When I was a kid…

Is it too early for a Christmas Tree?

This is a preview of a beautiful wallpaper from Digital Blasphemy (click photo to get to his site)

Have you setup your Christmas tree? Will you have one this year? We’re probably. We haven’t put up a Christmas tree in years! I guess it’s mainly because kids don’t come up here too often anymore. But we used to get it out on the second week of December. My cousins still setup their big tree downstairs, so that’s where the gifts go every year 🙂

I know at least one family who has their tree up already, not sure if they’ve had it up since September even 🙂 Putting up the tree was always fun, as well as buying new trimmings each year. I wonder if we still have some of the old ones? I especially like small gift bags filled with toys! Hmm.

There was one time that we didn’t use any of the usual green artificial christmas trees that families here normally have.   I remember a year when we decorated one of our plans that grew a little taller than me, and didn’t have leaves. It really didn’t have leaves, it was just all stems and all green too. I’ll find a photo somewhere and share it someday. I think that was the year I got a pink bike. 🙂

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Today is my Daddy’s 55th birthday.

Happy Bday Daddy!

Happy Bday Daddy!

Growing up, I always thought that I was my daddy’s favorite, and my big brother was mom’s. Of course that couldn’t be true, I really was just daddy’s little girl. I grew up with my dad telling me stories of his own childhood – he would do so at bedtime, or sometimes at the dinner table with everyone gathered ’round. Later, when I was a little older, he would tell us stories of his time in the revolutionary movement. For those who don’t know yet, yes, my dad was in the militant movement in the Martial Law years.  Both he and my mom were. I have always been proud of that fact – proud that both my parents were former political detainees. 

In recent years, celebrating my dad’s birthday meant buying KFC, or having lunch/dinner out, and then ice cream and cake for the kids. Two years ago, Zune came home on dad’s birthday. So there was a celebratory mood all around because the kids were also in the house not just to welcome our little tiger (uh pup), but also to have cake and ice cream. Last year was the same, except there was lunch at Steak Town too. Alfred and I didn’t make lunch though. He had work, and I, well, had an accident at work.

Dad was a boy scout and he really encouraged us to sign up when we were kids. His scout master in Torres High School was the legendary Sir Rudy. He was also the scout master at Trinity College during our time! I was mighty proud when during one of our recognition days for scouting one year, Sir Rudy acknowledged my dad. He remembered him! Because dad worked at our church as the national development officer for over a decade, he worked within five minutes of our home. That meant he was home everyday for lunch, and that he was the logical choice to attend PTA, or school programs, and pick me up after school too. I’d frequently drop by his office for a variety of reasons. I could do that because their office was at the center of the community – right by the basketball court.

I was already alive when my dad went back to school to get a degree. But what I remember is already the time he took a Master’s Degree in Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management. He managed to get himself a scholarship and a year off work to concentrate on studies. No, he wasn’t out of work, he was still working for the church but he didn’t have to be there everyday.  I was in high school at this time. He read tons of papers and wrote tons of them too in that year. We were all so proud of him when he graduated with distinction. That really opened more doors for him. 

Since working at the church, he has since worked in the fair trade industry, heading an NGO called APFTI; he worked for a few months in Mindanao, with his base in Cotabato City, with a UN project (UNIDO); he then moved on to work with UPLIFT; and now he works with the Manila (and Davao) office of the Catholic Relief Services. He’s had consultancy jobs here and there too over the years.

He travelled frequently when I was a kid, so did my mom. I was used to either one or both of them being away. But I specifically remember him having to go abroad for a meeting/conference but he didn’t leave just before my birthday even when it seemed that he had to. He made sure that his flight was either on the night of, or the day after, my birthday. I felt so special 🙂

Anyway, back to his birthday…

We had lunch at Tempura (something) over at the corner of Roces Avenue and Tomas Morato. We were complete: mom, dad, brother bear and his girlfriend Diane, me and Alfred. It was a filling lunch and good company. Dad wanted pictures taken, but for some reason, we didn’t get a group picture. I snapped a few photos of the food though. He’s out buying ice cream for the kids as I type.

We didn’t get him anything but now I’m thinking that I should just buy him the sleeve for his laptop computer. We saw one at Fully Booked that would be perfect for his notebook. He already bought a knapsack for it but found it too big and bulky. He found this nice sling that he prefers to use but it isn’t a proper laptop bag and has no cushion. A sleeve would be just the thing it needs. Yeah, maybe I’d get him that.

