Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Filipino woman marries slain journalist during funeral rites in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 1, 2009) - A Filipino woman married his long-time fiancé during a funeral of the man she loved for many years. It was a rare ceremony in the largely Catholic nation of 90 million people.

Argie Gulipato said she and her boyfriend John Caniban had planned the wedding long time ago, but their dream shattered after the 30-year man was mercilessly killed along with 56 others in an attack on a caravan carrying supporters of Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu on November 23 in Maguindanao province.

Caniban was one of at least 30 journalists who were in the caravan to cover the filing of nomination papers of Mangudadatu who is running for governor in Maguindanao against Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jnr who is suspected of leading the attack.

The woman decided to marry Caniban at a church in the town of Isulan in Sultan Kudarat province on Monday and became wife and widow at the same time. The duo had long planned to marry this month. They have an eight-month old daughter.

The Philippine News Agency which broke the love story said the woman had long wanted to marry Caniban and their wedding was a “dream come true” for her.

“We wanted to have the wedding celebrations this December. Since we’re not yet financially ready, we had to save money for that,” Gulipato said.

The news agency reported that during Caniban’s funeral, Gulipato wore a white wedding dress, along with some of her friends and relatives, who acted as god parents.

Pastor Ed Gabuat, of the Miracle of Life church, led the ceremony attended by relatives and family members. Many were in tears after they saw the bride walking towards the altar with her dead groom.

The pastor said it was too difficult for him to ask the bride’s wedding vows as he saw tears rolling down the face of the woman and many of those who attended the funeral.

“It was so difficult for me to ask Argie about their vows. I don’t know what to say,” the pastor said, adding, the two had originally signed their wedding papers two months ago.

The pastor said he agreed to the wedding because “this was really the plan of Argie and John.” He said it was the first time he did the civil ceremony between a living bride and a deceased groom.

“During the wedding ceremonies that I presided, we witness vows being made as we pray for the couples. But Argie and John’s case was different. This was my first time,” he said. “I was crying. I just can’t look at the couple.”

After the wedding, John was finally laid to his rest at a cemetery in their village.

The woman told the PNA that she was happy for marrying her boyfriend. “I’m happy and fulfilled,” she said.

Philippine government prosecutors filed Tuesday additional 25 murder charges against Ampatuan Jnr, scion of a powerful Muslim clan, which is allied with President Gloria Arroyo.

As many as 34 media workers are believed to be in the group whose caravan was intercepted in the Ampatuan stronghold of Shariff Aguak town by more than 100 gunmen. All 57 people, including women, were herded into a small hillside village in nearby town of Ampatuan and executed.

Ampatuan Jnr, who is also eyeing the gubernatorial post, denied all the accusations against him and blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the attack, an allegation denied by the rebel group which is currently negotiating peace with Manila.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said there were witnesses who pointed to the politician as the alleged leader of the group that abducted and killed the 57 people. Devanadera said they are also investigating the mayor’s father Andal Ampatuan Snr, the governor of Maguindanao, and his elder brother, Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, and five more clan members in connection with gruesome killings.

Police earlier said it filed seven counts of murder against the mayor, who surrendered three days after the massacre to Arroyo’s aide Jesus Dureza after a series of negotiations. (Philippine News Agency / Mindanao Examiner)

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