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Pandemic Tales: Celebrating Our First-Year Wedding Anniversary Apart

2020 was supposed to be THE year. 

N and I had our marriage registered in Nov 2019 after months of groundwork (flying back and forth to get documents and approval from the respective departments, etc), and we finally had our wedding ceremony in February – before he flew back to the Philippines to wait out the six-month cooling off period (Malaysia has this law to avoid fake marriages). The plan was for him to apply for the Long-Term Spouse Visa at the soonest possible time (May), so that we can start building our life together here. 

But then the pandemic happened. The Malaysian government imposed a ban on travelers from the Philippines (indefinitely), even for spouses. While it sucks tremendously, we understand this is for safety, and we don’t want to risk any air travel right now (plus the insane costs of quarantine which is like RM5,000+ for foreigners). 

So it is that we’re going to celebrate our first year as husband and wife 2,490 kilometres apart. 

Murphy’s Law is a bitch. 

But if there’s one thing that our four-year-long LDR has taught us, it is resilience. The whole point of us getting married is so that we can physically be together – but now that a wrench has been thrown into our plans, I think we’re better able to weather the storm compared to people who have never had LDR experience, because of our prior ‘training’ (not that it’s a ‘good’ thing, lmao. We’d much prefer being able to be together!). To all the LDR couples out there, whether you’ve been in an LDR for a long time or just forced into one because of the pandemic situation – stay strong. 

A friend once asked if I find it difficult to be apart from N, since we’re newlyweds and this is supposed to be our lovey-dovey honeymoon phase. 

Thing is, it has always been a lovey-dovey honeymoon phase, as much as you might feel like puking from reading this lol. And while it is difficult to be apart, I find strength in knowing that he’ll still be with me when this is all over. Hopefully for good this time. 

Like many couples, there are occasional disagreements and I’ve often felt like wringing his stubborn neck (I’m sure he feels the same way about me, lol) – but I think at the end of the day, we’re just two imperfect people trying to do the best for each other. I love the fact that we’re like an old married couple at times, but also giggly, immature teenagers who can laugh at silly things and act like kids. Coming from a household where my parents are the complete antithesis of what I have in my relationship right now, all I can say is I’ve been extremely blessed to find someone who vibes with me as much as he does, and who tries to understand and accept me for who I am. 

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@RIUH Kuala Lumpur, 2018

Still, it’s surreal to think that we’ve been married for a year now. We’ve come a long way since our first date at a Jollibee’s in Robinsons Place, stuffing our faces with fried chicken. It was also crazy because I recklessly flew to Manila without telling anyone and it would have been extremely bad if he turned out to be an evil person (don’t try this at home, kids – not all stories have a happy ending). 

This might sound cliche, but my husband is my best friend. We’re both people who love experiences, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to share them with. Who else is going to spend six hours in a museum with me fawning over ancient weaponry? 

Outside the Museum of Natural History in Manila. It was memorable because we got stuck in one of Manila’s infamous flash floods and only got back to our hotel at midnight. We also had to slog through calf-high flood water to get to a bus stop and N’s mysophobia meant he had nightmares for the rest of the week lol

There is nothing that I can really ‘do’ for him this year because of the distance, aside from penning down these thoughts. We’ve both agreed that we’re not going to send each other stuff, but we’re going to have a virtual date where we’ll order our favourite food (he’s getting Jollibee and I’m probably going to get A&W), dress up and Skype each other. Since it’s a special occasion I might even get some boba, ha 

The way things are going right now, we’re not even sure we’ll be able to see each other in 2021. It would be a funny story to tell our cats in the future though, “Hey, mom and dad were separated for two whole years after we got married. Isn’t that crazy?” 

Happy Anniversary, mahal ko. 

What It’s Like To Date A Filipino

So.

You’ve got your eye on a cute guy from the beautiful country of the Philippines. But you’re worried about cultural differences, and how the relationship might work out.

Fret not – I’m here to share with you what it’s like to date a Filipino, and what you can expect. winkwink 

Now before we proceed, a disclaimer for the party poopers going “OMG Eris so you dated two Filipino guys, you married one and you have a bunch of Filipino friends – what gives you the right to generalise ? Smooth out your knickers, this is purely for fun. I mean, no one gets mad when people ‘generalise’ Virgos as perfectionists (entirely true, though).

Without further ado (but first a photo, coz we lookin’ cute): 

THEY’RE ROMANTIC

Be ready for some extremely corny (but not unpleasant) pick-up lines.

Courtship is a big thing in Filipino culture. Back in the day, a man who wished to woo a woman had to go through the proper steps, first expressing interest in a friendly and discreet manner. Traditional Filipino society was conservative, so the process was often done through a ‘bridge’, a friend who knows both families. The bachelor would visit the family, asking for permission to court the lady. There might be a series of chaperoned dates, lots of gift giving, romantic letters and cards, serenading (called harana) and the like. Oftentimes, the bachelor would have to ‘court’ the girl’s family as well  – gotta please the future in-laws lol. 

Perhaps this is why Filipinos still have a strong notion of romantic love (be it through gifts, love songs, writing, etc.). Coming from a Malaysian Chinese family, where love is rarely expressed in words, it is refreshing to date someone who tells you they love you and puts in the effort to keep things fresh and interesting. I don’t subscribe to the belief that once you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it becomes drab and dull. It’s only boring if you make it so.

I know this is not the best example (seeing as how he’s gone down in history as a despot lol), but ex-President Marcos once said to Imelda, “Just love me now, and I’ll court you forever.” We all know how that went, but you can’t say the idea isn’t romantic!

