#WERealWeddings featuring Christian Esguerra and Naomi Bernardo
Words by Christian Esguerra | Photography by Nice Print Photography
Our story began on December 21, 2012—the day Naomi’s brother Nicolo tied the knot.
I was there as part of the entourage. I was affiliated with the groom; both of us served as editors several years apart for UST’s college paper, The Varsitarian. His bride was a former student of mine.
Prior to this, I had been invited to some of their family occasions. Their older sister was a friend and a batchmate of mine at UST. However, there was something special that sweltering afternoon at San Agustin Church in Intramuros.
We were all preparing for the ceremony to begin when I saw Naomi standing at the church entrance. I knew Nicolo had another sister, but I didn’t realize she was all grown up as a newly licensed nurse by then. We were introduced by the wedding coordinator and were told we were marching together as cord sponsors.
So we walked down the aisle together. Little did we know, we would be doing it again; but this time, as a married couple eight years later.
We spent the rest of that evening chatting. For some reason, she was assigned to my table, seated next to me, with the rest of my friends from the Varsitarian. When it was time to leave, I said goodbye to Nicolo and his wife. But instead of heading straight to the exit of Barbara’s restaurant in the Walled City, I took a few steps back at the dimly lit hall and told Naomi about my departure as well. She still occupied my thoughts on my drive home.
We both knew we enjoyed each other’s company that evening; catching each other’s presence in our peripheral visions, even if we were seemingly in animated conversations with other guests. We were thinking of each other.
It would take years before we could be honest about the feeling which we both buried somewhere that night. We would go on to take different paths.
The following year, she went to medical school, which understandably took much of her time. We barely communicated aside from occasional reactions to social media posts. Photos also gave us an idea of how the other was doing and how far we’d come.
In 2017, she earned her degree and became a full-fledged doctor the following year. Instead of slowing down or taking an easier route in residency, she went for general surgery; an even more demanding specialization dominated by men and prohibitive, most especially for women.
By then, I was already with ABS-CBN as a political correspondent and an anchor at ANC, having shifted from my work as a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2015. I was also preoccupied in covering politics and the next two elections.
But fate had its way of reconnecting us and reigniting that feeling which we thought was meaningless back in 2012. It turned out we just parked it somewhere, and never really buried it.
“Though we have known each other for years,” Naomi would later say, “it also took years of hesitation before we realized that we belong to each other.”
That moment came in February this year.
We had been dating for a while and I wanted to take it to another level. I was a man on a mission, a man in a hurry. I knew the feeling was mutual. We came from different professions; separated a bit by years and experience, but we were bound by common interests and shared values.
We enjoyed long drives while singing duets from classic OPMs to 90s ballads. She had me initiated on Taylor Swift, and now I can distinguish between “Lover” and “Paper Rings,” and know a bit about the inspirations behind them. I still get my occasional fix of Danzig and Megadeth while alone driving. But I must confess, I’ve played “Shake it off,” “One,” and “Out of the Woods,” too.
At work, we both valued meritocracy and excellence, that things should be earned through honest and hard work. We both dearly loved our families and would spend hours talking about how much we loved and how we should always take care of our parents. I was particularly touched when she once said she would look after my mother, a widow, like her own.
People are often drawn to Naomi’s physical beauty, but her unassuming intelligence, strength of character, devotion to God and family, and sense of responsibility all convinced me she’s even more special. She’s rare.
That one evening in February, I set up a romantic, candle-lit dinner for her birthday in Tagaytay City. It was traditional, much to her liking.
She knew pretty well I had something planned that night. But she was surprised, she later told me, by the elaborate execution which I could not have pulled off without conniving with people from the Taal Vista Hotel.
As she had expected, I asked her if we could be officially together as a couple, to which she said yes. But I had something else in mind. After a brief conversation, I went down on one knee on the rain-soaked grass, pulled out a diamond ring and asked her to marry me. That, indeed, surprised her.
I had purchased the ring about two weeks earlier with the help of my friend Cris, whose husband, Ipe, would later assume the role of best man in my wedding. I had been waiting patiently—praying fervently—for the right moment to execute my proposal.
Naomi said, “Yes,” and we spent the next few minutes in a tight embrace and in tears. To us, that was the best feeling—finding the one you really love and who loves you back, even with more intensity.
From my girlfriend, she became my fiancée in just about five minutes.
