|From right to left: Marissa, Ely, Ming, Eve, background jokester Felix, |
little Zyrel, Dani, Marilyn, Sarah, and me, the sore thumb sticking out
|Yes, I'm still vegan, and no I didn't eat any, lechon is traditional party food|
I then took care of some personal logistics while I was in the city, cooked dinner, and caught the bus north to Baguio together with Jo-jo and Rolly. Rolly's brother, Dani (obviously also my uncle), is a well-respected doctor in the Philippines for revolutionary approaches to medicine and education, creativity, and sheer passion and excellence for everything in his life. He has an amazing house up in the Cordillera Mountains in Baguio that hints at Wabi-sabi, a Japanese style that he described as meaning incomplete, asymmetric, and never-ending. He has a wonderful taste for organic art full of art. He has many artist and musician friends, and he could boast of a seriously rare and broad reputation, except that he's absolutely not one to boast. His family is just as interesting and in the process of spreading their own roots of influence. He is currently retired but runs a pulmonary practice in Baguio without compensation.
|BENCAB Museum fun|
I spent the next day, Saturday relaxing and experimenting in the kitchen as usual. The expanded capability of multiple burners and a much broader variety of ingredients made the resulting dishes much more interesting than most of the cooking I'd done thus far here. Preparations for the following day, conversation and music led to sleep. The occasion for the weekend was the birthday of Dani's granddaughter's first birthday. About 170 adults and kids were expected. This party was all out. The decorations were tasteful and hand-made by family and helpers, as was the cake, and all of the food. My cousin, Dani's son Jong, is a culinary school graduate and in charge of planning the menu. I took on a couple of dishes to lighten the load, as did tons of other people including Rolly and Jo-jo, other family members, and helpers who seemed almost too used to the scale of this gathering. Three kitchens were running all day long, and I was thinking I don't know where I'd start trying to plan a feast so big. There was enough food for 250 people, though only about 70 showed up. Still, they packed away the food in their stomachs and tupperware containers, and the vast amount of left-overs were eaten by hungry poor in town. I was in the kitchen from sun-up to sun-down, and got to know everyone there very well. Midway through the day, my "Very best" Auntie Marilyn and Uncle Ely, the only two relatives of mine in the Philippines I'd already gotten to know in North America, arrived and found me in the kitchen. It was fantastic to catch up with them.
After I was done in the kitchen, I set up the family keyboard, attempted to remember how to play the piano for thirty minutes, then piled into the car with Ely and Marilyn and headed to Aringay, the hometown of my grandfather and most of my family. The two of them retired this year and their house on the beach is in its final stages of completion (albeit dangerously towing the line between late and too late). It's a massive 4-story structure perched almost apartment-close to Dani's home here on the property they all own together. Between the two beautiful homes, there will be space here for the vast extended family to come and go.
The next day, I tried to learn how to surf using a wind surf board that I repaired by roping its two pieces together. The board held up but either it or I didn't do the trick and I never did get up. Who'd have thought there was a Californian like me who's never tried to surf before. Well, I did grow up in the high desert 2-3 hours away from the beach. Not that that stopped most of the kids I grew up with. Anyways, that was fun, but I'll try again in better conditions so that at least it's only my incompetence in the way. I also got to go to the market, where there was a store called "JMCacanindin Store", which sells cell phone stuff. Naturally I inquired as to the family connection, which happened to be my great grandfather and theirs. They even knew my grandfather by name, perhaps because he married a French-Canadien. Ironically, I became the middle-man between some relatives from Canada who happened to be visiting at the same time as me. Eve, Marissa, and Sarah arrived in Aringay the next day after a 7-hour long ordeal for them on the bus.
|Can't believe these are really roots|
|My Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather|
The girls left the following day, which I spent doing research on my plans for after the weekend, when we were planning to celebrate Dani's birthday somewhat more subtly than we did for his grandson. My research led me to follow Dani and Tita Ming back to their home in Baguio, where I biked in the rain to the Immigration Office. Jong showed me some of the art venues in the charming and beautiful city of Baguio, where indigenous and postmodern converge. Now I'm back in Aringay about to prepare some food for the evening birthday feast. It's hard to believe I'm here, the goal of my travels overseas to the Philippines, the place of origin of the Filipino blood running through my veins. I have learned so much about myself, my family, and my roots up to now, and expect to learn much more. There is a seriously big family reunion planned around the Christmas and New Year's holidays, including the blessing of Ely and Marilyn's new home as well as a wedding. Tons of family are coming from around the Philippines and North America, and I'm lucky I came to visit for this year. Regardless of the fun, the difficulties, the risks and adventures awaiting in the future, I feel I have surpassed some sort of benchmark in life. I am thrilled I decided to come here, and I am excited for whatever the future holds.