Oh well, I really just wanted to say… Happy birthday, Daddy! I wouldn’t have picked a different father if I was given the chance to. Thank you (to both you and mama) for raising us the way you did, and for providing for all of our needs, and most of our wants. I don’t say this out loud anymore, but I do love you 🙂

Esban took this picture in the first week of the year, he and dad brought out almost all of dad’s toy car collection and E snapped away. I am writing this birthday post for my dad though he probably would never read it. My blog is public and I make no effort to hide my identity, but I don’t exactly advertise to my family and friends. I’m not so sure why…

Skipping Christmas Day

If Christmas Eve was always spent with the Somebangs, then Christmas Day was for the Ocampo side of our family.  In at least two years though, this being the third, I’ve been passing off the one hour road trip to San Fernando, Pampanga, where my Aunt’s family hosts the annual gathering.

Yesterday, it was only Mom and Dad who took the trip. I really had no excuse to skip this year, having the night off work too. But I had asked Alfred if he wanted to come, and he wasn’t up to it. Of course, had I known that he was only coming over by dinner time, then I would probably have gone along with my parents. Or maybe not.

With my paternal cousins also having kids now, gatherings should be noisy and fun and filled with kiddie activities. My kind of thing, you know? But they’re different. I guess it’s just because I don’t ever spend any time with them, and I am not as close with them as I am with my cousins on my mother’s side…

Mom brought with her the puppy pockets and some small stuff to give away as prizes. I don’t think they ever got down to playing any games though. Esban would probably go ballistic when he finds out that Ma gave away those cuties. He was really looking forward to getting them for himself! 🙂

BUT, I do not mean to compare the Christmases I spend with our two families. To do so would be rude. I’m just really trying to psychoanalyze myself: why do I keep skipping Christmas Day when I should really be throwing myself to it?

In a way, I don’t think I know how to treat my nieces and nephews. I don’t know them, so I’m not sure how to make them happy. I guess I’m not sure if they’d dig the same kind of stuff I had my nieces and nephews here do at our parties. But that’s not the kids’ problem, right? It’s mine. It’s not their fault they don’t know me. I’ve been hiding out!

When we were kids, Christmas Day meant a short trip to Caloocan City, to the family home along Maypajo. It’s the home of my grandmother’s family and her younger sister and brother (who both never got married) still live there until now. Of course Lola Binyang (Virginia) would be there, and my dad’s sisters’ families would be too. Sometimes, my lola’s other brother’s and sister’s families would drop by too.

I always remember just waking up already on the couch at Pajo. I easily had motion sickness as a kid, so I always either slept through any trip, or else I’d throw up all the way. The house at Maypajo is an interesting home. My dad used to tell us stories of him hiding under the silong reading comics that his dad didn’t want him reading. Too bad they had to fill the silong, because that area always became flooded. I kind of regret not getting to know the history of the house, you know? Now, it probably looks completely different from how I remember it. Tio Rizal had the place renovated a few years back.

I would also look forward to my grandmother’s gifts. And then there were the crisp bills that would come from the others. The Somebangs don’t give out money and even when Papa and Lola started to, that only happened when we were all grown up and I guess my grandparents didn’t know what to get each of us. Also, the kids never received money as gifts, they always got toys or clothes, or even shoes! So anyway, having that contrast, I’d look forward to the crisp twenties, fifties, or even hundreds, that would come from my other lolo’s, lola’s, aunts and uncles. When Mom and Dad got home last night, I was surprised that Kuya and I still had one red envelope each! Thanks Tita Baby and Tito Ver! 🙂

There was also a time when there were really no plans for Christmas Day, and so we would just go to my Lola’s house at Sangandaan. This would have happened when all us kids were grown up, and none had kids of their own yet. Then when the eldest grandchild Winnie got married, we’d have Christmas lunch at their home too.

Eventually, after grandma died, we became more organized at Christmas. I guess it was one reason to be sure that the family got together though the matriarch had already gone home. I’m not sure if we’ve ever hosted a Christmas, but I’m sure Tito Boy did when they were still here at their Santa Ana home.  Then Christmas Days were spent in Pampanga, hosted by Tita Baby and her family. They’ve got a nice garden and a backyard, ample space for everyone. 🙂 We’d be there for lunch, and stay until late afternoon. There’d be more than enough food for everybody.

