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  • The day of the wedding reception at the bridegroom's residence had dawned. Saturday June 16th, 2012. We drove to Papar without incident. I saw with great pleasure horses feeding in a grassy compound. All of them the same brown in colour.

    The house sits with the houses of relatives close to a river flowing placidly by. I saw a flash of red. It was a big bird flying over the water. Some trees growing by the river bank hid it. Then I caught sight of it again, still following the river.

    A dog with the strangest markings captivated me. "It's like a tiger," a wedding guest going by said. Except a tiger has fewer, bigger, and symmetrical stripes. These asymmetrical stripes are all over the dog's beautiful brown fur, from head to paws. I wondered which progenitor marked it so attractively.

    I wandered around and eventually seated myself near the music. In front of me sat a boy in a brown T-shirt with a message. The words drew laughter from me: "I can make your dreams come true..." I wanted to tell the boy, "Thank you. Please do." Being small, he was not there for very long before he disappeared.

    We had gone there early, having left shortly after nine o'clock. The big gongs were already being played. Each of these seven metal gongs of different sizes have its own Kadazan or Dusun name. In other villages, there may be eight in a set of these gongs. These gongs, or tagung, are traditionally made of bronze. Here at the wedding reception of Q & J, the group, mostly senior villagers, bringing forth the syncopated beat of these ancient musical instruments, was dressed in the same blue patterned cloth.

    In front of these gongs, which hung from a length of horizontal wood suspended from the ceiling, was another set of eight or nine small gongs. These are all the same size. They have a long wooden container, painted reddish-brown with a pattern of yellow outlining the open top. Carved wooden legs hold up the whole. These small gongs look as if they are nestled in a small boat. The man who was hitting these gongs - seemingly at random - with a pair of cane sticks, the way you play a xylophone, beat the third gong from his left and the drummer and the musicians playing the big gongs all stopped together. It sounded satisfying, a harmonious whole.

    I noticed the man who came next to play the Kulintangan - that is the name of the set of small gongs - also hit the third gong from his left and the music stopped instantaneously.

    Then one woman from the blue clothed group sat at the kulintangan. Another woman from the group took over the drum from the elderly man who had played his instrument so vigorously anyone feeling under the weather would have no recourse but to rejoice with the uplifting drumbeat. She told me that the skin over the big drum was goat skin. The wood was from a tree that used to grow in the jungle.

    Then it was noon. The bridegroom had arrived, bringing his new bride to her new set of relatives. The blue clothed musicians hurried to the wedding arch festooned in white and purple. They each held a short piece of bamboo. All these pieces of bamboo of varying lengths form the set of the percussion musical instrument called the Togungak. They walked in front of the wedding couple, striking out a rhythm exactly like the celebratory music of the big gongs. The pair of newly weds walked through the arch dressed in the traditional Kadazandusun velvet black trimmed with golden braid. On his head is the sigar, the head covering of black cloth embroidered in a mixed color pattern of mostly quiet red with much gold thread, signifying the warrior the Kadazan male once was. The bridegroom being a tall young man, the sigar made him even taller. The bride in her matching velvet black and gold, but with color embroidered in, wore the traditional Kadazan female hat. Hers was the conical woven hat that her maternal ancestors used to wear as shade from the sun as they worked in the rice fields.

    The Couple changed from their black and gold elegance into global wedding style for the cake cutting ceremony. The bride's dress was magenta silk. Its shimmering folds and layers had olive hues but when seen up close, they took on a vivid cobalt blue sheen. The shoulders being bared, she looked very cool indeed. The groom was resplendent in a white vest over an immaculate white shirt, with lavender tie, over black. The mother of the groom also changed out of her own traditional Kadazan costume into a burgundy gown with the prettiest matching flowered scarf I had ever seen. The father of the groom stayed in his traditional black and gold, and kept his warrior head covering on.

    The groom held the bride's hand under his and together they cut their beautiful white with purple trim wedding cake. The groom fed his bride, and she fed him. Then the bride fed her new father-in-law and her new mother-in-law. Then the groom fed his new parents-in-law. The couple shook the champagne bottle, laughing, and the wine foamed out.

    It was a lavish wedding. There were hand held fans in slender gauzy fabric tubes. The female guests cooled themselves with these fans of intricately carved wood and thin patterned white cloth. (One guest had her own fan. It was bright green. On the cloth was printed: souvenir Baguio City.) Beside the modern band of musicians with their instruments was a big screen on which were projected images of the couple in expensive studio poses. By the beach in traditional Kadazan costume. Against the tall grass in a sleeveless white gown for the bride, her groom dashing in white shirt with rolled up cuffs. Against some tall imposing building in some city in another different pair of costumes. In casual garb on a park bench. Gorgeous ball gowns. Theatre. Photography of the poignant moment of pairing for life. Romance. The slide show stopped at an image of the couple face to face.

    I thought of my own exquisite wedding, the small college chapel holding the sum of our guests. Uniquely ours, it was replete with the inattention to tradition that graduate students tend to espouse. But with the tuxedo and white bridal gown complete with long train, it was undoubtedly a traditional wedding. Married in the eyes of the catholic church, and legally divorced, I felt the tears rising at this wedding.

    So much meat. And sundry dishes. The rice was said to have run out but it couldn't have as there was a great quantity of rice traditionally leaf-wrapped - our ancestors were always in the great outdoors and not so much had meals as picnics - when we left.

    On the drive back, I saw a herd of water buffaloes grazing on former rice fields. Then further on, a another, bigger herd of water buffaloes, grazing on some more former rice fields.

    We reached the end of the road, there being a choice of going left or right. The one who was driving chose to go left even as his spouse was insisting the right was the right one. But that's another story.

    This one is about the beauty of a couple in love. And how, as John Keats says,

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
    Its loveliness increases; it will never
    Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
    A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
    Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
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