THEY GET JEALOUS EASILY 

N and I had a huge fight early on in our relationship. I met up with an old friend from grade school, and since we hadn’t seen each other for so long, we got drinks after dinner and hung out until midnight. N was pissed because he said going out 1-on-1 with a guy constitutes a ‘date’ – despite how I tried to explain that we’re just friends. On my end, I felt insulted because it was clearly not a date and how about having a little bit of faith in me? I mean, even my super protective Asian parents didn’t give a shit, so why was he even mad? If the reverse applied, I wouldn’t mind if he went out with a female friend, because there’s this thing called trust. Long story short, he insisted I was wrong, I refused to apologise, and we made a compromise that I wouldn’t stay out past midnight with a guy (apparently a group of people is fine… I don’t get the logic). Now that we’re married though, he doesn’t seem to mind – so I guess it was a ‘we’re not really official yet so I’m worried someone might steal you away thing’ ?

PS: I know some people would call this a red flag – that if a man truly loves you they wouldn’t try to put a leash on you. But I think it goes both ways. If your significant other has made it clear that they’re uncomfortable about something and they’ve explained the reason behind it, weigh it against your own principles, and see if it’s something you can compromise in, in exchange for a more harmonious relationship.  If you’re okay with it, by all means. I feel that couples these days can get too caught up in the ‘he/she has to accommodate ME’ attitude.  End of the day, God gave you brains – use them to make rational decisions based on mutual respect

THEY ARE FAMILY ORIENTED

In general, Asian cultures are more family-oriented than Western ones, and it’s not uncommon to find many generations living together under the same roof. Filipinos are no exception, and they usually have big families. While marriage is between two people, if your beau is living with his fam, naturally, you’d have to get along with his family members. If you come from an individualistic culture, this might be difficult to adapt to. I’m fortunate as my in-laws are nice and reasonable people but then again, I don’t live with them – it might be an entirely different ball game. 😛 At the same time, coming from an Asian family myself, I understand the importance of family to him, so I’d never ask him to choose between us.

THEY’RE RELIGIOUS 

A majority of Filipinos are Catholic and deeply religious. While they might not impose these beliefs on you, I think it’s important to respect the fact that religion plays an important part in their lives. N is Christian, and I’ve been to his church a couple of times to listen to sermons. Although he hopes that I will embrace Christianity some day, he has never forced me to accept his beliefs, and I’ve never insisted that he should be a Buddhist. When you come from different cultures and have different beliefs, respect is key. All too often, couples of different faiths have problems when they can’t find common ground, or dismiss the other person’s faith as lesser than one’s own.

YOU’LL NEVER GO HUNGRY

Filipinos are known for their hospitality and every time I’ve been to the Philippines for holidays, I always leave a couple of pounds heavier. His mom makes a killer nilaga, and his fam is always taking me out for good food whenever I visit. The Hubs likes to try new cuisine, which is great because Malaysians are big foodies as well. If you love food, marry a Filipino!

 

 

 

A Malaysian Chinese Wedding – Part 2: Customs, Traditions and Culture

Hey guys!  Welcome to part 2 of A Malaysian Chinese Wedding! I previously blogged about the planning and preparation stage: items to get, where to rent dresses, engaging a photographer and chaperone, etc. which you can read here. 

This time around, I’ll be running through some of the customs and traditions involved, some of which I also experienced for the first time during the ceremony itself. So if you’ve always been curious about how a Malaysian-Chinese wedding is like, read on! 😉

Malaysian Chinese weddings are usually divided into two ‘sessions’ – a morning tea ceremony and a Chinese banquet dinner in the evening. These days, weddings are much more modern and Westernised, with some opting for garden-style luncheons instead. There’s no right or wrong: a wedding is meant to be a special day celebrating the union of two people and their families – so don’t feel pressured to organise one in a ‘specific’ way, especially if it’s beyond your means.

5.30 AM. 

Try to get a good night’s rest, because you definitely won’t be getting any on your wedding day. I slept for about two hours (thanks, anxiety!).

The tea ceremony typically begins in the early morning, around 8AM or 9AM, depending on the lucky hour that you’ve picked out based on your bazi (birthdate according to the Chinese almanac). Because Malaysian weather tends to be extremely hot, most chaperones (if you’ve engaged one) will advise you to start early and finish early, so that your guests wouldn’t be melting in the afternoon heat.

In our case, N was scheduled to arrive at my house around 8.45AM. My makeup artist needed about three hours to set my face and hair, so she was there by 5.30AM. Our photographer, James, arrived at around 6AM to get some photos and mood shots, then proceeded to N’s hotel (about 10 minutes away) to snap pictures of the groom’s preparations.

If the bride and groom’s places are too far away, you might need to allocate more time for your photographer, or engage 2 of them if you want photos and videos taken on both sides.

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7.30 AM 

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Our chaperone Ms Foong arrived at N’s hotel at 7.30AM. Usually, if the groom has a house, he will make his preparations there – but because N isn’t staying here permanently (yet), we rented a hotel room for him, my mom-in-law and sis-in-law at Four Points by Sheraton Puchong. For convenience, some couples can consider doing this if the distance between the groom’s and bride’s places is too far away.

The chaperone conducted a simple tea ceremony for N and his family. This is meant to show the groom’s appreciation to his parents for raising him, and also to ask for blessings. The groom’s ride (my cousins helped out as designated drivers) came to pick him up and they departed the hotel at 8.30AM.

8.30AM 

Relatives and friends started arriving. After sitting still for nearly three hours, I breathed a sigh of relief (hard to do with a corset on) – my makeup and hair was finally done!

Those who know me know that I’m quite a ‘cincai’ (chill?) person so I don’t wear any makeup other than eyeliner. Having falsies and contacts on was extremely uncomfortable; not to mention the corset, the tight dress and the heels – I just had to endure it for a day lol.

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Taking photos while waiting for the groom to arrive.

You’ll actually be super busy during the entire ceremony, so this might be the only time you’ll be able to catch up with your jimui-s (bridesmaids) and relatives. You’re also not encouraged to leave the bridal chamber.

8.45AM 

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The chaperone arrived ahead of the groom’s car to conduct a quick ceremony for my parents and me, similar to what was done with the groom but minus the tea drinking.

I basically had to perform a series of bows to my parents, to show my gratitude to them for raising me. Then they placed a red veil over my head, a sign of modesty. Traditionally, the veil can only be removed by the husband at night when the couple is in the bridal chamber – but in modern times, this is no longer practised.

