Manuel Lopez Jr. and Jacqueline Ejercito Wedding

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Manuel Lopez Jr. and Jacqueline Ejercito's nuptials were dubbed as Manila's Wedding of the Year. Even the cynics were hard-pressed to disagree. After all, it isn't every day that the sole legitimate daughter of the nation's president ties the knot with the scion of a leading business family. And so, by the time Jacqueline "Jackie" Ejercito, 33, and Manuel "Beaver" Lopez Jr., 32, walked down the aisle at the imposing Manila Cathedral on Sept. 8, the capital was drowning under gossip - much of it toxic. The high-profile union attracted no small amount of controversy, and it was easy to forget that this was the marriage of two private people who, despite rumors to the contrary, are clearly in love and had hoped to keep the wedding intimate.

"Good Luck!" First Lady Luisa "Loi" Ejercito told her daughter when Jackie suggested an affair with 200 guests. Loi knew everyone would want a piece of the wedding - from the Manila media to social climbers to businessmen seeking presidential access. Two hundred people, indeed! In the end, the guest list swelled to nearly 2,000, although only half that number jammed the church ceremony. According to an insider, the whole thing cost the Lopezes up to 10 million pesos ($250,000). Needless to say, competition was fierce for one of the invitations (printed by Crane & Co., stationer to the White House).

The event was orchestrated like a state visit. "Bus commanders" from the Presidential Security Group drove guests from the palace parking lot to the Manila Cathedral and back again for the reception. There were color-coded badges; white, yellow and green for VVIPs (Very Very Important Persons); red and orange for mere mortals. There were six gift collection points. Sometimes attempts to maintain control were over-zealous; two days before the wedding, a crew from Lopez TV station ABS-CBN tried to stop rival GMA from filming the Cathedral exterior.

The ceremony got under way at 6:35 p.m. amid thunder and rain, despite dozens of eggs offered to Saint Claire to ensure fine weather. But Jackie, who dispensed with the usual wedding coordinator and organized the nuptials herself, was prepared. More than a dozen blue umbrellas, labeled "Beaver and Jackie," popped open and presidential guards escorted the gowned and bejeweled guests across a red carpet and into the church, for once brightly lit by generators from Lopez-owned Manila Electric Co.

The diet-slim bride wore a simple, off-white dress with periwinkle blue accents designed by Joe Salazar, couturier to former first lady Imelda Marcos. It was a departure from the sumptuous gowns Salazar has made for Marcos, but the silk train was fully eight meters long and embroidered with the national flower. The groom wore a traditional barong, sewn by Paul Cabral, clothier to the president. After the wedding, the VVIPs joined the VIPs for the reception at Malacañang. Not since Fidel Ramos gave away his daughter, Josephine, in 1993 had the presidential palace resounded to such matrimonial merrymaking. To the strains of the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the senior crowd dined on prime rib of beef with gooseliver and truffle sauce, fresh smoked salmon tartare and steamed lobster with herbed dressing; the younger folk ate buffet while listening to a live band.

Senators and tycoons mingled with cabinet ministers and movie people. One conspicuously absent leading family was the Marcoses. Although the clan has made something of a comeback under Estrada, there is no love lost between them and the Lopezes. "They know what they did to my family," Beaver told Asiaweek, referring to Marcos's takeover of Lopez media and the jailing of his late uncle Eugenio. But most feuds were buried for the occasion. Former president Corazon Aquino was on hand, in her trademark protest yellow, having put aside for the moment her opposition to Estrada's campaign to amend the Constitution.

Finally it was all over. As the newlyweds prepared to honeymoon, likely in Paris and the U.S., they would have been forgiven for heaving sighs of relief that the whole thing was behind them. It had been a very long and public path to the cathedral.


(accessed on Aug. 24, 2007)



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