I floated sometime next year as a possible date for our wedding, but immediately scrapped the idea. “Why not December, this year?” I told her one evening. We went for July. We just couldn’t wait.
Wedding planning, we were told, was usually stressful. So many things to consider, so many things to think about. It could either strengthen a couple’s resolve to spend the rest of their lives together, or make them realize they are better off without the other.
There was none of that sort, in our case. No juvenile outburst or frivolous dare to call off the wedding just to spite the other. Even if there were disagreements—and they were mostly minor—we always went back to talking about how much we loved each other and wanted to get married.
So where do we start?
Most, if not all, of our choices, we believe, were guided by divine providence. The Manila Cathedral became our main and only option after its rector, Fr. Regie Malicdem, congratulated me on Facebook on my engagement. We’ve known each other from my days covering the church beat for the Inquirer.
That settled, we looked for a good team of photographers and videographers. Like other couples, we wanted to preserve the memory of our wedding in perfect images.
Next was the theme. As a guy, I didn’t really have any specific idea of how my wedding would look like. I just imagined myself waiting at the altar as Naomi walked down the aisle.
Women tend to be more specific. Naomi wanted a classy and dreamy wedding with splashes of blush pink and rose gold. She wanted everything to be regal. None of the frivolities that might be a tendency by some for the sake of being unique.
To us, it’s not about standing out or being different. We wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities. Weddings, to us, are differentiated by a couple’s unique experiences and the meanings they attach to them. Of course, the solemnity of the celebration and the magic that was the reception were things we won’t forget.
The week of our wedding on July 24 was battered by heavy rains. Many of the roads leading to the cathedral and the reception venue were flooded. That morning, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake also struck, sending many of our relatives and friends housed at the Okada Hotel with us in a panic.
My fiancée rushed barefoot to my room even before I could go to hers. “If this is the end of the world, I want to spend my final moments with you!” Naomi, still shaking, said as she wrapped her arms around me.
Thankfully, our wedding went ahead rather smoothly. There was a slight delay because of the heavy traffic caused by flooded portions of Roxas Boulevard.
At church, I couldn’t think of anything else but my future wife. How, minutes from now, the huge cathedral door would open and there, against the enchanting backdrop of pink-and-white paper flowers, she would walk toward me, her head bowed, her face a beautiful mystery concealed partially by her veil.
I was in tears even before I could walk down the red carpet. I was in tears when I saw my bride. I could have burst into an ugly cry, really. I waited years for this moment to find that one person I knew was right for me. We were two persons weighed down by our own flaws but complemented each other for a perfect match.
By God’s grace, the rains temporarily stopped, giving us just enough time to take photos in front of the cathedral after the wedding.
If the ceremony was solemn, the reception was magical. Our coordinator Rhed asked us before ushering us into Palacio de Maynila, “Ready na ba kayong makita ‘yung gawa ni Gary (Dacanay)?” and then she pushed the door open.
It was just as we had imagined—the large pink Ecuadorian roses that filled the venue, the gold chandeliers, the elaborate table set-up, the intricately designed wedding cake—all this provided the perfect atmosphere for an evening to celebrate a couple’s shared love and commitment to remain together for life.
Christian and Naoimi’s DREAM TEAM | Church: The Manila Cathedral | Reception: Palacio de Maynila | Photo and Video: Nice Print Photography & Exige Weddings | Caterer: Juan Carlo The Caterer, Inc. | Event Stylist: Gary Abar Dacanay | Hair and Makeup: Toni Aviles | Cake: Honey Glaze cakes | Gowns: Francis Libiran Bridal and Rau Uson-Ablaza | Suit: Suit it Up Manila and Rau Atelier Weddings | Shoes: Shoepatos Custom Made Shoes | Hosts: Melissa Ferrer and Jeff Canoy | Musician: Sound Salad | Technicals: LST Mobile | Photoman: PiKulyar Photography | Bridal Car: Joey Maranan | Choreographer: TJ Yuson | Special Effects: Official Dragon Fireworks Inc. | Entourage Makeup: Lhara Roxas Fermin | Floral Backdrop: DC Paper Flowers Manila | Invitations: Print Divas | Rings: Vena Amoris Jewelry by Fatima | Nails: Sakura Nail & Spa | Full Planning and Coordination: Rhed Sarmiento Event Planners and Coordinators