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The groom arrives! We set off a row of firecrackers as welcome.

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Moo and Pops receiving gifts from the groom. Chaperone livens up the mood with auspicious sayings.

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A male relative from the bride’s family, in this case my brother, opens the door for the groom. The groom is not allowed to open the door on his own. The groom needs to prepare a bunch of red packets to give out – and he’ll be giving out a lot of them! The bro gets one for opening the door.

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Not so fast! The groom and his groomsmen will have to face my gatekeepers ie bridesmaids.

Wedding door games are now part and parcel of many Chinese weddings in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and of course China. The groom and his groomsmen are subject to a series of fun challenges, which can be anything from popping balloons to dancing, singing or doing something embarrassing. The girls will also demand a ‘fee’ for letting the boys in – which is why the groom has to stand by with lots of red packets. It’s all in good fun, though!

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My guy friends and my brother acted as groomsmen for N. (Thanks for being so sporting!) They were made to fish out mahjong tiles from a bucket of ice water, dance and sing.

After the games, the groom is finally allowed into the house, and receives blessings from the bride’s parents.

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His “Am I really going through with this I’m going to regret it omg” face.

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Exchange of rings. Guided by our chaperone, we then bow to each other several times – one for the groom, one for the bride, and one as a couple.

10 AM

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Offering prayers to the gods. We didn’t pray to the ancestors because I don’t have an ancestral tablet at home.

We first offered joss sticks to the main deity in my house, Guanyin (the Buddhist goddess of Mercy), then Tudigong (God of the Soil, a Chinese folk deity) and finally Tiangong (Jade Emperor, the Taoist Heavenly Emperor).

If you’re of different faiths, like N and I (N is Christian), it’s best to check if they’re comfortable with the ceremony.

10.15AM 

Traditionally, after the tea ceremony at the bride’s place, the couple departs for the groom’s place, where they will be staying for good. The bride will only be allowed to return to visit her own family three days later (because patriarchy). Many modern families have done away with this.

We still had a symbolic ‘leaving the house’ ceremony, where we hopped into the car and drove a few rounds around the neighbourhood. While walking to the car, my dad shielded me with a red umbrella while my mom threw rice over it – to protect the couple from evil spirits that may be watching the house.

10.30AM 

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The tea ceremony is an integral part of weddings in Chinese culture; one that has survived through the centuries. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s place, then the groom’s, and is basically a way to show respect and gratitude to the elders in a family. Tea is served according to ‘rank’ ie parents, grandparents, then uncles and aunties, older married cousins, etc. Jewellery such as gold, as well as money in red packets, are given to the couple as gifts after the elder has been served.

Once the elders have been served, the younger/ unmarried cousins convey congratulatory wishes to the couple, and receive red packets in return.

11.15AM 

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While the guests enjoyed the buffet spread under the outdoor canopy, my friends and I had a little Western-style bouquet tossing on the road.

11.45 AM 

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I was starving at this point – thankfully, the next part of our ceremony involved my favourite activity: eating. Our chaperone had advised us to get 2 packets of chicken rice, which would be our first meal as a couple. I can’t remember exactly why a whole chicken thigh is needed, but knowing Chinese culture, it probably has something to do with prosperity lol. After feeding each other some chicken and rice we weren’t allowed to finish it 😦 we had to feed each other sweet dumplings in syrup, to symbolise sweet beginnings. The round shape of the dumplings signifies that our family will always be unified and complete.

Finally, the chaperone instructed me to take off my husband’s coat and hang it up – just as my mom-in-law had helped him put it on, it is now my duty as a wife to take care of my husband’s needs.

By this time, most of our guests had already left and I was finally able to finish up that chicken rice. I swear to god I had never tasted chicken rice so good. Best plate of chicken rice ever, lol.

1PM 

It took me forever to get my hairpins out, and by the time I was able to change out of my dress and into a T-shirt, it was already 1PM. An hour later (it felt like 2 minutes), my makeup artist arrived to get my makeup ready for the evening dinner. Sigh. Another three hours of sitting followed.

6.30 PM 

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Dinner that night was at Moon Palace Puchong. We arrived a little ahead of time to set up the reception table for guests as well as coordinate the photo slides with the banquet manager. Our dinner was a modest 10 tables – two for my friends, the rest for family / family friends.

For those unfamiliar with Chinese wedding banquet customs, guests are expected to give a small token of appreciation in the form of money in a red packet. This will help the couple to cover costs. While there is no set amount as to how much you can give, the unspoken minimum (for banquets organised in KL) is about RM100+. The amount collected during the banquet will be counted immediately and the balance of the banquet payment settled with the resto after the dinner is over.

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Our chaperone, who also acted as our emcee for the dinner.

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Cutting our fake wedding cake, which was provided by the restaurant.

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An extra service by our emcee, which involved combining two differently coloured sand into a bottle to symbolise the union of two individuals into one unit.

After our march-in and everyone was settled, the dishes were served.

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A selection of appetisers: fried items, cold cuts, bite-sized goodies.

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Herbal soup with abalone.

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Iberico pork ribs. These were excellent!

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Fried shrimp.

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In between the dishes, we had toasting sessions at each table.

You can discuss with your emcee on how you want the flow of your night to be. We actually had a short vow exchange ceremony, where each of us read a speech to the other on stage.

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Champagne pouring. The ‘champagne’ was really just apple juice.

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And finally, a family toast with my parents, N’s family and a few other close relatives. We’re supposed to give three cheers – one for the bride, one for the groom and one for the couple – and yell ‘yam seng’ (cheers in Cantonese) for as long as you can.

The dinner wrapped up by 10PM. We saw off guests, took some photos and settled payment with the resto. My left eye was looking pretty red and angry at this point, due to the contact lenses. It took several days to clear. Never wearing contacts if I can after this, lol.

Got home close to midnight, and N spent another hour getting my hair pins out, taking a shower before we could finally hit the bed.

