BACOLOD CITY—At least 2,013 couples exchanged wedding vows on Saturday afternoon at an event here dubbed the biggest mass wedding in the country.
Boxing icon, Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, their ninong (godfather), advised his 4,026 godchildren, who were gathered at the grounds of the Bacolod Government Center for the ceremony: “Marriage is a lifetime commitment. It has no expiration date.”
He then told the couples, aged 18 to 82, that marriage is not a joke, since they have to be patient because they would go through a lot together as couples.
He then asked the grooms to hold their brides’ hands and say: “Our marriage has no expiration date.” Pacquiao then asked the brides to reply: “My love, you cannot back out now.” This elicited laughter among the crowd.
Pacquiao said that in the years that he has been married to his wife Jinky, he has learned that love is not just an emotion felt toward a spouse but also a commitment to stay together even in rough times.
His gifts to his godchildren: Prayer.
“I will pray for them that they will continue to be inspired in their marriages,” he said.
After Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia administered the wedding rites, Pacquiao asked the couples to kiss.
But the couple who was most applauded was Florcespida Tolentino, 82, and her 44-year-old groom Edwin Diaz, who kept on kissing each other.
Diaz works as a stevedore while his wife runs a small store in Barangay (village)13 in Bacolod.
Despite the age difference, he said he loves her because she takes good care of him. And never in his wildest dreams did he expect that Pacquiao would be their godfather.
Other godparents at the mass wedding were Sen. Franklin Drilon, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications community relations head Evelyn Del Rosario and businessman Ricardo Yanson, who was not able to attend.
Drilon congratulated the newlywed couples and said he had never seen such a large number of couples getting married in a single occasion.
He said Saturday’s mass wedding was the “biggest mass wedding” in the country.
This year’s mass wedding was called “2013 in 2013” but Leonardia has been holding mass weddings every year since he took over as mayor in 2004.
“We are amazed at the very enthusiastic response of this very big number of applicants but we feel it is a positive indication that our people in Bacolod would like to put their lives in order. This unprecedented ceremony is a tourist attraction by itself,” Leonardia said.
The mass wedding ended with a party at the Bacolod Government Center grounds.