TOGETHER with six other female relatives, plans and reservations were made for a weekend in Batangas for an important mission: to inspect a beach resort. (Note: The real reason was to have fun!)

After every New Year for the past decade, my entire clan of about sixty-five immediate relatives go through this logistical nightmare of spending three nights out of town. Last January, it was at Baler in Quezon; and next year, the destination is at this Calatagan beach resort in Batangas.

A few of my siblings had spent weekends at this beach resort and had been raving about it. The resort has about ten cottages built on stilts right on the water, connected by a network walkways. Each cottage can comfortably accommodate ten individuals, which makes it ideal for my large clan. There is a stairway from the terrace of each cottage that leads straight to the clear waters of the sea, decongesting the white sand beach of swimmers.

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So who were joining this fun-filled ocular inspection? Well, of course, as the sponsor of the trip, Mom was coming along. And if Mom was joining, I too tagged along (as her part-time caregiver). My two youngest sisters, Angel and Ana, were also part of the team, with my niece-in-law Tin, and our adopted sister Malou. Myrna, my sister, was also joining us - making it a seven domineering women inspection team!

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Unfortunately, two nights before the trip, Myrna decided not to join us. Her daughter had just given birth to Myrna's first grandchild, and Myrna's desire to be part of the inspection team was overtaken by her strong grand-maternal instincts. Although reservations at the beach resort for seven women had been paid for, we all understood my sister's decision, which left us with one empty spot in the inspection team.

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There were a few options on who would fill the spot that Myrna had vacated.

One option was Ate May, the head of Mom's household staff. But Ate May had always looked after the home when the family was away, and was in any case soon scheduled for her own personal vacation. Another option was Tin's eight-year old son, Jerry. This did not turn out to be a good option: Tin, a working mother, would have to look after her son, instead of having a grand weekend vacation. Besides, it was supposed to be an all-women inspection team, and young as he may be, Jerry is still a boy. The third option was Angel's only daughter, Lynn. But she regretfully declined as, like all our other female relatives, she could not miss a day of work.

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We were all about to give up on filling this empty spot in the inspection team, when Myrna herself came up with her brilliant idea: why not bring along her house guest? What??? A house guest??? She had a house guest??? How come no one knew she had a house guest???

Myrna explained that just 24 hours ago, her foreign house guest arrived in the Philippines. What??? A FOREIGN house guest??? Myrna's daughter and this foreign house guest had once been together in a foreign exchange student program. But because Myrna was helping her daughter who had just given birth, no one could entertain this foreign house guest. So why not bring along this foreign house guest to the beach resort in her place?

Besides, Myrna had said, this foreign house guest was French. And Sandy speaks French, she reasoned. (Tin's husband added that the house guest could also be a serial killer. Thank you for that comforting thought.)

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Initially, it seemed like an idea that we could all live with. So, the night before the trip to Calatagan, Mom invited Myrna's family, together with the French house guest, for dinner at home - for a preliminary ocular inspection.

I was starting to think that this simple weekend mission (vacation) in a beach resort was turning out to be so complicated. And true enough, the French house guest turned out to be a 22-year old MALE!!!

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His name should have been François or Jacques, but nay! His name was Curtis, after his American grandfather. And for some reason, Mom could not quite recall his simple name, calling him Citrus instead. Angel explained that since Mom always plays Text Twist, all we need to do is to jumble up the letters in "citrus" to come up with the name "Curtis."

Well, French Citrus of Fontainebleau turned out to be our baby on that fateful weekend, since - tough luck for him - he was overwhelmed by six older domineering Filipino women with very strong maternal instincts and equally strong minds!

And, guess what! He spoke Pilipino.