Shielded by love
Joe and Susan Mendiola celebrate their golden wedding anniversary amid the pandemic.

Shielded by love

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2020 - 12:00am

Love is golden even if it is covered in face masks or face shields.

Joe and Susan Mendiola proved last July 2 that the new normal caused by the virus will always give way to love. After all, love knows no threat; it only recognizes the sincere beatings of the heart.

With only seven guests in attendance — two of their three children, two children-in-law, two of their eight grandchildren and a family friend, Fr. Pete Carignan, OMI — the couple exchanged “I dos” again for their golden wedding anniversary wearing face shields. The celebration of their 50th year of being married shone brightly with love everlasting at a chapel inside the OMI Retreat House in Quezon City as they adhered to safety protocols.

“This occasion is once in a lifetime,” said Joe, 73, his voice overcome with joy.

“I can’t explain the joy that we feel. It is very rewarding, overwhelming,” said Susan, 70.

When Fr. Phil Estrella, OMI, their family friend who blessed their renewal of vows, egged Joe, “You may now kiss the bride,” the 40 guests attending their golden celebration via Zoom from many parts of the world joyfully cheered the couple on.

The couple when they got married on July 2, 1970 in Cotabato.

The couple did not kiss; their face shields got in the way. Elbow bumps replaced hugs and kisses among guests wearing a face mask or a face shield during the less-than-an-hour ceremony.

And when the rites were over, each of the guests present at the chapel got his or her packed lunch ordered from Max’s. Even relatives of the couple who live in Metro Manila joined in the “reception” as the couple sent them food delivery at their doorstep.

“To make the intimate celebration a little more special, we ordered fresh flowers for the ‘bride’s’ bouquet and hair, and a gold wedding cake for the couple to enjoy. And we sent mini-commemorative photo cakes with dried blue ternate pea flowers (from my parents’ garden) made into tea and packed meals to their siblings living in Metro Manila,” says the couple’s second child, Joee Mendiola-Manalo, my college friend and sis in the UPLB Com Arts Soc.

Had the pandemic not gotten in the way, the Mendiolas would have been in Palawan by this time for their anniversary. But the very pious couple had no regrets. They were filled with gratitude to be given the blessing to last and love each other this long. Fr. Estrella articulated, “The intimate renewal of your vows became more memorable, meaningful and truly special because of the uniqueness and serenity of the celebration.”

Before the lockdown, the whole family was able to celebrate the 70th birthday of Susan Mendiola on March 9. (From left) Meg and Moira Manalo, Mio Mendiola with Milo (dog), Joee and Mike Manalo, Jon Mendiola carrying baby Jared, Susan and Joe Mendiola, Jasmine Mendiola, Paolo and Pax Bernaldo, Kali Mancenido Mendiola and Roux Mendiola Bernaldo.

Everything became extra meaningful when taken into consideration that Joe battled brain cancer two years ago. Faith proved to be an armament that conquered fear in those trying times.

“True love for God and true love for my wife are the only secrets to our lasting marriage,” said Joe.

“We are both honest to each other. And he always prioritizes me and our family. That’s why our marriage is strong,” said Susan.

“Witnessing the golden wedding anniversary ceremony of my parents unfold, I realized three main ingredients that keep couples together: love, loyalty, and luck. Love, as there would be no loyalty to speak of in the absence of love. But the flame starts to burn a little less as time goes by, and that is when loyalty or commitment comes into play. Luck plays a very big part. For it is by chance that, in a world full of potential partners, we are able to find that one person who we can experience both love and loyalty for the rest of our lives with,” said Jon Mendiola, the eldest.

“I am so proud to be a product of these two hardworking and humble people. From Dad, I learned never to cry over spilled milk and to be content with God’s blessings. From Mom, I learned to be brave, resilient, creative and be the hands that will let God faithfully provide,” said Jasmine Mendiola, the wedding Zoom “master,” who made sure other guests would also share in her parents’ joy as she orchestrated the “party” even if she was not present at the actual ceremony.

 As for Joee, she said, “Daddy and Mommy showed us by example how we should never give up, how to stand by our decisions and be responsible for them, and how to bend for the sake of love and peace no matter how difficult the realities and circumstances are.”

Jose Mendiola, a funny and street-smart lad from San Jose, Nueva Ecija, met the fair-skinned and bright-eyed Susan Cocal from Midsayap, North Cotabato while they were both college students at Notre Dame University in Mindanao. It was during a pilgrimage to Tamontaka for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11, 1968 when they first met.

Guests witness the renewal of vows of Joe and Susan via Zoom.

Joe was sent to Mindanao under the care of his older brother Danilo Mendiola for college as a “punishment” because he was “too naughty” as a high school student. His parents felt that he would learn to be more responsible and independent if he experienced life away from home.

That punishment was God’s mysterious way of making two souls meet. They became inseparable since.

And last Thursday, 50 years after they got married in Our Lady of Guadalupe Diocesan Seminary Chapel in Nuling, Cotabato, Joe and Susan renewed their vows at 10 a.m., the same time and day (Thursday) when they first promised before God and man of their never-ending love on July 2, 1970.

Love is mysterious. It also doesn’t bow down to the threat of the pandemic. For even if they were armed with face shields, the love Joe and Susan have for each other became golden with every glance they gave each other during their renewal of vows.

Such love.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_Tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend!)

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