No matter how successful we may be, we will always long for that magical feeling that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. Something we could depend on, lean on and rightfully call our own. Something that could give us comforts, reprieve and assurance when everything else seems not working the way it’s planned; the way we want it to be. I’m referring to a FAMILY. You can call it clan, or kinsfolk, or even tribe. Whatever you call it, however you call it, one thing is sure, we all have one ……….. and we all need one.
We can sometimes ignore or overlook its importance, but sooner or later we will experience that yearning to connect back and desire for that relaxing feeling of togetherness. For no matter how far we have travelled or how high we have flown, in the end the most important question is where we came from. For like branches of a tree, our lives may grow and follow different directions, sprout in different places and elevations along the trunk and traverse different paths, yet our roots will remain as one. Collectively, those roots, no matter how low, no matter how deeply laden with dirt, is the life giving force of all the branches…..of the whole FAMILY.
Fundamentally, this is the reason why families including our own, the Villanueva’s of Padre Garcia, Batangas (Philippines) regularly have a family reunion during the holiday season. Formally organized by the highly respected family member, Chito V. Recto, to be alternately hosted by each family, it is one of the most anticipated Christmas activities of our extended family which many members, in pursuit of its individual aspiration, have relocated in various places all over the country and even abroad. But despite of the distance, busy lifestyles and indifferences, we all make sure that we meet and get-together in an annual Christmas Reunion.
Basically, to jointly celebrate the birth of Christ, remember our ancestors, share blessings, have fun and games, rekindle the relation, re-affirm the bond and hopefully make the ties stronger. With the rather adhesive theme “Dikit-dikit... parang malagkit” , which roughly translates to “Sticking with one another... like glutinous rice.” (whew….that was tough Father Donald :-)) the Villanueva-Dimaandal family of Lipa City, Batangas hosted our annual Villanueva Christmas Reunion last 30th December 2010.
For a family as big as the descendants of Mariano Villanueva or “Mamay Ano” and Conchita Cantos or "Nanay Conching", we needed a really huge place and the calm and cozy Avida Function Hall in Antipolo Sur, Lipa City was just perfect. Thanks to the host as well as to cousins Johnny and Ireen of the Villanueva-De Jesus family for arranging the place.
The affair kicked-off with the registration of all attendees which came along with their immediate families, young and old. The warm host headed by Tiya Lota and assisted by all her children especially, our very own Father Donald made sure everyone will have a vibrant time and everything will be in order early on. With every family member wearing a striking red outfit, every need or requirement of the attendees is well within our sight.
To add excitement to the activity, each family group came with their own pre-assigned attire color generating an atmosphere of beautiful kaleidoscope within the hall. Surprisingly, ours (Balahadia-Villanueva) is the sultry fuchsia, my favorite. :-) Okay, okay it’s the more subtle pink, signifying happiness, youthful, fun and excitement…..no sultry stuff at all……kids are reading this…….and Father Donald……and Father Edwin.
Just like the previous year, the affair was commenced by a Mass Celebration but this time officiated by Father Donald who gave a very inspirational Homily in line with the theme – “Dikit-dikit... parang malagkit.”
After the Holy Mass, the breakfast and sweets being served since we arrived was continued for those who have not eaten yet. We were treated with sumptuous native rice delicacies called “kakanin”, like “sinukmani”, “palitaw” and “suman”, various types of rolls or cakes, chicken sandwich, some chips and choice of hot drinks of coffee and tea and yes, cold ones like everyone’s top favorite, “coke” and “sprite” which I never disclosed to the kids on the onset. :-)
One by one, each delegation headed by the parents or the oldest member of the family was called on the stage to shout a cheer, properly identify the members, introduce the latest additions, if there’s any, recite their Christmas wish and message and extend holiday greetings for all the family.
Pretty in red are the members of the host family, the Villanueva-Dimaandal clan with the able leadership of Tiya Lota or Lota C. Villanueva and of course, the guiding spirit of Tiyo Daddy or Eduardo Dimaandal.
Father Donald served as the Master of Ceremony all throughout the occasion. Intermittently he was assisted by Ate Kim and Ate Ethel. He even rendered a song and more importantly spread lots of blessings; spiritual, material and financial. This was contrary to the usual blessing we received from the late Tiyo Daddy which almost always falls to the category of spiritual. :-) Oh, we dearly miss you Tiyo Daddy.
The next was the yellow colored Villanueva-Recto family headed by the most-loved and adored member of the entire family, Nestor V. Recto or NVR. My Ninong, your Ninong and almost everyone’s Ninong I understand. God willing, we look upon the day that he will be given the chance to lead our town to progress.
That he may practice the kind of leadership already flowing into his veins and acquired from noted leaders starting from the late Mayor Graciano Recto to Barangay Captain and later Counselor Mariano Villanueva and genetically pass on by the departed Tiyo Rusting or Rustico Recto and Tiya Lola or Leonora C. Villanueva. Oh, we miss them too.
Then we have the Carreon-Villanueva family who joyfully came in blue led by Mr. and Mrs. Dante and Josie Pesigan. Their family was the host of last year’s very successful reunion. Whilst they are probably among the biggest groups many of the members were not able to attend due to conflict of schedule and most of them are either circumferencing the world with their ships or roaming Singapore and Europe or preaching in Vatican. The family of the late Antonio C. Villanueva or Tiyo Tony and Tiya Meding or Remedios Carreon though less in number came forceful as well.
