On a road trip from Sagada to Baguio back in November 2018, all our friends were sleeping in the car while Mico and I were wide awake. Mico, who was then still my boyfriend, took advantage of our time alone, and asked me randomly, “What’s your life motto?” I was caught off guard and put on the spot. I stuttered, “Umm…err…I have many! I don’t know which one—“ He then interrupted me and said, “Love, love, love?” He half meant it and half joked, because I told him before that it used to be my password. I laughed and said, “Yes, you can say that.” I found his question very random at that time and only discovered why he asked that when he proposed to me a few months later.
Mico asked me to marry him in January 2019. After I said yes, he told me to look at what’s engraved inside the ring. “Love, love, love!” I squealed and couldn’t stop laughing. It was actually written inside the ring. This is our relationship in a nutshell—we have our shallow moments and we laugh endlessly, but honestly, it’s how we get through the happiest and toughest times in life.
My wedding ring and emerald-cut engagement ring with "Love love love" engraved on it.
Going back to that road trip in November 2018, once we arrived in Baguio we had a snack at Baguio Country Club. After which I asked Mico if we can take a walk out in the garden. We both talked about getting married in Baguio already before, but never discussed where exactly. Being scheming, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to look for venues in BCC. Later on I would find out that the garden we visited is called the Infinity Garden. It’s like a mountain-lover’s version of an infinity pool: it was a vast garden that overlooked the rolling Cordillera mountains. It was everything I dreamed of. We both knew this was the place.
Here’s a photo of Mico prancing like a happy child at the Infinity Garden.
While planning throughout 2019, we inevitably had to make trips to Baguio (two of them were even day trips), but it wasn’t new to me or Mico. It was a unanimous decision to get married in Baguio because it held so many fond childhood and even adulthood memories for us.
A big chunk of my happiest memories as a kid were in Baguio during the summer and the holidays. My family would drive up at least once a year ever since I could remember. I first learned to ride a bike in Burnham park; first learned to roller skate in the old skating rink near the mini-golf place; first time I got a splinter in this old house we would stay at (very traumatic, but played again right after), and the first time I went out of town with my cousins.
Me and my best friend and cousin, Dinah, at the house we used to stay at in Baguio.
Mico’s family loved to drive around the country. They once did a two-week long road trip from Luzon to Mindanao. So I wasn’t very surprised when he told me that he used to go up to Baguio every weekend with his family and would do overnight trips there.
Mico and I already imprinted a garden wedding in our minds and we were so set on it. However, during our first visit to Baguio in the end of January 2019 (around the same time we were to get married the following year), we tried staying out in the garden to see how the weather would be like. We froze to death! It was around 14 degrees celsius at 5 PM with biting cold winds. We longed for a garden wedding, but we worried about our guests’ welfare. We didn’t want them getting sick the following day.
After that ocular visit, our Baguio Country Club coordinator, Randall, suggested the William Cameron Forbes Ballroom. We saw it and loved it. Mico and I hadn’t seen any ballroom in Manila like it—its wooden walls and chandeliers made you feel like you were inside a large but cozy mountain cabin. It was no Infinity Garden, but it had its own charm. We ended up choosing the ballroom for our dinner reception because we wanted our guests to enjoy and feel comfortable the entire night.
We visited the William Cameron Forbes Ballroom at Baguio Country Club while it was being decorated for another wedding. It was beautiful.
Mico and I wanted our loved ones to experience the Baguio we both grew up and fell in love with. It was crucial for us to choose the right event stylist and florist who would be able to bring out Baguio’s natural charm. After contacting numerous stylists and florists, we chose to work with Pat and RM of Thirty One Events, an event styling company based in Baguio. It was an easy decision for us because they were the warmest, most responsive and accommodating team. They’re a young couple too so they easily understood the vision we had for the wedding and our budget constraints.
It may come as a surprise, but I didn’t want to have plenty of flowers in our wedding. Or too much of any décor actually. My mom, my strongest fashion and design influence, told me that since my wedding would be in Baguio, I should highlight its best qualities and bring out its subtle elegance. When we thought of Baguio, we pictured lush greenery—pine trees and mountains covered with them. So the whole concept of our wedding was to bring the outdoors indoors.
Mico and I also wanted to do away with a number of details that are considered a staple now at weddings. Screens, same-day edits, and a stage with a sofa for us were among the things we scrapped out. When we were asked how we want our wedding to be like, we would say that we wish it would be like our grandparents’ or our parents’. They were simple and they were filled joy. A lot of the “wedding essentials” now were not even thought of then, yet the love was eminent, which was our essential. Hence we focused on what they would do back then in weddings—conversing. We had Thirty One Events decorate the tables with fern leaves above the guests plus more leaves and plenty of candles on top of their tables to encourage cozy conversations.
We also encouraged our guests to keep their phones away during our church ceremony at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Itogon, Benguet. We put up a signage that said “Eyes up, phones down, tissues ready” right outside the church to make our guests aware of the solemnity of the mass.
The aisle was decorated with greens that trickled down to the floor and led to candles encased in glass. We were able to do this because Ms. Melinda, the administrator of Our Lady of Fatima, was the kindest and most considerate one we spoke with. We contacted other bigger parishes, but none of them allowed us to be as flexible with our décor and program as Our Lady of Fatima. It’s a small-town church outside of Baguio City with a humble size. When Mico and I first visited it, we felt a warm welcome.
