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Heaven knows how much I loathe spending my weekly rest days in the city. But when my beauty-queen friend Cheerzyl Amante, former Miss Independence Day, sent me an invite to her wedding on September 28, 2013, I had more than a valid reason to stay afield.

The Amantes have been a dear family friend since I befriended Cheerzyl’s older sister—Cherrie Marie Amante, also a former beauty queen: Mutya Ng Pilipinas-Central Visayas winner, Miss Cebu Tourism second runner-up, Mutya Sa Sugbo first runner-Up, Miss Toledo City winner, Miss University of the Visayas winner, among many others. Cheerzyl is not only a friend—she’s a sister, a confidante, a shock absorber, and so much more. The other sisters (Charm Amante-Carredo, Charity Amante, Charizza Amante Delos Reyes) and their Mommy Concepcion and Daddy Albert treated me like their own flesh and blood during those years that I was still a struggling student and trying hard to be someone’s “girlfriend” as well as longing for a family to come home to away from home.

Many have asked me how I learned makeup. Well, while being an ambitious tagalong (read “yaya”) with one of Cebu’s most talented and exceptionally creative makeup artists, June Sy, to beauty pageants and fashion shows, I was given by the Amante sisters the honor of accompanying them whenever and wherever they joined pageants respectively and were being made up by some of Cebu’s top makeup gurus: Roy Erwin Tizon, Pines Borden, Aris Baguio, Ramil Solis, and Malayka Yamas (the one to thank for Cheerzyl’s beautiful wedding hair and makeup). By their example and my observation, I learned how to create a good crease between the eyebrows and the eyelid as well as how to use the brushes properly. It’s the Amante family that broadened my horizons in pageantry and illumined my perspective on acceptance, trust, and understanding.

So for all of the great things that came my way from our friendship, it would have been a regrettable shame had I turned down the invitation to “light the candle” at Cheerzyl and Apollo’s wedding ceremony which was held at the lovely lagoon of the plush Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

As far as I remember, that was the first weekend in 2013, so far, that I wasn’t with my family in Malabuyoc, yet I felt very much at home because—while some people change after a long hiatus—they’re still the same loving, hospitable Amantes with whose friendship I will treasure for life.