Most Catholic weddings around the world continue to be held in the month of June. For this centuries-old tradition of couples tying the knot at this period, we have to give credit to the Roman goddess of love, Juno.
And love conquers all, indeed, even over something as world changing as a pandemic. In sickness or in health, people madly in love must stand before the altar and exchange vows, sooner or later, one way or another.
That’s why, for wedding planners and transport providers, quarantines and lockdowns are mere inconveniences that must be overcome with ingenuity, resourcefulness, and resilience. Take Don Robert Bautista, for instance, one of the most sought-after wedding car providers this side of Luzon. Bautista sees this month as still among the busiest in his calendar. That’s because it’s not just altar dates he has to mind, the wedding wheels man is also the go-to guy for magazine pictorials and wedding expos, and for TV and movie shoots that require vintage vehicles in their frames.
This isn’t saying, though, that the wedding business didn’t take a devastating hit during the current pandemic. To be certain, Bautista’s business did suffer a big dent since the global outbreak spread into the country beginning February 2020, as most of the weddings scheduled that year were either moved to 2021 or cancelled altogether. From 91 wedding cars in Bautista’s stable booked in June 2019 alone, that number plummeted to zero come 2020. He estimated a 70-percent loss of income, with his business inherently tied to partner hotels, which likewise nose-dived as strict health quarantines restricted all kinds of indoor activities and mass gatherings.
With quarantine restrictions easing as NCR Plus improves to GCQ (general community quarantine) status, and vaccination programs gaining momentum in the second quarter of this year, Bautista is happy to note that there are, so far, 33 wedding cars booked this June.
In a June 22 online chat, Bautista shared to this writer, “We are recovering, little by little. We’re now holding events, displays, and weddings.”
As a result of the pandemic, Bautista has incorporated key steps in the process of preparing his vehicles and drivers for events. He sent this writer videos of some of his 50 or so wedding cars being treated with anti-viral sprays and fumigants.
Cars over catering
On top of these weekly antivirus sprays (and additional disinfection on the day of the wedding before the masked driver picks up the bride), Bautista said he also requires his drivers to undergo routine swab tests—often upon the request and expense of his clients. And since weddings in the time of Covid would now forego all-out receptions, clients would now have the budget to go all out with the more expensive and rare classic cars in his lineup.
“Some would go so far as to give up the reception and caterers, but not the wedding cars,” quipped Bautista.
Quite understandable, if one sees Bautista’s lineup of classic and luxury cars—a veritable feast for gearhead eyes—including: A 1931 Ford Model A; a 1932 Studebaker, a 1936 Austin, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a 1929 Cadillac and a 1957 Cadillac Sedan De Ville.
His luxury collections include a more modern 26-ft ultra-stretch Lincoln Limousine with sunroof, bar and DVD/TV and intercom, a Mercedes-Benz limousine, a BMW 5 Series, a Jaguar XJ, a Hummer H2, a 2018 Mustang convertible, a Range Rover, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class, and a Chrysler 300C.
Bautista said that maintenance for vintage cars are costlier compared to those for current cars. “These vintage and classic cars are hard to maintain, especially when they remain unused, as malfunctions tend to occur. We need to start the engine twice a week to maintain and check the vehicles. Also, the air-conditioning system conks out if we don’t use the vehicles often or long enough,” he pointed out.
There even came a time when Bautista was afraid the business would close, “with all of the things happening in our country: The untimely implementation of RFIDs when we didn’t earn anything from our business; no discounts from the Land Transportation Office’s car registration with our unused vehicles; no help from the government in our sector.
“So, we pray to God that we can continually sustain the business, until such time that the pandemic would be over,” said Bautista.
And there is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. Bautista is seeing glimmers of it. “Our business is starting to recover.”
For richer or for poorer, Don Robert. Stay the course.