âBorn for youâ
Justin: ‘What I love about Chikki the most is that she always finds a way to make me laugh or smile.’ Chikki: ‘I love that Justin supports me and allows me to grow to my full potential in every aspect of my life. He inspires me to be the best person I can be.’
‘Born for you’
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2020 - 12:00am

I have attended many weddings during which the priest or pastor would counsel the bride and groom that marriage is not the wedding, and that the wedding is not the marriage.

The wedding lasts from a few minutes to an hour, while a marriage is supposed to last a lifetime.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that several engaged couples who have set their wedding date after March 16, 2020 — the start of the lockdown in the Philippines due to the coronavirus — went on with it, sans the frills, the band, and all the trimmings. We begrudge not those who get married with all the trimmings — it has become every girl’s dream since Cinderella — but this year has hardly been a fairy tale.

But when put to a test, many brides give up all the frills for the most essential in a wedding ceremony — the groom and the officiator, be he a judge or a priest.

Dr. and Mrs. Justin Yao.


Dr. Justin Alan “Justin” Adia Yao and Dr. Ronna Cheska “Chikki” Villanueva de Leon met during their freshman year in college at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

In his free time, Justin enjoys reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and playing basketball and other sports.

Chikki, who also just graduated from her Internal Medicine residency program in UP-PGH, is a dog lover who enjoys reading books, watching Netflix and eating good food.

“We became good friends through our college organization, and because we were group mates for several research papers. On our last year of college, we started dating,” recalls Justin, who at the moment, is studying for the Ophthalmology board exams, which have been postponed indefinitely.

They continued their relationship through medical school at the UP College of Medicine and residency training at the UP-Philippine General Hospital.

Fortunately, Chikki was able to take the Internal Medicine board exams before lockdown and is currently working as an Internal Medicine hospitalist in several institutions, going on duty in the ICU and the emergency department. She is also working for a telemedicine company and trying to establish her own private practice.

After their long courtship, the couple decided to get married in 2020. And then COVID-19 struck, changing irrevocably the way we live our lives.

Though the virus delayed the wedding date, originally set for May 2, it didn’t upend Justin and Chikki’s plans.

On July 10, to the tune of Canon in D Major and Beautiful in White, Chikki walked down the aisle to meet her groom at the St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Church in Magallanes Village, Makati City.

In his homily, Monsignor Claro “Matt” Garcia, the parish priest, said, “The wedding defied all odds because July 10 was also the day that the government allowed churches to reopen.” Not a day too soon, for the couple’s marriage license would have expired on July 13!

“The stars aligned,” says the groom’s mother, former advertising executive Alice Adia Yao.

“There were no frills, not even floral arrangements,” recalls Alice. Justin is her and husband Jeff Yao’s firstborn. They have another son, Julian Anton. Chikki is the daughter of Ronaldo and Cristina de Leon.

“It was a beautiful, stress-free wedding due to its simplicity, which made us appreciate the fact that it’s not the wedding that’s important but the marriage,” adds Alice.

There were less than 20 people present, including the priest and the sacristan. Some of the members of the entourage were doctors, and because they were also frontliners, they couldn’t make it.

Justin and Chikki sealed their love with a mask and a kiss — a nod to the times. They marched down the aisle to the strains of Seasons of Love.

As they were posing for posterity, the vocalist sang Born for you.

That song is loaded with meaning because when Alice was five months pregnant with Justin, her obstetrician, Dr. Romana Borromeo, discovered a cyst in her left ovary that was growing faster than the baby. Opening Alice up in her fifth month of pregnancy was risky, but Dr. Borromeo told her that if it was up to her, there was no other choice. Trusting God and her doctor, Alice, with Jeff’s support, underwent surgery to have the cyst removed and Justin was born by normal delivery on April 23, 1989, four months later. A healthy, full-term baby.

He was destined to be born, indeed, and be Chikki’s husband.

Indeed, against many odds, they were meant to be man and wife.

Justin and Chikki Yao (sixth and seventh from left) with their family. (From left) James Yao, Regina Sicat, Julian, Jeff and Alice Yao, and Cristy, Ronnie, Rowena and Ronchie de Leon.


They had a simple reception for 11 people at the Hilton Hotel in the Resorts World Manila complex. Adhering strictly to government protocols, each guest was a meter apart from his seatmate.

After the wedding, the honeymoon, right? But for Justin and Chikki, also 31, that can wait.

“Due to the current travel restrictions, the honeymoon will definitely have to wait. At least we have something to look forward to once it is safer to travel,” says Chikki. Besides, because of her specialization in Internal Medicine, duty calls, and calls loudly.

“We were never prepared to face a pandemic during our training. Since I am working at the frontlines, I am always exposed to the risk of being infected with the virus and constantly worried of the possibility of bringing the virus into our home. It is especially difficult not being able to go home to see our senior citizen parents, however, it is our sworn duty as physicians to attend to the sick with competence and compassion,” says Chikki.

Adds Justin: “Although it was not the start of married life we envisioned, we are thankful that we are together during the quarantine, learning more about each other each day.”

Love always finds a way, even through the frontlines.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with