Clad in whites, the Tangapa-Villanueva family headed by the Luis Gonzales of Mataas na Kahoy, Serafin C. Villanueva or Tiyo Afen and his wife Wennie Tangapa or Tiya Wennie was also there to grace the occasion. They came with the whole family who provided lots of laughs and happy moments.
Of course our family, the Balahadia-Villanueva also came in full force. Our parents Ernesto C. Villanueva or Tiyo Dodo and Felisa R. Balahadia or Tiya Fely led a delegation from the quite far City of Tarlac who came with all the members sporting a pink colored sportswear except the kids who still prefer the Barbie and Hello Kitty pink get-ups. Without much competition, we bagged the best in uniform award.
The family of our beloved Tiyo Asong or Damaso Magtibay and Tiya Luding or Lourdes C. Villanueva forming the Villanueva-Magtibay group led by Kuya Medel and Kuya Celso arrived truly eco-friendly in green. The delegation came from several locations from as far as Tarlac to as near as San Miguel, Padre Garcia. Worth commending here is Ate Archie who never misses the occasion even if she has to manually propel the wheels she’s riding.
Although there was another family occasion being held somewhere, causing some of its members to failed attending, the Villanueva-De Jesus family of the late Conrado De Jesus or Tiyo Dado and the now battling an illness Tiya Perling or Perlita C. Villanueva also came headed by Ate Lyd and Ate Kim. They came in orange attire except for the leaders. Ate Lyd somehow thought she belongs to the Magtibay’s and prominently wore green while Kim forgot all about the custom but nonetheless made a last minute attempt to oblige by grabbing an orange ribbon from a kid.
Also included in the extended family and always present in the reunion are the descendants of Mamay Ano’s siblings. While Ate Kim has eloquently explained the direct connections as well as the names of our other Lolo, Lola and Kaka, I will pass on this until the next time and probably do the explaining on writing in next year’s reunion post (if I still have the energy).
The first of course was the family of the late Teodoro Villanueva or Tiyo Doroy and Conchita Katigbak or Tiya Conching, the eldest surviving member of the family. They came in full force as well and in fact well prepared for the activities especially in the presentation.
Another cousin Anne and her family came all the way from Japan in violet attire. We are so happy to have them and hopeful that we will again see them next year with some sushi and tempura on the menu. :-)
Our dear Tiya Meden was also there as usual. She came as a lone delegation but in Villanueva’s occasion you will never really be alone. Ate Kim, as snappy as she is, immediately removed her orange ribbon to support Tiya Meden’s delegation along with some members from the host family.
Last but certainly not the least was the family of the late Domingo Gosos or Tiyo Inggo and the late Marta Villanueva or Tiya Marta who was headed by Ate Evelyn and Van. With the two alone the family is huge.
Since this is a food blog, of course you will allow me to present the extravagant banquet prepared by Tiya Lota and family for all of us to enjoy. Mouth-watering and truly delicious but still simply looking at the properly arranged food will easily tell me that something is being missed there. Somebody familiar and synonymous with Villanueva’s cuisine…….It’s Tiya Luding. Yes, we truly miss her.
In every Villanueva’s family occasion the food and its preparation is one of the most important elements. Its preparation alone can be considered as an affair on its own especially during the time of our beloved Tiya Luding. It provides a very big difference between a catered food and a home-cooked food where everyone’s labor is part of the ingredients. I believe her passing away had totally changed the way we enjoy our food; from preparation which is taking most of the happy moments, to serving and to eating. It’s never been the same without her.
But we have to move on. Maybe in some other time in some other way we could pay tribute to a great Aunt with a great skill in cooking and so much compassion for service through reliving her delicious foods that have filled our stomach for a great deal of time.
The wonderful foods prepared by the Villanueva–Dimaandal family are as follows:
“Lechon – the undisputed center piece of any occasion, crispy on the outside but juicy on the inside”
“Fried Chicken – the all-time favorite, loved by kids”
“Lengua – Rich, creamy and luscious”
“Pork ribs – Succulent meat with sweet-savory taste”
“Fish fillet – Tiny crunchy treat that is both tasty and healthy”
“Sinaing na Tulingan – the pride of Batangas, need I say more?”
To complement such a line of viand is a table full of different salads and sweets that comprised chicken macaroni, fruit salad, vegetable salad and a lot more.
When Father Donald announced that the food is ready, everyone was all ears. And suddenly smile appeared on faces…….huge smiles. And an orderly queue followed. With so many foods though, no one needs to be in a hurry.
Soon everyone was having a meal fit for the king. Savoring the taste…… Enjoying the moments. Eating was so fun, especially with love ones.
As always, some boys find their little corner to have their favorite session. This is a child-friendly blog so I could not post any photos of that. :-)
However, I would like to mention here that at least three bites or appetizers or “pulutan” really caught my palates. First, is the popular “Kalderetang Kambing” of my cousin GR/Boyet which for some reason pictures I lost. The other two are the following:
“Burong Manga or Pickled Green Mangoes – A distinct sweet-sourly treat that explodes in your mouth”
“Champeni – A rich and sweet-spicy dish made from goat’s entrails and skin. It’s so good….. with just the right amount of flavors that brings joy in every bite”
Whew…..finally Part 1 is done. Being the longest post in this website, this is really draining. I don’t really know if I could still go on with Part 2. But if it will be requested, I might readily oblige. :-) Enjoy the post! c“,)