Planning a wedding isn’t as glamourous as you think – there’s a lot of work involved plus a significant amount of stress. While there were some things that I wouldn’t have done if I had the choice (the dinner, for instance – it was more out of respect for my parents), I still think it was something very memorable which I will cherish looking back on in the years to come.

A Malaysian Chinese Wedding Part 1 – Pre-Wedding Preparations and Planning

Hey guys! Welcome to part one of A Malaysian Chinese Wedding, in which I discuss pre-wedding preparations for my wedding ceremony, which was held last February. For those of you who’d like to know what a Malaysian Chinese wedding is like, read on! While I did not follow all the traditions strictly, I hope that by sharing my own experiences, this will help those planning for their own weddings as well 😉

A Malaysian Chinese wedding can be an elaborate (and expensive) affair, as there are many traditions and customs involved; some of which were inherited from our Chinese ancestors but adapted to modern times, others assimilated from the cultures of the region (such as ‘open house’, a uniquely Malaysian practice).

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Growing up fourth-generation Malaysian Chinese, I’m not exactly in touch with my roots. But since the hubs is Filipino, I wanted him to experience at least a slice of Chinese culture. We decided to go for the traditional route as much as possible (ie tea ceremony in the morning, and a banquet dinner at night), whilst still keeping it simple and within budget.

Gear up, because this is going to be a long post! 🙂

PREPARING FOR YOUR BIG DAY: Planning is half the battle 

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N and I had our wedding in February, which was just before the pandemic blew up in the region. We were very lucky that we were still able to follow through with the ceremony. What made it complicated, however, was the fact that N is Filipino. Although we registered our marriage in November 2019, Malaysian immigration laws require a cooling-off period of at least six months before the foreign spouse is allowed to apply for a spouse visa –  which would then allow him/her to stay for a longer period of time, rather than on a one-month tourist visa. Because N also had a job in the Phils, we agreed that he would only fly over with his family closer to the wedding date.

Planning a wedding without the help of your spouse can be tough, so I am thankful for my family and friends for lending me their support. If you have cash to spare, a wedding planner makes things much easier. It helps to make a list of things to do, because you might forget important things. Trust me, you’ll have a lot on your mind.

Engaging a chaperone (Dai Kum

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A dai kum (chaperone) acts as a wedding planner / MC of sorts. She (usually it’s a she, but there are male chaperones as well) will advise the couple on items needed for certain rituals, and guide them on what to do before, during and after the ceremony. On the actual day itself, the dai kum will be on hand to instruct the couple and their families on rituals to perform, keep tabs on the schedule of the day’s events, and liven up the atmosphere. I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to Chinese culture, so we engaged a dai kum‘s services. She also emceed our wedding dinner, so we didn’t have to look for a separate emcee. FB Page: Emcee Foong 

Choosing An Auspicious Date 

In Chinese culture, bazi (or the Four Pillars of Destiny, denoted by eight characters) is an important astrological concept based on the Chinese almanac, where it is believed that a person’s destiny or fate can be divined from their birth year, month, day or hour. If the couple’s bazi is incompatible, a specific date might be chosen to mitigate the effects, so that it does not bring calamity to the marriage. You can get a monk or a feng shui master to advise you on this. I’m not much of a believer in things like destiny (although I do joke with N that meeting him is tadhana – Tagalog for ‘fate’ lolol corny af)  so we opted to skip this.

Guo dai lai (Betrothal ceremony) 

Aside from the date of the wedding ceremony, you also use Bazi to pick a date for the Guo Dai Lai (betrothal ceremony) – in which the groom’s parents present gifts to the bride’s parents. We skipped this because it felt unnecessary, but for those of you interested to know what you need to get, I’ve included a list from our chaperone. Note that most of these items are in pairs, because it represents a ‘couple’, and aside from 8, 2 is also an auspicious number in Chinese culture.

Wedding gifts in wedding store
Geoffreyrabbit / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

The groom is required to bring: 

-Gift box containing

  • 2 betrothal ang paus (red packets)
  • 1 angpau for the bride
  • Engagement angpau
  • 2 angpaus for parents-in-law
  • auspicious dried fruit (lotus seeds, lily seeds, red dates, walnuts, longan)
  • red rope
  • chamaecyparis obtusa (leaf of a Hinoki cypress; this is apparently to ward off evil)

-2 hampers, containing:

  • A pair of wedding candles
  • a pair of wedding joss sticks
  • 1 can of tea leaves
  • red cloth (9 feet)
  • 2 bottles of wine.
  • Note: One of these hampers will be received by the bride, and then returned to the groom’s family.

-2 fruit baskets containing 9 apples and 9 oranges; one basket of which is returned to the groom’s family.

-2 boxes of Wedding ‘cakes’. These are Chinese wedding cakes that are given as gifts. You can get them at most Chinese pastry shops, and these days even online. Traditionally, the amount of cakes is discussed among the two families. The bride’s family has to return the exact number of cakes as was given by the groom. PS: The bride and groom are not allowed to eat the wedding cakes, which to me is complete BS because food

Roast Suckling Pig (2505471024)
Alpha from Melbourne, Australia / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

-A whole roasted suckling pig. Meat was a big deal in the olden days of China, as most of the population was poor and would only be able to eat meat on festive occasions. Two oranges are placed in the middle of the pig, and it is wrapped up in red paper before it is cut. The groom is required to give a red packet to the person cutting up the pig. The bride’s family returns the head and tail of the pig, as well as its four legs, to the groom.

-2 baskets of seafood containing: Scallop, abalone, mushrooms, nostoc (a type of edible algae), fish bladder. One is returned to the groom.

While the groom’s family does the bulk of the gifting, the bride’s family has to prepare some favours as well, which typically include a large Chinese steamed sponge cake (fatt gou), sesame balls, 2 bottles of orange juice, new clothing for the son-in-law (pants, belt, wallet, socks, shoes), red packets for the groom and the in-laws, as well as five kinds of grains.

All of the above is for reference only. In modern times, many people opt to include other items they consider auspicious – it’s the ‘thought’ that counts, basically.

