After my now husband Chris (Allison) and I had gotten engaged while climbing a mountain in Scotland in 2014, we didn’t get around to planning our wedding for a few years because of work. We knew that we wanted it to be a destination wedding because we both love traveling, and we wanted the idea of our friends and family going on an adventure with us. It had to be a place where no one has been to.
I knew that it had to be a place in the South, because both Chris and I are Southerners. Chris is from Atlanta, Georgia, and he’s a blue-blooded Southern boy, while I’m from Cotabato city in Mindanao. We’re both provincial people with conservative values at heart, so we wanted to find a place in Southern Europe that reflected that as well. We both have lived in Italy for a time so we knew it had to be there.
I stumbled upon Puglia online. There was this beautiful place that was like a restaurant set inside a cave, and after about a year of research I decided to go with all my girlfriends (who would become the bridesmaids and maid-of-honor) from college to check it out. Our stop was at Heathrow Airport in London, and while I was there staring at the magazine stand, I saw an issue of Condé Nast Traveller. The entire issue was about Puglia. I knew it was a sign. That became my bible and I plotted out every single masseria (Italian farmhouse) that was mentioned. My friend Jamie Marquez who flew in from Canada said that we had to drive out and visit each one.
The first place we visited was that hotel set in a cave-like structure, and it was very beautiful. After exploring the place though, I realized that as much as I loved it, there just wasn’t any chemistry with it. I needed to find a place where I felt some sort of warmth and a really strong connection with, and so it was on to the next. We visited almost every single masseria that was mentioned in the magazine. And every single one was just beautiful. It was becoming more difficult to pick one.
By the time we reached the last masseria on the list, I was tired. I just wanted to go home. But since we were already there we decided to have a look. It was set in a remote location, and when we arrived the owner, Maria Grazia, gave us a big hug and greeted us with her daughter and their dog. Right away it felt like this mother and daughter tandem welcoming you into their family. Masseria Potenti wasn’t the most beautiful of all the places we had seen, but it was still very sophisticated, rustic, and chic. It’s a working farm with its own vineyard and olive groves. They make their own wine (THE WINE!) and olive oil and jam. Maria invited us to stay for dinner to try the wine, and because my friend didn’t want to drink and drive, we were invited to stay for the night. When we told her that we didn’t have any clothes she just said, “That’s fine. I have a collection of vintage lingerie.” And that’s when Jamie and I looked at each other and just knew.
Norman René Devera deigned my wedding gown. He now works for Calvin Klein, but at the time he was designing it he was working under Nicholas Ghesquiére at Louis Vuitton. I went to Paris for my first fitting. The way he works is very old school which I really liked. He had a really long fabric and created a calico out of it, and he sewed and cut and draped everything on to me in 30 minutes. He knew I wanted to do a backless gown with bell sleeves and a high collar, so he made that for me. Because I couldn’t go back to Paris for another fitting and he was getting very busy transitioning to Calvin Klein, he asked if it would be possible to collaborate with someone. He made a pattern and sent that over, and Rajo Laurel put everything together for me.
Because we weren’t doing a church wedding, I realized I could get away with a sheer lace dress with a vintage yet resort vibe. I knew that I had wanted to go with something sheer but I wasn’t quite sure just how sheer, that my more conservative family members wouldn’t react. But when I did my fitting with Rajo, he was very adamant that we go for it. Another friend of mine, Prasana Lee, who came with me to the fitting, said, “This is on another level. It’s modern but still feels like it has history to it. Simple. Elevated. Chic.” I was sold. Even though Rajo asked if I wanted to do another fitting I was like, “No. It’s okay. I’m set.” It was so relaxed and fun!
HAIR & MAKEUP
On the day of the wedding, my dearest friends Robbie Pinera and Celeste Tuviera did my makeup and hair. While they were doing it, I suddenly said, “I think we should do flowers in my hair.” So I called up Maita Baello of Qurator Studio who was in the middle of fixing up Judy Anne Santos, and I asked if she could pick up some flowers on her way. She showed up with pale pinks, whites, all these fresh flowers. I kept saying that I don’t like pink—especially since I was doing a red lip—but Robbie convinced me and it worked. Even the veil came about organically. Rajo created the shape on the spot. It was really just fabric and we made a bubble and Rajo and Cath Sobrevega of Qurator Studios sewed it for me.
I had asked one of my closest friends, Martin Bautista, to do the dresses for the wedding party, and so he flew to Italy with the gowns of the girls who weren’t flying in from Manila. Two days before the wedding, he arrived in Puglia, and I learned that the airline had lost his luggage with all of their dresses. I could tell the whole time that he was so down and stressed out, but I just kept telling him not to worry. I had a plan B.
For the whole trip I had planned to wear white, and I knew that we had a team of stylists and designers and even my friend Prasana who works for Tony Matičevski from whom I could borrow clothes from. On the day of the wedding the luggage was still missing, so that morning after breakfast I told all the girls with missing dresses to come to my room where I had gathered all these clothes. I could sense that they were panicking but they were trying their best not to worry me about it. We then managed to put together outfits for all the girls with missing gowns. For example, I had the Joanna Ortiz top that we had just shot on Anne Cutris for our May cover, which I bought for the trip. I styled that with a ruffled skirt from a group called Bridal Boutique.
It was important for me to make Chris’ mother feel beautiful as the mother of the groom, and so I approached Maria Grazia, having remembered her collection of vintage lingerie. Turns out she had more than just lingerie. She brought out all these beautiful, beaded, muted dresses from the 1920’s. I picked a duchess satin A-line dress for Chris’ mom and she wore it with a fascinator and shawl. It was a magical moment where we were all just admiring and playing with the dresses.
People asked me how I was able to keep calm throughout that morning. I think the reason that I wasn’t so stressed out was because it was a lot like working on shoots. I’m used to being in a situation where what you prepared doesn’t work out, and all of a sudden you have to be resourceful and creative and turn what you have into something else in a very short period of time.
After the ceremony there was an aperitivo, a teaser to work up your appetite before dinner. This marching band came in from the main entrance—a traditional Puglian band complete with a harmonica, accordion, sax, everything!—and Chris and I led everyone dancing down to the poolside spread. There was a cheese corner, a steak corner, fresh vegetables, and drinks like Aperol spritz and the masseria’s wine.
After that our guests were led to the wedding dinner. Chris and I made our entrance via this tiny, vintage Fiat from the 1950’s. It was a fun surprise for everyone. They all had tambourines and played along with the band all night. It was so moving to see our family and friends enjoy their time with one another. What I love is that even though they weren’t necessarily friends with one another when they met, the trip created this instant bond. They all ended up hanging out even after the wedding, making little trips with each other. It really does create a special bond when you travel with someone, even for a few days. It’s like fast-tracking a friendship.
A L’Officiel Manila exclusive: photos from Pam and Chris’ intimate Tagaytay nuptials before their destination wedding
Photography by Mango Red & Andrea Beldua
Wedding Highlights Video by Origami Videography