Mixing Filipino and American Cultures Make an Interesting Wedding

September 14, 2007 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Wedding sponsors Eliseo and Ana Eliza Babia, of Picataway, pin the bride’s veil to the shoulder of the groom as they kneel side-by-side to symbolize the wedding couple clothed in unity, one of several Filipino traditions enacted at the Cabral-Milian wedding. Rev. Msgr. Cajetan Salemi, pastor of Our Lady Mother of the Church in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, USA officiated. And Sharon Cabral, of Belleville, NJ and John Milian, of Woodcliff Lake, NJ introduce various centuries-old Philippine traditions in their wedding ceremony.



Woodcliff Lake, NJ, USA – Two distinct cultures blended together at a Catholic wedding in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey in the US on Sunday resulting in new friendships developing between family and friends of the bride and groom, an appreciation acquired for cultural differences and a happy couple tying the knot—literally speaking.

A cord ceremony—where a set of “sponsors” selected by the bride to tie the knot with a ceremonial wedding cord around the bride and groom—is one of several centuries-old Philippine wedding traditions introduced at the wedding of American-born John Michael Milian of Woodcliff Lake and Sharon Rose Cabral, a Filipina medical therapist from Belleville.

Filipino weddings, also known as kasalan, are among the most beautiful and intricate celebrations in the world because of the Filipino culture’s high regard for the sanctity of marriage making the event a lengthy and ceremonious occasion to remind everyone attending—especially the bride and groom—that the bond connecting the couple is expected to become permanent.

“My son and daughter-in-law wanted the rituals usually performed at weddings in the Philippines,” said Rudolph E. Milian of Woodcliff Lake, NJ, father of the groom. “He even flew with her to the Philippines last year to attend a traditional Philippine wedding in Siocon,” said Milian. Siocon is located in one of the southern islands of the Philippines where the bride’s parents live.

In addition to the customary bridal party in the US, the Filipino wedding involves people whom the bride and groom respect and admire to undertake various roles and tasks.

One of the roles of the sponsors is to attest to their readiness for marriage and willingness to marry of their own free will. They are called principal sponsors and secondary sponsors.

Each of the seven male sponsors (ninang) at the Cabral-Milian wedding was paired off with a female sponsor (ninong), and all fourteen marched on the bridal procession at Our Lady Mother of the Church.

Among the principal sponsors selected by the bride and groom were Robert and Margaret Monaghan and Dr. Gerhard Haas, all three from Woodcliff Lake, NJ.

The Reverend Monsignor Cajetan Salemi, pastor of the church, officiated at the ceremony. He said, “These people have put together every detail of the ceremony and we are going to follow along with the program.”

That elaborate program consisted of various ceremonial traditions of the Philippines including:

* Veil Ceremony: Secondary sponsors Eliseo and Ana Eliza Babia of Picataway, NJ pinned the bride’s veil to the shoulder of the groom as they kneeled side-by-side to symbolize the wedding couple clothing as one.

* Cord Ceremony: Secondary sponsors Michael and Doreen Barel of Philadelphia, PA; draped the ceremonial decorative silk cord (yugal) knotted in a figure-eight shape over the heads of the couple and laid it upon their shoulders to “tie” the bride and groom together during the ceremony. This gesture symbolized everlasting fidelity and spiritual bonding of their souls.

* Blessing of the Arrhae Ceremony: Coin bearer Calvin Ombajin, a child from Elmwood Park, NJ walked the “Arrhea” (also known as the 13 golden coins) sitting on a small pillow to the altar and handed them over to the groom.

The symbolic coins were intended to depict the bride and groom’s dedication to each other’s welfare and to that of their future family. The groom poured the coins into the bride’s cupped hands, which represented the sharing of his worldly goods and his promise to provide for her and their future children.

* Candle Ceremony: Secondary sponsors Napoleon and Janice Pe of Bridgewater, NJ lit two end candles, and then the bride and groom each lit the middle unity candle from the flames of the candles previously lit by their sponsors. This meant that from then on their lives go together kindled as one.

None of the typical wedding marches were played. Diana Belkowski of Montvale, NJ played Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Te Deum” prelude on the keyboard as the bridal party marched in.

As the bride appeared at the modern-style church’s side door and until she made her way to the altar accompanied by her brother Jonathan Cabral of Downey, CA, Fabian Sua-Tomboc of Cypress, CA sang “You Raise Me Up.” The now popular inspirational song gained prominence after it was played at commemorations of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The bride carried a bouquet of calla lilies bound by a crystal rosary hand-made by the groom’s grandmother, Maria Milian of Miami, FL.

During the recessional, Susan Furey of Allendale, NJ sang “Ode to Joy,” written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller and set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven for his famous Ninth Symphony.

The bride and groom, however, chose not to follow some of the Filipino wedding traditions.

The groom chose a formal black tuxedo with ivory shirt and long necktie for his groomsmen and himself instead of the “barong tagalog,” which is the traditional Filipino formal wear for elegant weddings.

The barong tagalog is an almost transparent, embroidered shirt woven from pineapple leaves into silky Pinya and is always worn untucked in the tropical climate of the Philippines.

The Filipino garb is so accepted there that then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued a decree in 1975 proclaiming Barong Tagalog Week (June 5 – 11), and designated the barong tagalog as the national attire.

The bride chose long lilac colored dresses for her bridesmaids and flower girls. For herself, she chose an ivory colored long wedding gown embroidered with diamond-shaped cut crystals, which she had custom-made in the Philippines and flown into Newark instead of opting for the traditional more festive color wedding dress.

The Filipinos exchange wedding rings with their vows much the same way as Americans do. However, the bride chose to wear her ring on her left hand as American culture dictates rather than the right hand, which is the centuries-old tradition in the Philippines.

The Filipino wedding feast is typically elaborate and the Cabral-Milian wedding reception held at The Manor in West Orange, NJ began with the customary appetizer, a “lechon,” the Filipino-style whole roasted pig, whose tradition dates back almost 500 years when the Spanish first colonized the Philippines.

The wedding reception incorporated all the pomp and circumstance of the wedding ceremony that preceded it. Each member of the bridal party was announced as they entered The Manor’s ballroom and formal dances followed.

After an elaborate dinner, the bridal couple participated in various “money dances.” These dances made for a tongue-in-cheek fundraising for the couple as both male and female guests pinned various denominations of dollar bills on the bride and groom, respectively for the privilege of dancing with them.

Virgilia and Abundio Cabral, of the Municipality of Siocon, in the province of Zamboanga del Norte in the Republic of the Philippines are the parents of the bride. Martha and Rudolph Milian, of Woodcliff Lake are the parents of the groom.

The bride is a 2000 graduate of the Cebu Institute of Medicine of Velez College in Cebu City, The Philippines. She is employed as a physical therapist for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway, NJ.

The groom is a 1999 graduate of Pascack Hills Regional High School in Montvale, NJ. He was graduated with a Bachelor in Business degree in 2003 from Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA.

He earned his MBA in finance and accounting at Rutgers University Newark, NJ campus this past August. He begins his new career next month at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a global accounting and consulting firm in Florham Park.

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