Gown Rental 

I find it a waste to buy something that I’ll only wear once, so I chose to rent instead. There are plenty of bridal shops in SS2, Petaling Jaya, but I found one closer to my house so it would be more convenient to do fittings, alterations, etc. In Puchong, there’s Pick A Gown Gallery and Vivo Weddings and Dinner Fashion. I went to the latter as they had more designs in sizes that fit me – finding a gown when you’re plus-sized can be difficult. The prices are reasonable as well, and they let you keep the dress for a week. I chose a Chinese-style dress for the morning tea ceremony and a Western-style one for the banquet dinner. We bought a Chinese shirt for N to match, and he wore his traditional barong for the dinner.

Make-up and accessories 

You want to look good on your big day, so a good make-up artist is a must! In my case, I engaged a friend of mine who works as a part-time make-up artist (she’s a computer programmer by day – talk about a different career, lol). She was very professional; she even rented a room nearby so that she could be at my house by the crack of dawn to start the makeup session in time for the tea ceremony. She also lent me some of her hair accessories, so I wouldn’t need to buy my own. FB: Sassy Makeover.

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(Above) The trial makeup session in which I couldn’t recognise myself after. lol. 

Pre-Wedding photoshoot 

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We decided to save on costs by doing our own photoshoot with N’s camera and a tripod we borrowed from my cousin. This was done in November last year, when N was still in the country and we were visiting Ipoh. While the photos are not up to the standards of a professional bridal studio, we had a lot of fun – minus the discomfort of putting on a wedding gown and having the makeup melt off my face in the Malaysian heat.

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Dowry and Bed Setting Ceremony 

Chinese society is patriarchal, and the bride is deemed part of the groom’s family after her marriage. Traditionally, the bridal chamber is at the groom’s house, as this is where the couple will be starting their new life together. The bride’s family is required to contribute a dowry, and also items required for the bed setting.

These include four basins called a ‘descendants’ set – comprised of a potty (yes, a potty. for peeing. Granted, it’s the traditional one called a tam tong, which is more of a chamber pot), two washbasins, and a mug. An apple, an orange and a red packet is placed within the pot, after which it is wrapped with red paper and tied with a red rope. On the wedding day itself, a young male child is required to reach inside the pot and retrieve the items within – and pray that the couple will have sons (patriarchal society, remember?). We didn’t do this as I didn’t have any young male relatives, and I find it ridiculous to pray for sons anyway.

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2 bedside lamps and a tray of items for good luck such as peanuts, lotus seeds, red dates, lily seeds and dried longan (they’re all sweet, to symbolise sweet beginnings), a lump of carbon and two red packets are placed on the bed. They are usually placed the night before the wedding, and no one is allowed to sleep in the bed until the wedding ceremony is over. Also to be placed underneath the bed are five copper coins, one each at the four corners, and one in the middle.

Everything has to be new – new slippers, new clothes for the bride and groom, new make-up and skincare products, new bedsheets and pillows, etc. Aside from the bedsheet and pillows, we skipped everything else. If you’re a stickler for customs, you can, of course, observe these practices.

Due to our special circumstances ie N being from the Philippines, the bridal chamber was in my house rather than his.

Hair Combing Ceremony (Shang Tou

The hair combing ceremony symbolises the transition of the bride/groom from a child into an adult, now that they are getting married and starting their own family. If the bride does it, the groom has to as well and vice versa. The ceremony is usually conducted separately the night before the wedding, at the groom or bride’s respective homes.

Items required: An incense burner, candlestick, wedding candles, wedding joss sticks, a mirror with a round shape, scissors, comb, descendants ruler (you can get this at specialised wedding shops), chamaecyparis obtusa (for dispelling evil and bad luck), needle and thread, three platters of fruit, 3 bowls of sweet dumplings (tong yuen) – one as an offering to the gods and ancestors, one for the parents, and one for the groom/bride.

Couples are required to bathe before the ceremony and wear a new set of pyjamas. After prayers, the groom/bride’s parents will comb their hair three times, while reciting auspicious sayings. Once done, they will clip the chamaecyparis obtusa to the groom/bride’s hair, and eat the sweet dumplings.

We also skipped this. Heck, it looks like we skipped a lot of things, no?

Buying Items for the Actual Day 

More gifts! Now you know why Malaysian Chinese weddings are so expensive, lol. These are gifts that are exchanged between the groom and bride on the actual day of the wedding ceremony.

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Groom: 

Basket containing 9 oranges, 9 apples and 2 red packets. If you missed out on anything during the Guo Dai Lai, you can also gift it together on the actual day.

Bride: 

Wedding hamper containing 2 bottles of honey, 2 large steamed sponge cakes, peanuts, chicken rice (this is for the bride and groom to share their first meal together as a wedded couple), two bowls of sweet dumpling syrup, longevity noodles.

You’ll also need to purchase a tea set for the tea ceremony, and a red umbrella which is used by the father of the bride to shield her as she ‘leaves’ the home.

Renting a Canopy, food for guests, etc. 

If you’ve invited guests to the tea ceremony, there probably won’t be enough space for all of them in the house – in which case you’ll want a canopy to shield them from the hot sun outside, as well as plastic tables and chairs where they can sit. It’s also poor form to have guests attend your wedding and not have food for them. Again, to save on costs, my family helped out by buying the food, so we didn’t have to arrange for a caterer.

Decorations 

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A few months before the big day, we spruced up the house with a new coat of paint. Closer to the ceremony, we bought ribbons to decorate the bridal car, and red cloth to hang up over the door (in Chinese culture, a family hangs up red cloth to indicate an auspicious occasion in the house). Also bought some potted plants for the room and small decorations.

Miscellaneous (bouquet, wedding rings) 

Neil & Eris-34

Traditionally, the Chinese favour gold bands as wedding rings, as they are considered valuable (You can pawn them off in case of emergency, since the value of gold increases over time). But since it’s going to be something I’ll be wearing every day, I wanted something I liked (not that I don’t like gold, just not on my person. lol). In the end, we got a platinum band for N, and a platinum ring with a sapphire (my birthstone) for me.