Little did we know that it has the same name as the church that Mico used to frequent with his late grandmother when he was a child. He was very close to her so when his dad whispered that to him a few minutes before I started walking down the aisle on our wedding day, he began tearing up.
I’ve never seen Mico cry and he told me that he wouldn’t cry at our wedding. But when I saw tears flowing from his eyes, I couldn’t stop myself from crying too! It was an emotional day.
A non-negotiable we had for our wedding was that we wanted minimal posing for our wedding pictures and video. I’ve been fond of photojournalism and was once a photographer for the official newspaper of my university, so I was particular with how I wanted the photos be. Right after I got engaged one of the first things I began searching for was wedding photographers. I noticed that most, if not all, made the couples pose, which was their forte. I knew Mico and I woudn’t be comfortable, so out of helplessness after searching for weeks, I typed “documentary wedding photographers” in Google and Martin San Diego’s page showed up. It linked me to a page in his website that featured one wedding he covered. I instantly liked his pictures because he captured the most candid and raw moments. I visited his main page and saw that he was actually a photojournalist. I contacted him that day and the rest was history.
Making my best friends feel comfortable the entire day was also very important to me. I made sure to choose a type of fabric that was thick enough to keep them warm—I picked scuba crepe fabric in green to go with the whole theme and had them choose very sleek silhouettes. One of my bridesmaids, Roseanne, gifted me with fur stoles from Spain that partnered really well with their gowns. To complete the outfit, they wore Lilies that I designed for each one of them.
They all had the same sampaguita (jasmine) bud studs that were detachable so they could wear the studs alone or with danglers. I wanted them to be able to wear them again for casual occasions or dressier occasions.
As for my outfit, I knew I wanted two things: a main gown that was as simple as Caroline Bessette-Kennedy’s satin wedding dress and a sparkly after-party gown. I was opposed to any look that was too wedding-y and wanted to go for old Hollywood-glam instead. It was just a matter of deciding whether I would have them custom-made or find them off the rack. I searched inside stores and online for gowns that I liked. I only found the gown when I went to Pronovias PH the second time. The first time I visited Pronovias, I tried on a few dresses with lace, but knew that I didn’t want any lace on my gown. I tried them on just to be sure that I didn’t want lace so that first time fitting them was my assurance. They just weren’t me.
Pepper, the owner of Pronovias PH, was very accommodating and told me to drop by again because she now had a better idea of my style. So the second time I dropped by, she brought out dresses from past collections, one of which was a satin assymetrical gown. I chose to try it on last because I had a strong feeling I would like it. This was only a few months after I got engaged and a part of me didn’t want to be so sure this early on. I told Pepper that my wedding is in Baguio, so she brought out a furry stole to wear with the dress. When I tried on the whole outfit I couldn’t picture myself not wearing it on my wedding day. Pepper said, “yes, that’s it! That’s how you know that’s the one! If you can imagine yourself wearing it on your big day.”
Although there was one thing that I wanted to remove, which was the metallic beadwork on the dress. I wanted to wear all-white (it was actually more of a champagne color), so my mom suggested getting a patch of lace and beadwork from her wedding gown and incorporating it in my gown. I loved having a piece of her with me.
My second gown was a collaborative effort between me and my newfound friend, whom I met at a Spectrum bazaar last year—Tita Trude Lizares. I loved her style and personality and the quality of her linenwear, so when I found out that she designed wedding dresses too, I knew I wanted her to make my second dress. I just told her that I wanted something sparkly and a halter dress. She chose the fabric for me and did her magic. Et voilà, a sparkly version of Megan Markle’s party dress. I loved that I was able to dance with it too.
Lastly, my jewelry. This was a tough one because, I’ll be honest, I was very pressured to make unique and beautiful jewelry pieces to wear at my wedding. I had drafted many designs, but finally decided on what made me feel the most comfortable and most myself.
I knew I wanted to include sampaguita buds in my earrings because the Colette pair of earrings is one of my favorites. So I designed sampaguita studs that were slightly bigger than my bridesmaids’ that were also detachable. I made two danglers: one with deep green tear-drop shaped agate beads and another with white mother of pearl sampaguita buds. I wore the former to the welcome party we hosted the day before and the latter to the after party of the wedding reception.
I meant to wear the white ones to the church ceremony too, but I wore Mico’s grandmother’s diamond earrings instead, which he gifted to me before the ceremony. It was an absolute honor for me to wear what once belonged to someone so dear to him.
This was me trying to hold back tears while I read Mico's letter to me that was included in the box with his grandmother's earrings.
Planning our wedding was never a breeze and there were many compromises made, like our choice of venue. Our first options were rarely our final ones, like our choice of church, but the ones we ended up picking were even more meaningful than we expected. People would tell us to enjoy the planning phase, and I would say it too to couples who are in that stage, but most of the time it really tested our patience and communication skills. It was not an easy feat, but what was important was that Mico and I decided on things together.
As for the things that pertained to styling and dressing, I felt the most at peace when I chose the things that were true to my personality and my taste. I worried that friends would think that my wedding gown was too predictable and “too me”; my dress during my 18th debut party was actually very similar—it was a champagne-colored, satin and assymetrical gown. But I realized that it’s not something to be ashamed of, but actually proud of. It just means that you know your style and yourself pretty well. When my friends see a one-shoulder dress now it’s branded as “very Stella”!
Compromise, decide on things together, and stick to your true self. These were my mottos throughout our planning phase. And on the day of our wedding, Mico and I vowed to let go and just enjoy the company of our loved ones all under one roof. It really goes by in a blink.