1,200 couples get married in a free mass wedding rite in the city of Lanao Norte

The newlyweds pose for a souvenir photo at Lala Town Hall, Lanao del Norte on Sunday March 20, 2021. MindaNews Photo by MARIVIC DAVIS

LALA, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews/March 21) – At least 1,261 couples married Sunday in the mass wedding ceremony as part of 73rd founding anniversary and 21st Alimango Festival celebrations.

The grooms and brides, some living together single for decades already, beamed in costume or barong tagalogs and dresses sponsored by the Everca Foundation at the wedding ceremony hosted by Mayor Angel Yap.

Last year, the city canceled the festival due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, it belongs to the Level 1 COVID-19 Alert category.

Yap said the inter-agency COVID-19 task force allowed them to hold the wedding ceremony due to the city’s low-risk COVID-19 alert status.

“We want their union to be blessed by the church. They are now legally married and their descendants are now legitimate children,” the mayor said.

Yap said they conducted a survey earlier and found that many of their constituents were unmarried due to financial constraints.

Virginia Yap, CEO of Everca, said they agreed to cover all wedding expenses for unmarried couples because their foundation “is focused on helping women”.

The organizers also sponsored the wedding party for them.

One of the couples who participated in the free mass wedding ceremony is Darius Ayongao, 51, and Ana Posadas, 43. They have lived together for 23 years and were blessed with five children before marriage. Ayongao is a farmer and takes on other odd jobs to supplement the family’s income while Posadas takes care of the household. They lived in a small, dilapidated house.

Darius Ayongao and Ana Posadas on their way to the wedding ceremony. MindaNews Photo by MARIVIC DAVIS

One of their children, Leo, a criminology student, convinced his parents to marry after hearing about the local government’s free marriage scheme. Leo is a casual local government employee, who offered him the job after returning the 100,000 peso money he found to his landlord. Leo has gone viral on social media for his honesty.

“We really wanted to get married, but financial constraints got in the way,” Darius said in the vernacular. “We were too excited to have woken up at 3 a.m. to prepare for the occasion.”

Another couple, Salvador Lopez, 32, Jane Estrada, 41, both disabled, had lived together for six years before the wedding.

Estrada, whose one eye is blind due to physical abuse by her deceased husband, met Lopez, a freight truck driver, in Ozamis City. The couple are blessed with two children.

When they heard the news of the free marriage, Lopez immediately asked Estrada to marry.

They make hollow blocks for a living, earning two pesos a piece, which is just enough for their needs, including school expenses for their children.

“If it’s not for the local government, we won’t get married because of the expense. We don’t make too much money,” he said. (Marivic Davis/MindaNews)

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