What we learn from family reunions

IN THE days of yore distance was just a province or a metropolis away, but today because of the call to greener pastures, distances are oceans apart and coming home for family reunions require long time planning and much savings.

Nonetheless, the quest for family togetherness is an innate call. And the call brings together those who can accommodate to the best of their schedules.

With an aunt coming home for a visit this Holy Week from the States, preparations were rife to make a family reunion possible. Communications were made a month prior to the event. A family dinner was scheduled in an uncle’s place, the last living brother, on Holy Thursday. Good Friday was reserved for the family’s participation in the procession in Talisay with its patroness, the Dolorosa, and Black Saturday became less than black with a visit to the main ancestral home of great Tana Dicang and the family reunion in the evening.

While family reunions are basically geared towards getting to know each other, this reunion was directed to be acquainted with the pioneers of the family so that the fourth, fifth, and sixth generations could have some information of their roots and to be proud of their legacy.

Our family is big. My grandfather had 14 siblings and he had 13 offsprings. While we, the third generation know our titos and titas, the fourth and fifth hardly have any notion of who they were. Most have not even seen them except in portraits on the walls. They hear stories, but really not quite unconnected. So, the task was to have each family line draw up a story of their Dad or Mom and for the single ones, we did some research and collaborated our stories.

How interesting it was to discover the many revelations about their personas. Even for us, first cousins who were not totally alien to them, writing and reading the scripts, we realized that the Lord really created us with a variety of uniqueness despite sharing common genes and bloodline. Yes, we are definitely of one mold but each with his exclusive and distinctive identity.

The aim was to give each a three-minute storyline coupled with video footage plus photos of them in the past and their progenies. For history and name recall, we had trivia questions with prizes in between every four or five segments.

The story unfolds with the prime ancestry focusing on our grandfather, Simplicio, who was Mayor of Talisay, a trustee to several sugar mills, an haciendero and the one of the delegates of the first Constitutional Convention of the Philippines representing Negros.

With the lucky thirteen, we learned that the eldest daughter Socorro (Coling) was the true Manang who took care of her siblings aged 13 to newborn when they lost their mother at childbirth. She married a doctor, who became a mayor and congressman and founded the Cebu Institute of Technology in Cebu. The eldest son, Rodolfo, (Dolfing), the industrialist and educator, likewise took the role as genuine Manong as would watch out for his lady siblings while they were in Assumption Manila onto securing jobs for them in the different family-owned establishments.

Mario (Bats) held the title of longest Mayor of Talisay close to 25 years (longer than Marcos as President) because he was loved by the people. Lucrecia (Nena) became the neurosurgeon’s wife (one of the first in the Philippines) but she became an exemplary mother to her five daughters. Simplicio Jr. (Nene) was the young Atenean who defied Douglas McArthur’s order to disband the ROTC and found a way to enlist in the war. He is our hero, who survived the Death March in Bataan.

Amelo (Miling) likewise in the genre of his father and grandfather became mayor of Talisay and is known as the Father of the City having elevated Talisay from status of town to city. Aurora (Aure) was the fashionista but her mission in life was to take care of their father, which she did with excellence, even besting his second wife.

Then came Florinda (Linda), the dramatic operatic soprano who trained in New York for five years with a successful concert upon her return. She likewise stayed in Madrid to study Spanish guitar and met a Basque whom she married. Casia Eustaquia, more aptly nicknamed Beauty, was indeed a beauty inside and out. Single yet lived a full, grace-filled life, she was truly loved for her genuine care and concern for her siblings, nephews and nieces plus her silent good works to the church and family.

Nonata, the intellectual, with a Masters degree at Fordham University, whose mission now in life is to take care of the family’s ancestral home. Roberto, Bobby, just like his brothers was hardworking and had many small enterprises including a band when he was younger to a care home when he and his family migrated to America. Erlinda, Erlin, the introvert, who now lives in Utah, we jokingly call her the original Greta Garbo of the family preferring to be quiet and veiled.

And finally Carmela, Cami, the youngest and the charming giver, who is now the matriarch of the family, who tries to be in contact with all members of the family no matter which part of the world she is.

The reunion aimed not merely to acquaint but to stress on the values that have been handed down through the generations: love for God and family; respect for elders; service to God and community; fidelity to duty; adherence to protocol, good manner and right conduct and more.

Reunions usher us not only to know our blood relations. Knowledge of our ancestry opens up and answers why we have certain inclinations, pronounced habits, intrinsic values, and particular avocations.
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