Neil & Eris-117

For the wedding bouquet, we went for the cheapest option (that wouldn’t look like we plucked a bunch of random flowers lol). Flowers are lovely, but I didn’t want to spend a few hundred ringgit on a super elaborate set up just for them to wither and die within a week.

Coordinating your bridesmaids / groomsmen 

Neil & Eris-97

This is a fairly recent culture, where bridesmaids engage in the ‘ragging’ of groomsmen when they arrive at the house of the bride. The groomsmen are made to play some games in order to get past the gatekeepers (the bridesmaids) and gain entry into the house. I think the practice started as a fun way to break the ice and liven up the atmosphere. If you’re planning on having this, then you’ll have to coordinate with your bridesmaids on what kind of games you want them to play. N and I are both reserved and serious types, so he was quite reluctant to do anything embarrassing lol. For appearances’ sake, we had a few groomsmen (my friends and my brother acting as stand-ins, since he didn’t have any friends flying over from the Phils) play a few simple games like dancing, singing and fishing mahjong tiles out of a bucket.

The Wedding Dinner

Malaysian Chinese weddings also involve a wedding banquet in the evenings. I wasn’t very keen on having this, but my parents insisted on organising one for extended family members and friends (I just wanted a tea ceremony and an intimate gathering, sigh).

We asked a couple of Chinese restaurants for their best prices, and finally settled for Moon Palace in Puchong because a) it’s close to my house, b) there is a hotel next to it where N and his family could just walk over from and c) there’s ample parking for guests.

Neil & Eris-Dinner-7

The restaurant offers several wedding packages. Prices differ based on the menu. If you’re organising a big event (30 tables or more), the restaurant will usually have a taste test. Since we only had 10 tables, which is very modest by Chinese wedding standards, we did not have a taste testing. You can choose to bring your own wine, but not beer, as there is a corkage fee. As part of our package, the resto also threw in 40 free wedding invitation cards – we had to coordinate the design / collection with the affiliated printing company. For my friends and colleagues, I designed a card on Canva and just Whatsapped them the invitations.

Engaging a Photographer / Videographer 

We didn’t get a photographer for our pre-wedding photos, but I wanted a professional to capture the moments on our special day. After a lot of research, we finally got James, on the recommendation of a friend. I have to say that he did a spectacular job and at a very reasonable price as well. If you’d like to engage his services, you can contact JC Photography. 

 

I hope this has been useful for those who are planning their own Malaysian Chinese wedding. In the next few posts, I’ll be writing about the actual day, as well as cost breakdowns, so stay tuned! 🙂

 

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Thanks for reading! I’m trying to grow my social media, so any likes and follows will be appreciated! You’ll also be updated on what I’m up to on a daily basis. 🙂

facebook.com/erisgoesto 

twitter.com/erisgoesto 

instagram.com/erisc.mogol

 

How To Get Married To A Malaysian: A Guide For Filipino Foreign Spouses

Hey guys! 

So I haven’t had time to write about this properly, but I got my marriage registered in November last year (2019), with my Filipino husband.  We had the marriage registered in Malaysia and started planning as early as 2018. It took us over a year to have everything in place.

Getting married in Malaysia is no walk in the park if your spouse is a foreigner. The information available online is  not complete, and in some cases policies change – so we ended up running to a lot of different government agencies, having to enter and exit the country multiple times, etc. I hope that by sharing my own experience, it can help other spouses plan their marriage registration better!

Note: This is written from the perspective of a non-Muslim Malaysian spouse and a non-Muslim Filipino spouse (husband). The procedure for Muslims is different.

Note 2: Information is updated as of 2019. Some policies may have changed in the meantime.

WHAT TO GET IN THE PHILIPPINES – FILIPINO SPOUSE 

Step 1: NSO Birth Certificate & Certificate Of No Marriage (CENOMAR). You can order copies of these online at psa.gov.ph which should take two business days. They should cost around PHP 350 – 450 each. The CENOMAR is valid for 120 days from the date of issuance. Order two copies of each to be safe.

Step 2: The NSO Birth Cert & CENOMAR has to be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a process called ‘Red Ribbon’. This can be done at any of their satellite branches and will cost around PHP300. Hubs had his done at the branch in SM Megamall Ortigas.

Step 3: Getting a Single Entry Visa (SEV) from the Malaysian Embassy in Makati. 

Okay, this is the complicated part. Filipinos travelling to Malaysia get 30 days on arrival, without having to apply for any visas. BUT. The marriage registration process takes more than 30 days. So unless you’re willing to exit Malaysia, go for a holiday in Bangkok for a couple of days or something, and come back again with a fresh 30-day pass, I recommend getting a Single Entry Visa (SEV), which allows Filipinos to stay up to 60 days in Malaysia without exiting. I think it used to be 90 days but they’ve shortened it to 60 – not sure if it’s applicable across the board or if it was our own personal experience.  

Because this section is pretty long in its own, I will detail this in another post.

Other stuff: Passport sized photos with white / blue background. Make lots and lots of them.

WHAT TO DO IN MALAYSIA 

So your Filipino spouse is finally in Malaysia. You’re halfway done, congrats! This part will involve lots of running around to different government departments – hopefully this’ll help guide you in your journey. 🙂 

STEP 1 : CERTIFICATE OF SINGLE STATUS – FOR THE MALAYSIAN SPOUSE 

No one actually told me that I had to get a cert of single status. So when we got to the Philippine embassy (with all the other documents ready for submission) and got asked for it, we had to scramble to the Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara in Putrajaya to have it issued – there goes the day! At JPN, head to the Marriage and Divorce counter and tell them you want to get a cert of single status issued. If there aren’t too many people, you should get it within a couple of hours. PS: I can’t recall exactly but I THINK this needs to be certified by a commissioner of oaths. You can find one within the building.

