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Summer Reunions

It was unanimous. Everyone voted to hold the traditional reunion in Summer, not at Christmas time. And it happened. Most reasoned that the rainy season in Bicol after summer can be very harsh and unsafe. So, with the sun up and the lands dry, summer was the best time to travel from afar and reconnect with loved ones. Of course, Christmases are usually held among intimate families inside their homes before a Christmas tree and wrapped gifts.

The weather from the first day of April has been balmy and warm. At other times, the sun’s searing heat has a burning sensation. However, the extreme heat did not stop the organizers and the 100-strong army of excited relatives from planning for the reunion. Last May 1, Labor Day, over a hundred adults of the Chavez-Jimenez clan gathered at the Mariners gym, their children and “makuapos” in tow. They wanted to see the Mariners’ campus, the school that Jaime Chavez Jimenez, their beloved relative, established five decades ago. Many of the septuagenarian kin remember the late Jaime as a small boy, thin and barefoot, when he went to elementary school at San Vicente, Libmanan Camarines Sur. Who would imagine this poor pandesal-peddling boy joining the Navy to become a college dean later and set up a school for professional seafarers with three campuses in Bicol?

It was a quickly organized reunion of two “tribes,” one surnamed Chavez (in yellow) and the other Jimenez (in blue). It did not matter if calling them tribes was politically correct. Most were workers of all types who decided to spend the holiday with long-lost and newly found relatives who could come at short notice. They all came from various social classes and professions.

At eight o’clock in the morning, they began to come in trickles – the moving vehicles from Metro Manila, Antipolo, and as far as Mindanao, with their promised potluck and drinks. I read a shout-out from one of the organizers, Lheng, who begged the GC members not to forget plenty of ice cubes in boxes and beverages to quench their thirst. The weather would be so roasting hot, that was for sure. Packs of Pandesal Marinero welcomed the guests. The sun-drenched but relaxing swimming pool was enough to entice the younger generation, who were excited to dip their bodies. They did it before the end of the day. The rest of the brood proceeded to the Jaime C. Jimenez gym, where the weather had turned sultry. I was surprised the stifling heat inside the gym did not bother some of our more senior citizens in the crowd. Everyone was still smiling, laughing, and glued to the ongoing fun games and talkies. The fun was infectious. Even the utility assistants and security guards enjoyed the revelry.

A reunion is more than a celebration.

It helped that the excited “unionists” had just formed their exclusive GC or group chat so that everyone could add anybody related to each other. Reunionists? My husband shrugged off the tag. What better word can I call them? A member of a union is called a unionist. Couldn’t I call a reunion participant a reunionist? Never mind, I thought. A reunion is an organized form of celebration and gathering. From what I gather, this was the first reunion in the family that began with the idea to trace back the family’s roots in a more organized way. The science of genealogy, or of tracing the family’s lineage, like in a family tree, was a great idea from Kuya Dinand Osio, one of the older cousins. That was long overdue, I told him.

From 20, the GC grew to hundred in a month’s time. I must admit I only know 90% of the group members personally. The Pandemic further deepened the need to reconnect and reach out to relatives outside the loop. It is an excellent time to reconnect. Reunions are a celebration of culture and heritage, a sharing of experiences, successes, failures, hardships, glory and sometimes hurt feelings. They are meaningful cultural events of like-minded individuals, usually relatives or close friends/ associates, generally happening at Christmas, New Year, or Undas. Potluck or food sharing usually becomes a fiesta and salo-salo.

I have not been a keen participant in reunions except for compelling reasons. But when I decide to participate, it should be an active participation, not a passive one. For example, one was at my high school’s 50th year batch reunion or when a beloved family member passed. So, what can I say about reunions, and why is a family reunion so crucial to us?

Sense of Belonging

In the face of tough times like now, families offer emotional support and encouragement to persevere and overcome failures and sadness. Consider the times that family members have helped you through a difficult situation. The impact of a family reunion can be profound on family members as they help create lasting memories through new experiences and stories we never knew before. In addition, reunions help strengthen bonds, relationships, and networks.

In the local dialect, a reunion is called pulutong, samasama, pagsasalo at pagtiripon. They can also be parties by members of school alumni association, or an organization, who have not seen each other for a long time. Often, reunions turn out emotional, touching, and merry-making. That was how Noel Bermudo, our long-time security staff described their regular reunions, usually held at the covered court in their barangay. But, of course, they prefer summer reunions without typhoons and floods. When they get together, whatever problems they have in the past fade away during reunions, especially during their tagay-tagay camaraderie that usually ends up till the wee hours of the morning. What a reunion, indeed!


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