All the publicity and furor over the Reproductive Health Bill in the past months have focused my reflections on what is ‘family’ to me. And I have realized that ‘family’ is where we can experience the manifestations of God every day in so many little ways. Let me tell you about the last several weeks in the life of our family.

On the weekend of October 22-24, I entertained and was entertained by my apos … hence the term coined by Ruth, our daughter, ‘apos’tolate. Paul, age 7, and Grace, age 5, arrived Thursday evening and stayed until Sunday afternoon. Their Dad Mars, our son, and Mom Jane took the weekend off for some couple-time (they do this once a year) and traveled to Puerto Princesa. Since the weather was rainy, Paul, Grace and I spent the days at home playing board games, dodge ball, watching TV Disney movies complete with popcorn, and just having fun together. Paul has learned the basic moves in chess and makes me think, really think, in order to win. But in Snakes and Ladders, those two beat me every time!

Friday afternoon and evening was time for bonding among the apo and their moms. Ruth, our daughter, brought along Bea and Bianca, two of her seven children. Bianca and her husband Aaron brought their 4-month-old Christopher, one of the happiest cherubs I have seen in a long time. He just loves to laugh and make faces! Justine, our niece, and her 2-yr-old daughter Lexie, here from Cebu for a visit, enjoyed meeting their cousins. Bryan, Ruth’s son, brought his 1-yr-10-mth-old daughter, Baby Cam (short for Celine Aurelia Michaela), a lively bundle of joy who is learning how to be the ‘boss’ in the family already. Marla, Jun’s youngest sister, came over for the afternoon, too.

When our children were young, Jun’s mother, Mama Nanie, used to round up the cousins, get them all on the interisland boat, to spend the summer months in Dumaguete. This was the batch of Ruth, Marla, Justine and up to eight or nine boy cousins. So the three girls, mothers all by now, reminisced the times that they had together. Ruth sort of inherited this task of family bonding summer time from Lola Nanie and consequently, she and the other girls are already planning some bonding times for next summer for the next batch of youngsters.

This is what family is all about! I remember when I was growing up we always looked forward to the 4th of July, a big USA holiday, for the grand reunion of my father’s big clan…a time of renewing friendships, making new friends among the dozens of cousins, and just enjoying being family. Then on Thanksgiving Day, we got together over a turkey dinner with Mom’s sister and family. All these were times of creating treasured memories to be savored until now.

I do so enjoy my apostolate. However, I am glad for the privilege of being the lola, of being able to spoil the apos a bit and enjoy them in their good moods … and then when the not-so-good moods come along, of being able to return them to their moms. It’s a great life, isn’t it!!!

The next week (last week of October) saw many different family events. Celebrations began with the decision to celebrate our birthdays, Jun’s and mine, by holding feeding programs for the poor and street children in our area. So on the Sundays of October 17 and 24, we hosted 100 children each Sunday with games, prizes, balloons, loot bags, and healthy champorado. We had lots of fun as we enjoyed together with the children. Our three children and their children (all 12 of our ‘apo’) plus one ‘apo sa tuhod’ were also present and participated in the outreach celebration. Seeing the street children’s happy faces made us happy, too. I see these children as part of the family of God and, therefore, worthy of some happy ‘family’ time.

Then on the 28th of October was the celebration of MAPECON’s 49th anniversary. MAPECON to Jun and I is our ‘corporate family’. As with all our company events, we began with a Thanksgiving Mass to thank our Lord, the president of our company, for his abundant blessings throughout our 49 years of service. The mass was followed by dinner, cooked with our own fuel Green Charcoal Hydrogen, and prepared by a committee of our employees, good cooks all of them! During and after dinner, we all enjoyed an evening of department presentations, the awarding of loyalty tokens and plaques, and presentation of birthday gifts to Jun. MAPECON’s gift to both of us was an all expense paid 11-day pilgrimage tour to the Holy Land during the Lenten season. (Anyone like to join us April 1-11, 2010 in this holy journey?) The evening closed with a 30-minute praise and worship assembly.

November 1 saw our family and extended family members gather for lunch at the Manila Memorial Park where we prayed for Papa Gonzalo Sr. and Mama Nanie Catan, and shared family updates and memories over lunch. Despite the recurring rain showers, we all had a great family bonding time with present and past family members.

November 5 saw Jun and I attending the Friday breakfast of our chapter, BCBP Manila, and the chapter’s 1st Friday teaching assembly. Our BCBP family has sustained us throughout our 25 years of active membership. This is where Jun and I have been able to exercise and strengthen the gifts and talents that the Lord has blessed us with. Frankly speaking, it is only after we had joined the BCBP that I felt really at home in this country, where the Lord in His goodness had transplanted me, for this is where I found a new family of brothers and sisters with whom I could share joys and tears, dreams and fears. Many of my everyday epiphanies have occurred during BCBP activities with my BCBP family.

These events from the family’s bonding time with children and apos, to our birthday celebrations, to the MAPECON family’s celebration, to our All Saints Day family gathering, to the BCBP’s community of brothers and sisters remind me of all those people who, in one way or another, at one time or another, have manifested God’s presence in my life. It is in our families that we receive everyday epiphanies of the blessings and goodness of God in our lives. If our families disintegrate from social, economic, moral, legal, or other pressures, then what will happen to such happy times as these family celebrations of life!

For all of you who have been part of our families, we remember, we celebrate, and with hearts full of love, we thank you for the gift of yourselves to Jun and myself. May God bless you abundantly!

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