Of Fiestas and Family Reunions
by Mila Glodava
In an article on fiestas in "Labong ng Kawayan,' Amb. Rudy Arizala said,
"Personally, I think town fiestas, if not celebrated excessively or beyond one's financial means, are good. Fiestas are a manifestation of the religious faith of the people in honor of a patron saint. Fiestas are associated with human beings with sentiments, emotions and spiritual outlook. Fiestas are occasions for prayer, thanksgiving and bonding. Fiestas can also be either religious, such as Christmas, or patriotic, such as the commemoration of Independence Day. "
It's been a while since I've experienced a Philippine fiesta. Last June Mark and I and our daughter Kirsten, joined my brothers -- Rudy and Nony and sisters -- Melecia and Felicidad -- now residing in the United States went home to Batangas to serve as hermana mayor along with our two other sisters Isabel Tena and Margarita Espiritu for our barrio fiesta in Batangas, the birthplace of my parents Francisco and Rosalia Garcia, and in fact all of their nine children.
We accepted the invitation in honor and memory of our parents. We thought it was also a great occasion for the entire Garcia clan -- more than 200 of us -- to have our third reunion since the death of our father in 1997.
In addition, it was an occasion for my daughter Kirsten (Kevin and his wife Trish could not make make it because of Trish's brother's wedding) to experience our Philippine culture. She agreed to be the "Reina de las Flores" for the procession. I was grateful that even in scorching heat she managed to be gracious in her more than eight pounds beaded native gown and having to walk two miles in high heels.
It was an occasion for my daughter to meet her many cousins, including the three above -- Elaine Tena, Vanessa Garcia and Jenjen Espiritu -- who were the fiesta queens.
And to meet Jollibee, which has become a favorite stop for both Kirsten and cousin Vanessa, who is from Maryland.
Some of our friends from the Prelature of Infanta joined us, headed by none other than the bishop himself, Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD. He concelebrated the Mass, the first time ever for a bishop to celebrate Mass in our barrio chapel, with Fathers Nonong Pili, Edwin Agapay, Alan Rieger, OCD, Arnold Boehme, OCD, Joel Borreo, OCD and Bauan, Batangas, parish priest, Father Carmelo.
One thing I discovered at the fiesta was that my brother, Rudy, who is an architect, built our very small barrio chapel. And the legacy goes on, because the Garcia family has agreed to expand the chapel as soon as all land titles and documents are in order. We felt that we could not in good conscience be a party to such extravagance -- paying for the two bands, the parade, the procession, the jamboree, expenses to feed guests, and more (and to me the extravagance we experienced was downright offensive and sinful and expressed my dismay to the committee) and not leave something of value behind that would last for generations to come.
And most of all, my family had an opportunity to be together and get to know one another and show off their talents (Mark and I discovered even that Kirsten can sing) as the Espiritu children attempting to do below.
Below is the Tena Family headed by my sister Isabel and holding the microphone is Betsy Tena Gutierez introducing everyone in her family.
Indeed fiestas and reunions are occasions to remember, to give thanks and to renew the spirit.
As Amb. Arizala observed,
"Undoubtedly, there lies the resiliency, the strength and hope of a nation despite the material or economic want of its people.
We cannot outlaw a culture, custom or faith. For that matter, we cannot enclose in a cage the spirit of man or woman to adore and pay homage to a Supreme Being. Even in this age of computer, cyberspace, e-mail and Internet, that spirit of the human being prevails.
Celebration of fiestas symbolizes that spirituality -- a human instinct as ancient as the hills but still powerful. People have roots, traditions, myths and cultures. They know there must be an all-knowing, powerful and merciful Unseen Being and they have to establish relationship with the Great Provider. As Voltaire said: "If God does not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."