after the vows. There’s lots of soulful singing and tons of shameless picture taking, as well as a healthy dose of mad scrambling for last-minute changes. Ferry’s wedding march is haunting. A very soulful, sweet, ambient track, to be released next year, that sends goose bumps up my arms. It sounds like love. Right after the ceremony, it’s back to the castle for some Kir Royale and wedding cake. Slightly tipsy and incredibly famished (have been scrambling since 9 a.m. without food!) the three-course dinner, served on the second floor, came not a minute to soon. The view is incredible. From my seat, I look down into the courtyard, and soak up the garden of Rhoon. Once dinner is over, it’s back down to the first floor for some serious partying. Two huge Dutchmen enter the room in matching bright yellow jumpsuits. The room goes wild. The music is a mixture of old school house and tunes from the ’70s and ’80s. The whole first floor is grooving and grinding thanks to this popular DJ group, the Fontanellis. Not only music to my ears, a sight to behold. More laughter, more love, and before I know it, it’s 2 a.m. I’m drunk. And sleepy. I get back on the bus, so exhausted from the whole week’s activities, that before I can truly be sad, I fall fast asleep.
As I wait to land in Paris, I find myself thinking, not the end, but the beginning. The start of my European sojourn, but more importantly the beginning of their story together. My tale hasn’t ended; I’ve simply left it to them to continue. Many more pages to write, and memories to make and I’m one of the lucky ones privy to their chapters. Who would have thought? A two-day trip to Manila would, two years later, end in a lifetime together. I have one whole trip to Europe chalked up to fate. Someone once said, "Like all great travelers I have seen more than I’ve remembered, and remembered more than I’ve seen." Indeed.