Monday, July 11, 2005

never a small gathering

Graduations fall under big celebrations which means that the immediate family AND the 2nd cousins AND my parent's friends AND my brother's friends converged on the house today.

At 1pm, my mother and aunts were frantically putting on the final touches so the food could be served. There was so much food only half of the big was set out on the table. On the menu today: lechon, igado, sisig, pancit, chop suey, papaitan, sinagang, bangus, steamed Alaskan salmon, meat and vegetable lumpia. On the dessert table: kamonteng kahoy, pinipig dessert, puto, my grandmother's bibingka, watermelon, mango, suman, flan and later two cakes from Neldam's bakery (strawberry shortcake and chocolate dream).

This morning I picked up the cakes and ice (forgot the onions, which I had to go out and get again), peeled and sliced half a box of Mexican mangos, set up the plates and napkins table, skimmed what must have been an inch of oil off the top of the pinapaitan pot. When I described my tasks to one of the guests, she said, ah, you're the sous chef. And indeed I was. It may be a few more parties before I become the actual chef. But for now, I know how to carve carrots so they give that pretty three leaf clover design when you slice them and a technique for peeling and slicing hard crunchy mango.

Even though I got a plate of food, I didn't eat much today, probably because I had nibbled so much yesterday and that every other bite I was standing up and greeting yet more relatives who had come by.

Our high school English teacher dropped by with her three grandkids in tow from Butte, Montana for some cultural exposure. She asked me if there were Filipinos in Montana. Well of course there are, we're everywhere. And my guess is that if Filipinos are out there, they either married Americans or are perhaps the town doctors or nurses who get recruited to places like that. The grandkids were a bit traumatized by the sight of the lechon/roast pig head, but they managed to find things they liked to eat. Later I wrote down on a piece of paper various phrases they wanted to learn in Tagalog. The youngest, a sci-fi fan, wanted to know what Stargate was. I gave him my best guess with "pinto ng bituin." The middle kid wanted to know what mischief was and my best guess without a dictionary on hand was "magulo" though I'm sure there's something better. After that I gave my old teacher a phrase I'm sure she'd make useful, "Bahala na sa iyo" or "Bahala na" which I'm sure is a better phrase than some of the others I remember she used when she was getting frustrated with our class.

I've always liked the "Bahala na" phrase. A sense of giving up to the Universe's whims and an almost karmic curse as it were. Since she teaches at a Catholic school, how much trouble could she get into by telling the rowdy kids, "I'll leave you up to God?"

Our English teacher was saying how they had gone to a reunion barbeque which she thought would be really casual because it was a barbeque with games for kids and such. It was really more of a formal thing with plates and silverware and their party "game" was lacrosse. Her grandkids started out shy, but opened up a bit later as they got comfortable with things. She had them pick a gift for my brother based on what they knew about him, so he got a calculator (because he's an engineer) and a Western Sheriff's costume accessories (badge, gun, canteen, and mask) because he loves performing arts. The costume came with the requirement of performing some sort of skit in the next five minutes. That was hilarious! Though my family that was looking on looked at it like, "what is he doing?"

Got reacquainted with our 2nd cousins, who were all technically our "uncles" and cousins with my father, but who always called my dad "uncle" because of the generation gap. While we are the oldest amongst our immediate cousins, were were the youngest amongst the 2nd cousins, with whom we grew up. Family parties when we were little were often with these relatives. They used to scare us by trying threatening to dunk us in their fish tank filled with what they called pirahnas, that were really only tame Oscars. But what do you know when you're five? We all sat in a corner of the backyard. But now they exchanged stories about their own kids, joked about the amount of hair left on their heads and how their bodies went from a 6-pack to a keg.

I remember their parents used to sit there and talk about them and now they were talking about their own kids. Two of them sat nearby and hemmed and muttered at the stuff they were listening to. Chatted with them about the our upcoming nuptial plans. They gave some advice from what they remembered of their own weddings that seem so long ago. I remember being the flower girl at one of their weddings.

I distributed quite a few of our wedding invitations. One of my uncles handed me back the RSVP and told me I could peel off the 37 cent first class postage stamp and use it on another piece of mail to save some money. That's ok uncle, it's in the budget. But if I get tired of going to the postoffice, I just might. I promised the 2nd cousins to put all of them at one table but told them only two bottles of wine, they'll have to bum for more at the rest of the tables. Hey what's a wedding without a good rowdy table, though I suspect if we do the musical chairs correctly, there might be several rowdy tables.

They asked how big the Fiance's family was. "Oh his family isn't too big. They don't keep in touch with most of them. Besides we still like you, we have to invite you." They replied, "We could change that if you needed more seats." I said, "I'll get the wine!"

I also joked at how the Fiance was looking forward to the money dance. Come on! He gets to dance with all these women, and plus they're leaving him a tip! And they quipped, "he doesn't have to take an article of clothing off!" Oh those 2nd cousins, a bunch of loud obnoxious punks, but I love them dearly!

My sister got a chance to introduce her beau. It had been a while since my sister brought them anybody to meet. They whispered with each other, "Isn't that the same guy? They've been going out for a long while" "No, I don't think so, he doesn't seem as uptight as the other one."

Alot of the back and forth almost sent me to tears of laughter. Much of which I cannot possibly print here. Though there was one funny story about how one of them left their wife at a gas station because he didn't know she had gotten out, and how he practically panicked because he kept thinking, "I can't raise these kids by myself." How he wanted to call the cops and say his wife was kidnapped.

Though we don't get together as often with the 2nd cousins now that everyone is grown up. When we do get together it's still really easy and fun. As I watch my mother's side of the family grow up, I wonder if it'll be that way with us.

Most of the families went home about 5pm since today was a Sunday and a work day tomorrow. We ended up chatting for a long time with one of the 2nd cousins. He was a Golden Bear also back in the day and we were chatting with his oldest son who is a junior in high school. As families left, they gave their hugs and kisses goodbye with a "see you in October" as our wedding will be the next major gathering. I was glad to have had a chance to chat and hang out with them today, since I know in October, there won't be time to linger and laugh at every single table like this, it's nice to steal the moment when I can.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Geez. You are eating so well nowadays!!!!

And I ADORE that story of your uncle peeling off the 37-cent stamp. Classic Pinoy uncle and auntie story! Bless all uncles and aunties!