By MARY LOUISE LIGUNAS
Over a thousand people joined Dingdong Dantes and the now Marian Rivera Gracia-Dantes in the biggest wedding reception of the year.
Personalities from show business, politics, the medical profession, and the arts, among others, joined the newlyweds in a 'Spain meets Manila'-themed evening of glitz and glamour, heart-warming reunions, outstanding music and ultimately, lasting love.
The Mall of Asia Arena was transformed into a banquet venue where the biggest stars, and the couple's families and friends, dined, drank and danced.
The program was hosted by KC Montero, Tim Yap, Gabby Eigenmann, Bettina Carlos, Janno Gibbs, and Ogie Alcasid. Performers included Regine Velasquez-Alcasid, Jaya, Jay Durias, Noel Cabangon, and Marc Abaya.
The bittersweet beginning
The night kicked off with a special video, directed by Joyce Bernal, revealing the Kapuso Primetime Royal Couple's feelings about each other, and the complex beginnings of their relationship.
The bride shared that before they became boyfriend and girlfriend, she was having doubts about allowing Dingdong to pursue her because of the possibility of her getting hurt. "Nagdasal ako. 'Lord, kung para sa 'kin talaga si Dong, ibigay mo na sa 'kin... Ayaw ko na masaktan,'" she said.
She also disclosed that she has always been set on forming a strong family. "[Alam kong gusto kong] magkaroon ng pamilya, ng asawa, na 'di ko maranasan yung nangyari [na paghihiwalayan nina] Mama and Papa," she said on the video, already in tears.
The groom thus admitted that winning Marian's affection wasn't easy, and revealed that it was one of the reasons he was drawn to her. "Ayaw ko yung babaeng madadalian akong ligawan. Gusto ko yung nahihirapan ako...Things fell in the right place at the right time," he said.
All things considered, he is proud of the decisions that he made because it led him to a wonderful present. "I made a choice. It felt right. Everything felt right with her...This is one of the best decisions na ginawa ko," Dingdong declared.
Best wishes from best friends
The couple's closest pals did not miss the opportunity to express their love and support to the newlyweds. Marian's maids of honor Ana Feleo, Roxanne Barcelo and Joy Santos, as well as Dingdong's best men Angelo Dantes, Harvey Camposano, and Marvin Lanuza gave touching speeches to the two.
"Sa kanya ko natutunan to give it all, because when you give it all, you get more back," an almost crying Roxanne said. "Na-witness ko kung paano kayo mag-battle, mag-usap, mag-compromise. Nakakaiyak, ang ganda [ng relationship dynamic niyo]. We all believe that you will have a happily ever after. We claim it for you."
Angelo, the Kapuso Primetime King's brother, also couldn't help but be emotional during his speech for his kuya. "I want you to know how much I look up to you and how much you have molded me into the man I am today. You are my idol," he said. He also welcomingly addressed his now sister-in-law. "Ate Yan, thank you for taking care of kuya...I believe what he does to us, he will do the same to your future family," he added.
The King and Queen's thanks
The overwhelmed couple had a long list of people to thank for helping them reach this milestone in their lives and making their dream wedding possible — their friends, colleagues, sponsors, suppliers and coordinators — but they firstly thanked their respective families.
"Salamat sa pagpunta niyo. Thank you... Mahalaga sa akin ang mga pagkakataong ito at nandito kayo para samahan ako sa masayang (araw na 'to)," Marian expressed.
Dingdong also thanked his family and relatives who celebrated with him. "Gusto ko rin pasalamatan at bigyang pagpupugay at pagmamahal ang aking pamilya [at mga kamag-anak. 'Yung iba] nagmula pa sa iba't-ibang bansa. Maraming salamat po for being here, for celebrating with us. We love you all. Thank you for all the efforts. We truly appreciate it," Dingdong added.
They afterwards expressed gratefulness to their home network GMA. "And bilang pinag-usapan natin 'yung family, 'yung aming second family, our second home, ang GMA7. Maraming salamat po sa aming bosses...sa aming colleagues, sa aming naging [mga]witness sa araw na ito, sa lahat ng sacrifices, thank you very much," Dingdong said.
The two hope that the support they've been receiving from everyone will only keep growing. "Nung single pa kami, nandyan kayo. Sana hindi kayo magsawa sa pagmamahal sa 'min bilang iisa na kami ngayon. Salamat sa suportang binibigay niyo sa amin," the actress said.
Before the night ended, Mr. Dantes presented Mrs. Dantes with a special gift — an original song. "Ayaw ko naman matapos yung gabi na ganun ganun na lang. 'Di naman puwede yun. Kaya meron po akong hinandang isang munting regalo," Dingdong told the crowd, then broke into song. "Marian Rivera, mestizang Caviteña, I love you. I don't care if you're Dyesebel or Darna, I love you," the lyrics said.
Marian also shot two birds with one stone by performing a surprise number for her husband and fulfilling her long-time dream of singing with Aegis. The duo went onstage, and alongside Marian, sang 'Luha,' 'Halik,' and 'Basang Basa sa Ulan.'
Parting shots and new beginnings
The celebrity couple admitted that being married still hasn't sunk in but Dingdong gushed at how flawless the night was, and how they'll always remember it.
"It was said once in a movie and it was said once by one of our friends na naging pari. Sabi [niya], there are two important days in your life. First is the day you were born and the second is the day you find out why you were born. For me, and I can speak in behalf of my wife, for us, this is the second most important day in our lives because we are on our journey to our new life. That's why we thank you for sharing this very memorable occasion with us," he declared.
The night ended but a whole different chapter begins. "We do not know what is ahead, we do not know what we will encounter later on but what we will hold onto and what we know, and what we are sure about is our love for each other and right now, that is all that matters," he concluded.