Living and Loving Local
Steve and Valerie Fischer’s Pre-Colonial Island Wedding
By Faw Maridul
Almost six years ago, Steve and Valerie, or Val to her family and friends, went on their first trip as a couple. A trip that, in hindsight, would set the tone for their relationship. It was a 5-day adventure through the northern islands of Palawan, from Coron to El Nido, organized by Tao Expedition.
Their days were spent exploring deserted islets and its surrounding waters, climbing limestone cliffs, and lazing unabashedly under the sun. Nights were for shared meals eaten with bare hands, exchanging stories with the other expedition members, and pitching tents or sleeping under the stars. As languid and romantic as it sounds, it was a raw and authentic island experience, communal makeshift bathrooms included. That’s when Steve, an expat originally from Michigan, and Val, a driven marketing executive, realized they were good together and they want to be truly together.
The Palawan escapade was just the beginning of many others – traveling to off the beaten paths and exotic destinations around the world. Steve and Val were inseparable.
Fast forward to December 22, 2018, Steve and Val went back to one of the El Nido islands they visited during the expedition, but this time around for a different kind of adventure. Brother Island, also known as Small Daracoton, became the setting for their weekend beach wedding. Family and friends flew from Manila, the United States, and other countries to celebrate the union of two hearts and two cultures. Steve and Val also wanted their wedding to be a celebration of unique Filipino traditions and to showcase the best and beautiful things about the country they call home.
The result? A pre-colonial themed wedding suggested by no less than the “doyenne of Philippine fashion” Patis Tesoro. There were no Pinterest boards or features on wedding sites and magazines available as reference. One could even surmise that it hasn’t been done before. Val, with her savvy research skills, began creating her own wedding board of indigenous fabrics, native materials, and other local traditions that reflected the essence of pre-colonial Philippines, before we were influenced by Spanish culture. She personally visited weavers, craftsmen and designers working with local materials, and attended exhibits and trade fairs as often as she could. More than planning and designing her own wedding, Val was also rediscovering her heritage and unexpectedly finding her passion and advocacy.
The big day came. Val was a picture of true Filipina beauty, made more so with her glowing morena skin, as she walked down the sandy aisle in a Southeast Asian malong (a traditional “tube skirt”) with handwoven Maranao fabric edging paired with a gold crop top made of piña and embellished with mother of pearl beads and capiz shells. Steve also wore a malong made of South African wax-resist cloth and Miag-ao patadyong, a pre-Spanish loose skirt similar to a malong except for its traditional checkered design, paired with a polo made of silk and piña.
It’s the beginning of another beautiful adventure. Steve and Val’s tops are by designer Twinkle Ferraren, while their malongs are gifts from Patis Tesoro.
Val’s custom gold and maroon hair piece is handmade by Farah Abu. It was inspired by an old photo of pre-colonial Filipinas she came across while researching for the wedding.
Val’s bride squad wearing custom Anthill Fabric Gallery panyo skirts. Anthhill is a social cultural enterprise working with weavers from Abra. Bukidnon, and Cebu.
Groomsmen and the father’s groom (rightmost) proudly wearing handwoven malongs. On Steve’s dad is a pis siyabit, woven by the Tausugs of Sulu and traditionally used as a head cloth.
Local flavors and textures – wedding favors included a fan made of anahaw leaves, kapeng barako from Batangas, dried mangoes, and everyone’s favorite chocnut.
Steve handing out the giveaways placed inside handwoven pandan bags from Laguna. The bride and groom gave out the wedding souvenirs themselves, similar to the Filipino concept of giving pasalubongs.
Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao weaving tribes and communities are well represented in this lounge-inspired photo area/mini-stage. There are handwoven and embroidered fabrics from the Cordilleras, Abra, Antique, Marawi, mixed with mats from Palawan and Samar, and pillows using Yakan weaves.
Other highlights of Steve and Val’s non-traditional yet truly traditional Filipino wedding was the presence of an onsite weaver and freshly prepared wedding spread based on the day’s catch. Guests also learned to make fish fronds from coconut leaves, a weaving tradition of Bulacan, and used them at the end of the ceremony.
Steve and Val wanted a wedding that will reflect their individual personalities and shared traits as a couple; a celebration that will highlight their love for adventure and tradition, for genuine connections and authentic experiences. They got all those and more.
Especially for Val, it has been life changing in more ways than one. Inspired by her wedding planning journey, she co-founded PinasSadya, an e-commerce platform committed to promoting the beauty of Filipino craftsmanship and marketing world-class local products.
Weddings are truly memorable occasions. For Steve and Val, it was about rediscovering your roots, finding your purpose, and celebrating love, family, friendships, and new beginnings.