Important note: After I got the cert of single status, a member of the staff advised for me to get the cert  authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Wisma KLN, Precinct 2, Putrajaya. The reason given was that ‘anything that deals with foreign affairs must be authenticated at the foreign affairs department’. I have not read anything about having to do this step, but we didn’t want to risk going to the Philippine embassy and being turned away again.  So we got EVERYTHING (my cert of single status, Hubs’ CENOMAR and birth cert, etc.) authenticated.

STEP 2: Applying for CLCCM (Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage) 

We returned to the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur the next day with documents in hand:

  • Copies of Birth Certificate and CENOMAR by NSO, authenticated (Red Ribbon) in Philippines AND stamped by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia.
  • Malaysian – Certificate of single status
  • Photocopy of Malaysian spouse IC
  • Photocopy of Philippine Passport (front page + page with date of entry to Malaysia will do but we printed everything to be safe)
  • Passport size photos of both parties (2 pieces each)
  • Affidavit of Contracting Party (you can get this at the embassy)
  • Application for CLCCM (you can get this at the embassy)
  • Payment: RM106.25.

Be there early (before 9AM) because it gets pretty crowded. We submitted our documents within the hour, and were told to return after 13 working days. 

STEP 3: Waiting 

It is a requirement to reside in the state where your spouse lives for at least 7 days. I think this is pretty hard to track because you can be travelling around as a tourist, and it’s not likely they’ll come to check on you – but to be safe, stay at your spouse’s place and go check out their neighbourhood, get used to Malaysian life, etc.

STEP 4: Collecting the CLCCM / Getting It Authenticated 

After 13 business days, return to the Philippine Embassy to get your CLCCM. Guess where you’re headed again? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Putrajaya. We made a return trip to get the CLCCM authenticated. Remember, if you’re not sure (and government staff tend to give you different instructions or “I don’t know”) , just have everything authenticated. 

STEP 5: Verification of Marital Status Letter 

One final hurdle before you can apply to get married. Foreign marriages can only be registered at the district where the Malaysian spouse resides. It cannot be done in JPN Putrajaya if the Malaysian spouse’s IC is not registered in Putrajaya (excluding special cases like Chinese or Nigerian nationals).

My IC is in Puchong, which falls under the purview of Daerah Petaling. Puchong has a JPN but it’s very small so for all major happenings /registrations/whatnot = JPN Petaling (in Petaling Jaya). BUT. I cannot go directly there. I had to get a Verification of Marital Status Letter issued by JPN Putrajaya, which I would have to bring to JPN Petaling. It’s basically an approval letter stating that you’re intending to marry this person and have already gotten your certificate of single status and are therefore allowed to marry.

STEP 6 : Application for marriage 

We finally went to JPN Petaling for our marriage application. Documents needed:

  • Verification of Marital Status Letter
  • Form JPN.KC02 (can be obtained at JPN Petaling)
  • One (1) colour passport-sized photograph per applicant.
  • Malaysian spouse’s MYKAD
  • Photocopies of Malaysian spouse’s MYKAD (photocopying services are available but it costs RM1)
  • Filipino spouse’s passport
  • Photocopies of Filipino spouse’s passport
  • CLCCM (authenticated)
  • CENOMAR (original and photocopy)
  • Filipino Birth Cert (original and photocopy)

Again, to be safe, bring every single document listed in the procedures from above. You don’t want to be running to another department to get some thing or other.

Our JPN officer guided us through the forms that we had to fill up. She could speak English so we didn’t require translation services from a commissioner of oath. If you or your spouse can’t speak English or Malay, you might have to get the forms translated (I think there is a commissioner of oath available inside the JPN building)

Once you’ve submitted and filled out everything, they’ll put up a notice for 21 days, and anyone (jealous exes?) who wants to raise an objection can do so in this period. You can also set a date for the swearing in.

We had a hiccup here because even though we had a 2-month SEV for him to stay in Malaysia (mid August – mid October) the dates available for the swearing in were full until November. We went to immigration to ask if we could extend but they didn’t allow it. He ended up flying back to the Philippines (additional cost ;__;), then flew back here in November on a tourist pass lol. Which sucked because we wasted a lot of money applying for the SEV, not to mention plane tickets back and forth.

In most cases, two months should suffice. To give you a breakdown of the timeline that we followed:

  • Verify Filipino spouse’s CENOMAR, Birth Cert and Malaysian spouse’s Certificate of Single Status at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Putrajaya – 1 day 
  • Apply for CLCCM at Philippine Embassy KL – 1 day 
  • Wait 13 business days for the CLCCM (does not include weekends – so we’re looking at almost 3 weeks here. It may be earlier; they will call you if it is)
  • Collect CLCCM. Go to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Putrajaya to authenticate. – 1 day
  • The Malaysian spouse has to get their Verification of Marital Status Letter if you’re marrying anywhere other than Putrajaya. We got this on the same day we verified the CLCCM at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Head to the JPN Branch of the district where your Malaysian spouse is residing and apply for marriage. They’ll put up a notice for 21 days. – 21 days 
  • Total: About 40 days, give or take.

Step 7 : Swearing in !

After all that hullabaloo, our swearing in date was finally set. The process is on a first come first served basis, so be there early ! (we were at JPN Petaling around 7.30AM). Bring:

  • 2 witnesses (if they’re Malaysians, have MYKADS ready, if they’re non-Malaysians then passports)
  • Malaysian spouse IC
  • Foreign spouse passport

Casual wear is not allowed so no flip flops or tees. You don’t have to wear your gown though – a dress for the girl and a formal shirt for the guy should be good enough.

We were called into the room where the officer read a bunch of stuff and we had to sign some forms. We also did a symbolic ring exchange.

Getting married in Malaysia is not easy and couples should be ready to face a tonne of bureaucracy and challenges that require lots of patience and perseverance. If your foreign spouse is planning to stay here in Malaysia for the long term, it’s a whole new set of hurdles, like applying for a long term spouse visa and work permit. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but we’ll face it when the time comes.

I hope this guide will be helpful to future couples. Good luck!

