Saturday, January 10, 2009
During our Maryland vacation, there were several Sagada / Igorot gatherings that we attended.
The first was a visit to my aunt near our company headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. After picking up my brother-in-law at the Dulles International airport on the afternoon of Dec 24, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She was just recently widowed and we weren’t able to visit during the wake and funeral of her husband, a jolly good Igorot who I will always remember as being very upbeat and optimistic. 2 of her sisters, very nice ladies who we’ve known since we were young were with her when we dropped by. Her eldest sister, Auntie J, was a very close friend of my dad who passed away when I was 8. Auntie J is in her 70s and as she looked at my 3 young boys prancing around, she said aloud, “Ag-set mo dakan ud aped matey ay masapa. Ilam et sak-en nan mang-ila isnan ap-om”. She was actually talking to my dad in an endearing Igorot way. Loosely translated, she meant “It’s your fault – why did you die early? See, I’m the one who is looking at your grandchildren.” Sweet!
We spent Christmas Eve at the house of my sister. There were at least 9 Sagada / Igorot households represented in their house that evening. To combat the blatant gift giving, my sister requested if I could prepare a devotion for the kids so they could hear a Christmas message. I gave a small presentation on “The Perfect Gift” focusing on a gift that was so precious that it can never be taken away, it is never wrong, and it will never be broken nor wear out. It was done on the family room, with the Christmas tree lighted and the room literally overflowing with gifts. We ended with two prayers and a hymn – thanking God for His most precious and Perfect Gift – His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
After the prayers and the singing, the children were surprised and amused to see a figure in red, wearing a red Igorot shawl, red pants, and a pasted on beard and sunglasses come bouncing down the stairs to the sound of HO-HO-HO. It would have been best if his coming was announced by a gong. The sight of the “Igorot Santa” made the teenagers and the adults in the room double over in laughter. He was so funny! I would have posted a picture but I don’t want my brother-in-law to strangle me.
On Christmas Day, we made the nice 1 hour drive to Annapolis, Maryland for the blessing of the house of a neighbor from Sagada. Mng. G is a few years older than I and is a batch mate and close friend of one of my sisters. We also met in 2000 back in Singapore. She and her husband and their 2 children moved to Maryland in the past year after stints in Canada and in Arkansas. They bought a newly built 2 storey house in the state capital that was near the bay. It was a very nice place with lots of room and which overlooked a park. We had a good time enjoying the wonderfully cooked meals the hosts prepared themselves and chatting with old friends and new acquaintances. There were visitors from New Jersey and a couple of Mng. G’s sisters made the 18hour ride from Arkansas. It was while thinking of writing this post that I realized one thing – majority of the visitors that day came from just 3 families who lived near each other in Nangonogan, Sagada. Too near that if stories I heard were true, sibling spats in one household could be heard in another. Would their elders ever have given it a thought? Here were their descendants, celebrating a new home on Christmas Day, thousands of miles away from Sagada.
On New Year’s Eve, one of my cousins got married to a Caucasian American in Washington D.C. We received their wedding invite in August but we had to decline because we weren’t sure if we would make the drive to Maryland by then. It was a good thing since we babysat the children of a sister while the parents attended the church service and reception. The wedding was attended by relatives from different states, with some relatives travelling all the way from Australia and Canada. It’s obvious but I’ll state it – Igorots and their offspring are all over the world.
We spent our New Year’s eve at the same house we spent our Christmas Eve. We interrupted the kids’ Wii playing sessions to countdown the New Year. As the wedding was over by that time, visitors were coming in and out of the house to greet and munch at the food my sister and her husband prepared. Karaoke singing went non-stop until the early hours of the year. Unlike Christmas Eve when there was at least the Igorot Santa, there was nothing uniquely Igorot in the celebrations except for the Igorot participants. The celebration was classic Filipino – spent with family, plenty of shared stories, karaoke-singing, and food.
The last gathering I attended was at my Auntie J’s despidida. It was held at the house of her son, who happened to be a neighbor of my sister. My mother and I dropped by to say goodbye. It was supposed to be a short stay since it was late in the evening, but as with any group of elder ladies, stories take time to be exchanged. It was at this gathering where I learned that one of our family friends is a regular reader of this blog. Surprise, surprise! This post is long enough so I’ll reserve that story for another post.
Our 2-week holiday was filled with a lot of gatherings amongst Igorots from Sagada. The gatherings were always heartwarming and sentimental. Though far from where our roots are, relationships that were cultivated in Sagada have gone across the globe and continue to flourish. It’s always a joy to be a part of these gatherings – my family and I look forward to joining some more this year.