THIS week, we begin with that late lunch WITHOUT a table.

It is closer to 1 p.m. than to noon on 22 February at a spot of the city park now called the Ibaloy Heritage Garden.

My relatives and I are instructed to show up at 9 a.m., actually, for a “Dawit” ritual for the solidarity of the descendants of Mateo and Bayosa Ortega Cariño.

In Ibaloy manner, we are to also give thanks to and seek blessings from our ancestors. So I am with cousin Joanna, and we hike off to said “garden” which is in truth, simply a section of the park playground we all grew up in.

We refers to my sibs and I, our cousins from the sibs of my father “Andring”: Auntie Nena, Uncle Joe. My father also counted Uncles Philip and Iking as brothers, and Fidelis and Fabie and all the Enrique Juniors and their sisters are definitely our cousins, but of them, only Fidelis also counted the whole old park as playground. So did our Hamada cousins when we all lived on Kisad, where still the old Baguio Midland Courier office stands.

This morning of the 22nd, Joanna and I arrive to see cousins Leo Camilo and Abel Joaquin of the Balacbac side of the family. Their grandmother Kinja, sister of my grandfather Jose, is the youngest of Mateo and Bayosa’s children, and retired to Balacbac with her baul full of titles, so the stories go.

Rony Perez is there, too, grandchild of Donato, brother of Kinja and Jose. Of that side of the family too are Gov. Cencio Pacalso and Paz Bernal of Phases School fame.

There too that morning of the 22nd is Toni Hamada and our nephew Mark, descended from Josefa, after whom that school behind the City hall is named. The old Baguio Central stands on land that was “given” for a school by her father. Her picture, cleaned up after many applications of the ever powerful computer, sits watching us from a table.

Toni and all my lady cuzzes are in traditional Ibaloy devit: Jona, Jill, Judy, Fidelis, Judith, etc. I stand alone as not being in uniform.

Toni is in black high heels yet, nevermind that we are walking on a clearing with stones. Most are in comfortable shoes, like my flat slingbacks.

Judith Strasser Pavia of the Sioco branch is in gold sandals, though low enough, I’m thinking then and there, to be comfy. Of this Sioco branch, Judith’s mother Auntie Betty Strasser is around too, reigning as oldest in the family (to be later joined by another Auntie Betty, also an elder and Fidelis’s mother). Edda Flores, Sonny Caoili and Joseph Cariño are also in attendance.

We look about for anyone from the Sabina side, and cannot spot anyone. Someone asks out aloud if anyone informed Momoy (Carantes, named Matthew after our great grandfather, as is my own brother Matty named Mateo), Jerry (Juliganga), et al about being there for the day. Someone answers yes. Someone says where are they, then.

Then it is time for the ritual to start. Our mambunong, Vicky Makay, asks for the names of Mateo and Bayosa’s children to be written down: Donato, Jose, Josefa, Kinja, Sabina, Sioco. Then there is Helena, who died without issue. My own sister is named after her. There too is Castro, who reportedly joined the US Navy to tragically never be heard from again.

(to be continued)