Marriage, Engraved
March 29, 2018
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Renewing the Vows

By David Haldane

March 21, 2018


It began as a promise.

Asking a girl to leave the deep provinces of the Philippines for a new life in America, is asking a lot. Abandoning her family and friends, possibly forever, she is entering a new world, one usually devoid of anything familiar; an environment more unlike the one she knows than almost anything she could have imagined. What you are asking her to do, basically, is trust you – someone she probably just met – to provide for her, protect her and guide her into an unforeseeable future fueled by the vague notion that your world will one day be hers.

You are also asking her to forgo something she may have fondly imagined since childhood; a real wedding.

Ivy and I got married in a little chapel outside Las Vegas. It wasn’t bad; though not actually Catholic, it had all the trappings. And though no one she knew was there, four of my friends were present; two American men and their Filipino wives who had made this journey before her.

Still, I sensed a quiet uncertainty in my bride’s soul. It was present as we nervously watched the clock, anxious not to exceed the allotted time and cramp the wedding after ours. And I could see it in her eyes as we said our vows, a look of subtle bewilderment and desperation. But there was something else there too, an abiding faith not only in me but in the universe, the kind of expression you see on the face of a child who believes that all is as it should be, and everything will turn out fine. Then, as now, I found the look inspiring and made a silent vow of my own; that my dear love’s faith would not go unrewarded.

“Honey,” I whispered in her ear, “don’t you worry. One day we will do this again and do it right.”

That was ten years ago. Now the time has come to finally make good on that whispered promise of long ago; soon we shall renew our vows in the land that is her sustenance.

Ivy hails from a small teardrop-shaped island in northeastern Mindanao, a place called Siargao in the province of Surigao del Norte. Famous for its white-sand beaches and world-class surf, Siargao was a sleepy little-known paradise when I first encountered it more than a dozen years ago. Now, of course, the island has been discovered by travel bloggers, developers, and tourists. A popular feature-length movie bearing its name opened recently in Manila, and today the island is in danger of becoming a playground to the stars.

There is at least one spot I know of, however, that retains the innocent charm of the lazy place that once coaxed me into loving it as I do my wife. It is the barangay of Caridad, a tiny thatched-roof village on the island’s eastern shore where the laughter of wide-eyed children waffles daily in the waves. It is on this beach that my beloved once frolicked as a girl. And it is on its sand that I will marry her again.

We are still in the planning stages of the wedding that promises to be one of the more memorable events of Caridad’s year. A long list has been fashioned naming the sponsors, flower girls, relatives, and friends who will lead our parade. We have retained the services of a real Catholic priest, ordered Hawaiian shirts for those who don’t own barongs and fattened five pigs to feed the whole town.

Now it’s my turn to be nervous as Ivy makes the final preparations. But just as she once gifted me with her faith, so will I now gift her with mine. And so, on a certain Saturday in April within days of our 10th anniversary, we shall stand on Caridad beach repeating our vows as our seven-year-old son bears new diamond rings.

Strange how, as a foreigner, I feel so rooted to this place. If you happen to be near, you are surely invited.






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A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and winner of a 2018 Golden Mike award in radio broadcast journalism, David Haldane fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. Today he and Ivy, along with their eight-year-old son, Isaac, divide their time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City, Philippines. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists, recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be at the tip of a peninsula marking the gateway to Mindanao where he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. This blog is the ongoing chronicle of that adventure.






  1. Mark Kuivenhoven says:

    I just renewed mine. We were a first for the church. I think we started new tradition. First we had to paper work from USA

  2. David says:

    I strongly disagree with your first statement, second paragraph.

    • Jim Hannah says:

      Why? It clearly is a really huge step? It might be one that she’s very excited about, and her friends are really excited about for her. I live amongst an expat Filipino group in Australia, and formerly in the UK, and it’s clear to see that although Filipino’s settle outside the Philippines for economic reasons, their hearts are rarely far from the Philippines. I always say that you can take the Person out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of the person. I’m the kind of person who can make my home wherever I hang my hat, and adapt to it (Even Saudi Arabia), but you rarely meet a Filipino/a who doesn’t leave a fairly major part of their heart “back home”. And I imagine that is all exacerbated even more if you marry a girl from the Provinces with little experience of city life.