Helpful sources: 

https://heycontemporaryhippie.wordpress.com/

https://www.jpn.gov.my/en/maklumat-perkahwinan/pendaftaran-perkahwinan-bagi-pemohon-bukan-beragama-islam/

30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 11: An Adventure In The Kitchen

11. An Adventure In The Kitchen

First things first: I am not much of a cook.

When I was younger, my mother ruled the kitchen with an iron-fist, and would often shoo me out because I wasn’t cutting something right or wasn’t quick enough to take the pan off the heat, etc. Over the years, my interest waned, and while she did eventually try to get me to cook, I was completely disinterested by then. There’s also a complicated food dynamic in my household; they don’t eat what I eat, and I can’t feel bothered to cook something that I don’t like (because why the effort, then?). Living alone in the UK, I had more freedom to experiment, but my cooking was still basic – edible (occasionally tasty) but not exactly 5-star fare.

A couple of years ago when my ex came to visit me from the States, he thought of impressing my folks with what I couldn’t do – cook a nice meal. My ex is not a bad cook, and I was touched that he was expending such effort. On the menu was pork adobo, spaghetti and fruit salad. I was to assist.

Shopping for ingredients was an adventure in itself, because many of the items he was used to were not available in Malaysia, or were called by a different name so it was difficult to look for them. We couldn’t find bayleaf, so we had to leave that out of the adobo (although he insisted that it wasn’t true adobo if there wasn’t bayleaf), and for the spaghetti he requested ‘tomato sauce’.

Now this was the funniest part. To Malaysians (myself included), tomato sauce = ketchup and not the canned tomato sauce type Westerners use for pasta. Mistaking this (and me not realising), we ended up putting ketchup in our spaghetti! Of course it was super sweet and almost inedible, but all else considering, having 2/3 dishes right was not too bad.

While we might not have broken up on good terms, this kitchen adventure has stuck with me because they were some of the good moments in our relationship. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and if you aren’t able to look past the bitterness after a breakup, I think you’d carry a lot of resentment and hate in your heart. Which is why despite going our separate ways, I look back on this fondly.

An Open Letter To My Boyfriend: 17 Reasons I Love You

PS: I wanted to do one for every day we’ve been together but 508 was just too many, so I took the lazy way out and did one for each month instead. 😛

Dear Neil,

1 ) You make me laugh like no one else does. Except maybe Russell Peters, but I have to pay to watch his show lol. Granted, you always say I’m the only one who would laugh at your lame jokes, so it’s proven that we’re made for each other.

2) You tell me that I’m beautiful everyday. Without fail, since day one. Even on days when I feel like a potato. ❤

3 ) You look out for me. It’s just the little things that you do which you might not have realised. Like grabbing my hand and leading me across the road, or letting me walk on the inside of the pavement when we’re on the street. Or stopping for a rest when you notice I’m tired from walking.

4) You’re nakakagigil. You eliminate my need for blushers. I get naturally pink cheeks from you constantly pinching me.

5 ) Your belly. AKA your ultimate weapon to stop me from crying coz I can’t help but laugh when I see it lol.

6 ) You’re attractive. And we will have beautiful bebes.

7) You love food. If you didn’t, it’d be a deal breaker.

8) We share a lot in common. Like our mutual dislike for idiots.

9) Your indomitable spirit. Things may get you down, but you always pick yourself up and start again. It’s something I really admire in you.

10) You think for the future: one with both of us in it. It’s touching to know that you have to make sacrifices or decisions that are not always the best for you, but you do it anyway because you’re thinking of the long term, for us.

11) You’re patient with my bullshit. Includes the (many) times I have blown my top when I was PMS-ing or being unreasonable.

12) You give up things for me. Even though you’re thrifty, you’re willing to spend money to buy me nice things if it makes me happy.

13) How you like to watch teleseryes and K-dramas. Tender boyo at heart.

14) You’re romantic. Surprised I’m not diabetic yet with all the sweet words and gestures you shower me with.

15) You are my shoulder to cry on. When I’m sad or feeling down, I can count on you to listen to my problems and comfort me. Even if it’s the middle of the night and I wake you up from your sleep.

16) You let me be me, and more. I’m completely comfortable in being my crazy, random self with you, whilst inspiring me to be the best that I can be.

17) Just because. This is not because I ran out of reasons to write about. Nope.

Here’s to a lifetime of Valentine’s with you. ❤ 

 

I Remember the Mice

It was exactly four years ago.

I was stuffed from having a huge bowl of bulgogi at your favourite Korean restaurant. You told me you took all the girls you liked here, and the waiters always mistook them for your girlfriends. That made me a little sad, but I didn’t want to spoil the night.

We walked through the back alleys of Chinatown and the dingy parts of Soho, where bright, neon lights beckoned to patrons, promising pleasures of the flesh at its strip clubs and gay bars. The autumn wind was freezing. We had ice-cream at an Italian gelato shop.

I was fascinated by the clock tower outside MnMs World, when it started playing music and the noises of the city’s hustle and bustle fell away. It was just me and you, and the rotating cows and milkmaids of the Swiss clock tower. I can still hear the chimes in my head when I closed my eyes and your grabbed my hand.

And then we were at the Piccadilly Circus tube station, waiting for the train to go home.

You told me to look over the platform ledge, where you pointed out tiny black fur balls scurrying across the track. Little baby mice, making their way through a world of scraps, of breadcrumbs and dropped chips, steel and dark tunnels. I imagined their beady eyes staring up at us, wondering about the giants gawking down at them from the world of light above.

The station guard yelled at us to step back as the train came. I had a sudden urge to jump on the track: join the rats and revel in the darkness. You must have seen me leaning forward, because you pulled me back by the collar of my hoodie. I felt that whoosh of hot air as the train approached.

I wondered if the rats would be squashed if they got under the wheels.

I hugged you goodbye at Victoria Street. And that was the last time I spoke to you.

It’s been awhile.  It’s getting harder to remember your face, or recall the feelings when I hugged you goodbye.

But I’ll always remember the mice.