I come from a large family. Although Dad is an only child, he has a string of half sisters and half brothers, some of whom he has never met. Ma, on the other hand, has 12 full, six half and two step siblings. If we go by the Dado and the Lanuza standards, our family of eight is relatively manageable.
Up until Lolo Hugo died in 1978, the Dados would hold annual reunions in Sorsogon. How those reunions transformed our moms and dads into stage parents! My sisters, cousins and I would be coaxed to play the piano, don our grass skirts or launch into an almost endless rendition of “Where Do I Begin…” or “A Time for Us.”
The reunions became farther and farther apart after Lolo died. Apparently, he was the tie that bound the family together. Without him, my uncles and aunts felt that the uncomfortable “south road” to Sorsogon was just not worth the effort. There would still be summer visits, but they were no longer the huge ones. They did not merit production numbers anymore. Fact is, the post-Lolo reunions were not the planned kind of my childhood: they became the offshoot of marriages, baptisms, deaths.
In 1996, the Dados decided to hold a grand reunion to celebrate Lolo’s centennial. And so the idea for Pagturupar (Bicolano for meeting, gathering, reunion, etc.) was born—ironically during the wake for an uncle. Phone calls, letters and details, details and more details later, Pagturupar 1996 came off without a hitch. Families came in their color-coded best: in tones ranging from gray to sky blue to maroon. It was the nieces’ turn to do the Hawaiian, the nephews to do “magic” tricks and for us cousins to be the stage parents. At the end of the full day, sisters and brothers (whether full, half or step, in-laws or outlaws) joined hands, sang “If We Hold on Together,” made plans to reunite more often and went on their own merry way.
Fast forward to today. The much-anticipated Pagturupar 2006 never took place. In December 2003, two families had a falling out because of—ta dah—a single Christmas star. (Tita A wanted a whole bunch shipped to her, Tita B couldn’t fill in the order but “thoughtfully” couriered one as a Christmas cum birthday present. Tita A thought it was a great insult.)
One parol was all it took, and suddenly the anger, the hurts and pains, the resentment of a generation ago came flooding back, invading cell phones, e-mails and snail mails. Tita A wrote Tita B a scathing, you-owe-me-this letter. Tita B answered point by agonizing point, with matching calculations and equations. Tita A “Xeroxed” Tita B’s letter and furnished a copy to every family, falling just a little short of asking even the clueless to gang up on Tita B.
Talk about skeletons out the family closet! The parol episode erupted into a super nova of sorts, and today the family story has enough meat—and juice—for a telenovela. Or for a talk show. Whenever our nuclear family would settle into our mini reunions, someone would invariably ask to be updated on “the” latest. Good thing we don’t have that many skeletons (unless Excruciatingly Thin Sister counts) in our little corner.
In any case, don’t expect to find “If We Hold on Together” in the soundtrack of our lives…
(Picture 1: Lolo Hugo (left) and his brother, Lolo Quoing; Picture 2: Lolo with a handful of grandkids; 1974)