  3. Jim Hannah says:

    Well done that Man. You have clearly looked into your little-Lady’s eyes and seen what’s really in her heart. The number of Filipinaa/Western marriages I have come across where that attachment to the Philippines is not seen or understood by the husband is disappointing. If you look at how difficult if not impossible it is for Filipinos to truly integrate into a foreign society, it will give you an idea of where their heart really is. By this I mean that they will always form a social group of Filipino’s, often to the almost complete exclusion of foreigners, except those they have to deal with at the bank or at work etc. It’s why some, though not all by any means, and noteable more-so Men, can be overseas for years and yet still have terrible communication skills in English.

    • PapaDuck says:

      Most, if not all Filipino’s we know have really done a great job of integrating into Western society, and most have thrived and have been successful in whatever they have done.

    • David Haldane says:

      I have noticed the same thing, to some extent, Jim. Thanks for your comment..

  4. Thanks, Bob! And I’m very much looking forward to making contributions…

  5. Jay says:

    Hi David,

    Nice job on the first article! Ouch! a wedding chapel in Vegas would not have gotten it done for my bride. We had to be married by a priest for it to count. we were on a 90 day Fiance’ Visa clock, but thankfully we had a priest at our parish that new how to get things done fast. Usually takes 6 months we got it done in just over a month. I know guys that have renewed the vows in the Philippines after marrying in another country and we thought about it I hope it goes well for you and the misses!



    • Thanks, Jay. Our situation was complicated by the fact that I, though not Catholic, had been previously married in the Catholic Church (grist for another post). Anyway, hopefully it will all work out in the end…

      • Jay says:

        Hi David,

        That would complicate the situation. It sounds like your marriage is going well. We had to go to a marriage class 2 full days as I remember and we took a 250 question compatibility test that we never got the results to since we were already married by the time it was scored.



  6. Claire says:

    You made my cry…

  7. Cordillera Cowboy says:

    “You are also asking her to forgo something she may have fondly imagined since childhood; a real wedding.”

    I have a suspicion that most men do not grasp how deeply this runs with many, perhaps most women. I know I didn’t. My wife and I were married in a justice of the peace type ceremony in Europe. Neither of us knew quite what to expect, and were dressed to the nines. I was in a 3 piece suit I had bought for the occasion, and she in her sister’s wedding dress. The other folks waiting their turn in the lobby were simply in nice street clothes. No one in the room for the ceremony but, us, the magistrate, and a couple witnesses.

    I was actually a little miffed when she suggested a “real wedding” in the Philippines. I promised once. Wasn’t that enough? But it is much, much more than that. I have since learned that it is a deeply held, and long imagined day dedicated to her.

    About 10 years later, we did just that. A full on, traditional Filipino wedding. My dear wife derived great joy in the planning of every aspect of it. I began to understand how important it was, not only to her, but to the family and community as well.

    Take care,

  8. John Reyes says:

    Reading this piece took my breath away.

    As a majority Roman Catholic society, Filipinos are big on weddings, given that the holy matrimony is one of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

    From high society down to the lowest social strata, an elegant wedding held at a church like the Iglesia de la Imaculada Concepción de María de San Agustín (San Agustin Church) in Intramuros followed by an elaborate reception at, say, the nearby Manila Hotel may be the dream of every Filipina. Ivy is no exception (“Still, I sensed a quiet uncertainty in my bride’s soul”).

    (As your schedule permits, please visit this church and hotel on any given Sunday. There you will see in full display the Filipino “bonggahan” in all its glory!)

    It’s good to know that you made amends, in light of the simple wedding held in Vegas ten years earlier may have dashed her ideal image of what a proper Christian wedding ceremony ought to be like.

  9. John Reyes says:

    There is at least one spot I know of, however, that retains the innocent charm of the lazy place that once coaxed me into loving it as I do my wife. It is the barangay of Caridad…”

    Hi Dave –

    Interesting, as I felt the same way about Berchtesgaden, Germany, when I was stationed in the country as a young U.S. Army soldier. I was 19.

    I also fell in love with this quaint village nestled in the foothills of Eagle’s Nest mountain in the Bavarian Alps. There was a time during my tour of duty in the country when a beautiful fraulein with alluring green eyes lived in Berchtesgaden, 11 hours by train from my duty station in Aschaffenburg.

    Dave, my question is: Would you have felt the same way about barangay Caridad if Ivy wasn’t from there?

    • Honestly, probably not, John. In fact, I probably never would have even HEARD of Caridad (let alone seen it) had Ivy not been there. Now it almost feels like home…

  10. Thanks, Alanouel, and congratulations on making 40 years! I think I’m already too old to be married that long, but I’ll do my best to try…