WEDDING AT THE BORDER. Erwin (second from right) and Ruby exchange their vows before an officiating officer and a staff of the Philippine Coast Guard (left) at the border checkpoint in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan on Sunday (Sept. 26, 2021). The couple was set to be married on that day but Erwin and his companions were not allowed entry due to lack of necessary documents. (Photo courtesy of Irondicz Wedding Officiant Facebook page)

URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan – Amid the stringent travel restrictions in the country due to the prevailing pandemic, Erwin Zabala and Ruby Papio-Zabala have tied the knot in a civil wedding ceremony at the border checkpoint here.

Ruby, 37, a native of Villasis town, Pangasinan, said in an online interview Monday night that Erwin, 43, a native of Tayug town also in Pangasinan, and his companions including the officiating officer were not allowed entry to the province due to lack of Safe, Swift, Smart passage (sPass) that prompted them to hold the wedding ceremony at the border checkpoint instead on Sept. 26.

SPass is an online travel management system required for travel to Pangasinan from other provinces,

“'Yon na mismo 'yong araw ng kasal namin. Kasama niya 'yong officiating officer from Manila. Katatapos lang ng 10-day quarantine niya sa Manila. Nagpunta sila sa tatlong border checkpoints pero ayaw talaga sila papasukin. First time niya uuwi na ganito kaya hindi na rin sila nakagawa ng sPass (That was the day of our wedding. He was with the officiating officer from Manila. He just finished his 10-day quarantine in Manila. They tried to enter three border checkpoints but they were not allowed entry. It was his first time to go home during this time so they were not able to get an sPass),” she said.

Ruby said the wedding was initially planned to be a solemn and private ceremony with just them, the officiating officer and two witnesses.

“Nung naipakita na niya 'yong certification niya na tapos na siyang mag-quarantine at negative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result pwede na siya makapasok sana pero maiiwan 'yong officiating officer (When he showed his certification that he already finished quarantine and the negative RT-PCR test result he could already enter the province but the officiating officer was still not allowed),” she said.

Erwin is a nurse in the United Kingdom who came home to meet Ruby for the first time and marry her after months of online long-distance relationship.

She added that it was impossible at the time to get approval from the local government unit for the sPass since it was a Sunday.

“Kaya sabi niya dun na kami ikasal. Sinundo ko siya sa border at 'di ko akalain na 'yung Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) officer doon at 'yong staff ng Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ay sila na ang magiging ninong at ninang namin (He told me that we will just conduct our wedding at the border. I fetched him at the border and I cannot believe that the OWWA officer and a staff of the PCG will be our principal sponsor or godparents),” she said.

Love beyond borders

Ruby said they were each other’s strength during this pandemic ever since they met online in May this year and clicked as if they have already known each other for a long time.

“Hindi naman kasi nakabase sa tagal 'yan. 'Yong love namin sa isa’t isa ay 'yong pagpapakita ng affection. Masaya kami kapag magkausap halos araw-araw, 24 seven kaming nagvi-video call, parang matagal na kaming magkakilala (It isn’t based on how long we have known each other. Our love for each other is more about how we show our affection to one another. We are happy when we are talking almost every day, 24 hours a day, we are having video call, it’s as if we have known each other for a long time),” she said.

Ruby was among the repatriated overseas Filipino workers from Jordan.

“Ano man ang sitwasyon hindi dapat maging hadlang sa pag-ibig (Whatever the situation is, it should not be a hindrance to love),” she added.

Erwin’s vacation in the country will end soon but they hope to be together in the UK. (PNA)