Sunday, August 31, 2008
My three boys and I arrived at the Bunker Hill picnic grove at the Labaugh Woods in Chicago around half past 12. It was not a difficult task to identify which area we were going to. A huge BIBBAK banner hangs over a group of tables where fellow Filipinos were enjoying lunch. I took some water and cupcakes that my wife baked and my boys and I approached the group. We were met by a smiling man who turned out to be one of the 2 adults we knew in that group. I didn’t even recognize Marlon and I had to ask for his name. Marlon and Marissa is a couple from Benguet who we met at a common friend’s house blessing last January. They were the ones who invited us to the BIBBAK gathering.
While I was making sure that my boys had lunch, I was approached by an elderly woman – I knew she looked very familiar. I don’t know how to explain it but women from Sagada and the Cordilleras have a sort of generic look – warm, friendly, nice, with distinct facial features. She pointed to my boys and asked in our dialect if they were all mine. I smiled and said yes. She then asked me if I was “Kamulo”. For a moment, I was surprised but she quickly explained who she was and we embraced. It was a pleasantly unexpected meeting. She happened to be my aunt and a good friend of my mother. Her husband is my mother’s cousin, and she herself is the 1st cousin of my wife’s grandmother. My mother has spoken previously that she was in the United States, but I knew that she was nowhere near Chicago. I haven’t seen her in more than 10 years.
Kids had a fun afternoon
After lunch, the boys weren’t in such a friendly mood and the youngest complained that he wanted to go home. I urged them to play with the other kids to no avail. I watched helplessly as they sat down with the adults in checking if our raffle tickets would win a prize. They waited patiently and I almost pitied them each time a winning number is announced and it was just off the numbers we had. After most of the prizes have been awarded and our chances of winning looked bleak, one of our numbers were called. My oldest eagerly received an envelope with cash. That apparently changed their mood and soon, they were off with other kids, joining the parlor games, playing volleyball and even getting themselves splashed with mud. One of their new found friends gave them a bag of candies that they would munch on the ride home. It turned out to be a fun afternoon for them.
BIBBAK Illinois Activities – Election of Officers and Future Events
As it was my first time with the BIBBAK Illinois group, I watched from the sidelines and had some quick conversation with folks that went my way. This year’s gathering apparently was more than in previous years. There were few folks from Mountain Province, but plenty from Benguet and Baguio. I filled and submitted a membership application. That afternoon, I saw a young group of officers get elected for positions in the next two years – that group included Marlon and Marissa.
The next major activity for the group is the December gathering / Christmas party. They’re planning on a cultural presentation. I was asked twice if I knew how to “men-gang-sa” (play the gong). I don’t. I participated in gong-playing before during weddings back home and in school presentations and these were amongst the more uncomfortable moments in my life. It takes a lot of coordination which doesn’t come naturally to me. You have to beat the gong in rhythm with the others, while moving your hips and feet at the same time. Making these all come together in smooth “suave” way is beyond my grasp. Last time I played the gong was in a BIBAK gathering in Texas, and a fellow i-Sagada was looking at me like “What the hell are you doing?” Ha-ha-ha-ha! So there – I’m hopeless in this area. I’d very much like my kids to learn though that I might consider playing to generate their interest.
A website in the Making?
BIBBAK Illinois is not as well known as their counterparts in the east and west coasts. I was asked if I can help create a web presence, and I most happily obliged. Part of the group’s mission and vision is to reach out with scholarships to students from the Cordillera region. There’s also a general thought that attendance and membership to BIBBAK Illinois could be improved by reaching out to the younger group of Cordillera folks within the state of Illinois. I think that a web presence could definitely help the group in a lot of ways – from letting the world know of its existence, to sharing multi-media, to announcing events, etc... It is definitely something to look forward to.