Now, I kind of feel bad about not going yesterday. How else would I know what to get the kids for Christmas next year if I spend ZERO time with them?

Maybe next year I’d see more of my Ocampo family. Fingers crossed.

Happy Somebang Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 🙂

Christmas in the Somebang Compound was very simple this year, but also very happy. Who can help being happy when there are kids around?

When I was little, we would sleep on the afternoon of the 24th so we could stay late for Christmas Eve. Papa used to dress up as Santa when it was time to hand us our gifts. There was a time that Lola dressed up as Santa too. Last night, it was my turn again to call out the names and hand over the gifts. No, I wasn’t wearing a Santa suit, but I was wearing a red shirt. Haha 🙂

The food table last night wasn’t as filled as Christmas 2007’s table was. But it was good food, and everyone had their fill. There were still some leftovers by the time the party was over.

The kids had a blast with the games we had all night long. As usual, I was game master, with help from cousin Ton. Apart from the games, they also enjoyed singing – even AJ was trying to hog one of the Magic Sing mics! 🙂

We brought down the TV from my parent’s room, and my brother also setup our stereo with the speakers, so we can have Magic Sing fun.  Like in previous years, we spent hours singing along! As a Christmas gift to my parents, I gave dad funds to buy a chip for additional  songs for the Magic Sing yesterday. They had been wanting to buy one soon after they got it, Christmas was a good time as any. It was perfectly timed because the songs that everyone wanted to sing were mostly found in that new chip. Although Adam (8) was quite disappointed that Evenascence’s Bring Me to Life was not on the list. 

In reality, the cash donations for the prices wasn’t huge,  I just had most of it changed to 5 peso coins so we could enjoy them longer. That was a great idea! 

Near the end of the evening, I was complaining because I did not get anything – having been the one facilitating the games and not joining any. At that point we passed along a cup for everyone to chip in for a raffle. We put everyone’s names and one lucky person would take home the pot. The donations came in coins, so there wasn’t much, but it was the spirit that more important. 

On the first draw, we found out that not everyone’s names were entered. Butchik would have one but we had to redo the whole thing. Guess who one eventually? I did! Hahaha. All 140 pesos of it was mine! Hehe. 

The last draw was strictly for the 8 kids. The funds were from Esban’s dad, who had won 300 USD from a raffle at a Christmas party. We had been teasing him all night to give away 10% of his cash. He gave away only 300 pesos though, hehe. I added a few more to the pot so all the kids would have a price, rather than just three. 3 received 10 pesos each, 2 got 20 pesos each, and three more received 100 pesos each. Again, that doesn’t sound much, but it shouldn’t take much to keep everyone happy 🙂

It was a great family night that ended at 5am for me. I am going to miss this on New Year’s Eve.

Celebrating Life and Family on All Souls’ Day

Sunday was All Souls’ Day.  On this day, as well as November 1st, Filipinos remember the faithfully departed and flock to cemeteries and columbariums to spend the day with their family and friends. 

It has often been wondered why the living seem to always feast during this festival for the dead. Some people don’t understand the need for a celebration

In truth, I didn’t fully appreciate it either, until recently. 

Since as far back as I could remember, my family and I would go to Caloocan to my paternal grandmother’s house in on November 1st so my Dad could visit his dad’s grave. The next day, we would all go with the rest of the family on my mom’s side, along with other families in our community, to South Cemetery to pray at my older brother’s grave.

My dad never really brought me to the cemetery where my grandfather was buried – it was always packed full of people and it would have been easy to lose kids amidst the chaos that the cemetery was on November 1st. When his remains were moved to my grandmother’s gravesite, I was already in highschool then, that was the only time that I was really able to say I visited his grave. 

The visits to the South Cemetery were always solemn. Since the plot where my older brother (who died when he was just eleven days old) is buried in is leased by the Church, his neighbors there are also other Church members (some of whom are probably distant relatives of ours). We would always have a priest along with us for those visits. The priest would lead the prayers, and we would sing a hymn or two. Some of the families (and probably my Lola too) would bring cold water/juice and light snacks that we all could partake of before we leave and head back home. 

It was an outing definitely, a commemoration of life. (more…)

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