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From father to daughter, on her wedding day: You have my heartbeat

By CHITO SOBREPEÑA Published Jun 13, 2021 4:00 am

The pandemic drastically altered wedding plans, limiting the number of guests in the church where Chito Sobrepeña walked his daughter Michaela to the altar. He gave the following message at the outdoor reception attended only by immediate family and wedding sponsors who were all administered RT-PCR tests arranged by the bridal couple.

Mica, I used to dream of the day I would walk you down the aisle. But even before envisioning your wedding, I began planning your 18th birthday as early as when you started to walk. You are not just our only daughter, you are daddy’s girl. You were daddy’s girl from the day I first saw you.

Well, the grand 18th birthday party I envisioned for you didn’t happen because you gave us advance notice that you wanted to travel, and travel you did, all by yourself for the first time.

I remember taking you to the airport, accompanying you as far as I could go. The night before you left, I briefed you and walked you through the process of departure, what you would do during the layover and what you would say to immigration on your arrival. I told you to message me when you reached your stopover and when you landed. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours until I got your messages and had confirmed that Uncle Guy had picked you up at the airport. That was just the first of many trips you would take on your own.

 Normally a man easily moved to tears, Chito beamed with pride and joy as he walked his only daughter into the church. Since she was a little girl, Mica admired and respected her dad and has always been an affectionate daughter.

You have since become a seasoned traveler. When we go on vacations together, you take us to places we would never have gone to on our own. We discover new experiences together. These adventures are well researched and planned right up to the last euro or dollar. You prepare for these trips much like the way you navigate through life, setting a goal, and staying the course until you achieve your objective.

Daddy’s girl, indeed.

The wedding Mommy and I wanted to give you didn’t happen either. It would likely have been uncomfortable for you. You have always preferred to keep things simple but meaningful.

While today is not what we wanted for you, it is every bit an expression of who you are. You looked extensively for a church without a lavish altar. You didn’t want it grand and preferred an intimate space that would still allow for social distancing. You refused to have many sponsors and instead chose the particular persons you did for their kindness, their goodness, and the values that you admire in them and want to bring into your own marriage.

When you decide on something, you exert every effort to make it happen. You would not accept the initial refusal of my brother, Dr. Rino, to stand as one of your principal sponsors, providing him compelling reasons that made him break his long-standing rule not to accept any invitation to be a wedding ninong. Your tenacity is characteristic.

 Chito and Anna Sobrepeña with Mica and her groom Joash Llaneza at the outdoor reception held at Blackbird

You wanted to celebrate this very special event with many more friends and close family members, but because of the pandemic, you prioritized their health and safety. It was not an easy decision to cut the guest list and we know there was sadness but you placed the interest of others before your own preferences.

Many people wanted to be here because you are special to them, too. Without trying, you endeared yourself to our circle of friends because of the authentic goodness of your heart.

Think of your godsisters Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada and Viel Dee. Think of Vicky Schmid who was planning to fly in from Germany and Lia and Erwin Garcia who would have come from Mindanao. Then there are Yolie Bacani, Delia Paderanga and Mila Drilon who love you and were present at your baptism on that memorable day when Mount Pinatubo erupted and covered the city in ash.

Your beloved grandmother Cecile Crisostomo, your cousins who are like brothers to you, your friends from high school and college, even those living in different parts of the world, your past and current officemates, wanted to be here but have had to settle for livestreaming.

One of your ninongs remarked how was it possible to walk you down the aisle with a big smile on my face when I was giving away my only daughter. I told him I was proud of the woman that my little girl has become.

You didn’t want us to spend for a lavish event that might have been extravagant by your standards. Still, even if we were disappointed, it told us your heart is in the right place. You know we are very proud of you, and love you dearly. You are a remarkable person. I would never have imagined having a daughter like you. There is no one I know who comes close to you.

While I think that among my three children, you are the most like me, you are your own person. We tried to protect you as much as we could but you chose to immerse yourself in the realities of the majority of our countrymen.

The day we learned you rode a tricycle, a jeepney and an MRT from school to go somewhere without letting us know already indicated an absence of entitlement. You could have called for the car and driver to fetch you from school and bring you to wherever it was you were going but you didn’t want to trouble anyone.

 Mica is a wonderful travel companion who paces with her dad during a trip to Venice.

Privilege is not something you bandied. In fact, I learned later that when you went to the University of the Philippines Diliman to study Information Technology, you hid the fact that you graduated from the Ateneo because you didn’t want to be identified as an elitist. It was here in UP that you met Joash Llaneza. You tried to make people, including Joash, think you were waiting for the “ikot” jeep for your ride home and not the driver who would pick you up.

You don’t presume anything is due you and have always appreciated what we provided you with. Your generous and selfless nature has its own brand of charity. Instead of dole-outs, you wanted to enable others and accord respect befitting a fellow human being.

Today, I am entrusting our priceless daughter to you. Take very good care of her. She will always be daddy’s girl but now she is your wife and I commend her to your care. You are receiving a treasure of unquantifiable worth.

I remember when you invited friends to celebrate your birthday by giving them care packages of food which you prepared. You had clear instructions that they were to look for a daily wage earner like a street sweeper, a garbage collector, a newsboy or a vendor. Once identified, they were to approach the person, engage them in a short exchange to get to know something of them and how they were, keeping eye contact, as per your written instructions.

Then and only after making a connection, they would give the care package and say it was part of a birthday celebration of a friend who wanted to share with them. It wasn’t just about giving something they needed, it was also acknowledging them as persons and not charity cases.

 An hour before the wedding, the family gathers for a family portrait with Gen and Gab, Anna, Chito, Mica and Raf.

Your sense of fairness, your empathy for others, your integrity are hallmarks that make you distinctive. You also have many qualities and skills that set you apart. The high regard of your supervisors in all the companies you worked for testifies to your competencies and skills, your professionalism and your ability to work with persons from different backgrounds.

While you are practical and recognize the value of money, it is not your currency. You are not driven by financial gain but by living a purposeful life. You have my heartbeat. You will always be daddy’s girl but you are your own person, too. And Mommy and I can only stand back in gratitude to God for the person you are.

Earlier, one of your ninongs remarked how was it possible to walk you down the aisle with a big smile on my face when I was giving away my only daughter. He also has one daughter and was imagining himself in my place. I told him I was proud of the woman that my little girl has become and it was my honor to present her to God and to the man who would become her husband.

Joash, welcome to the Sobrepeña family. Today, I am entrusting our priceless daughter to you. Take very good care of her. She will always be daddy’s girl but now she is your wife and I commend her to your care. You are receiving a treasure of unquantifiable worth. May she enrich your life as much as she has ours.