Growing Old in the Philippines

By Julie Javellana-Santos

Two weeks ago, my brothers, sisters and I threw a big bash for my mother’s 75th birthday. It was not a surprise party since we took turns trying to convince her to come to the Philippines for the party with her American husband. Nevertheless, she was surprised, and so was her husband.

Talk about the party actually began in 2010 when my mom came to the Philippines for her annual Christmas vacation. “Why not have a 75th birthday party in September?” we asked her, pointing out that the fare was half what they usually cost at Christmastime.

One of my sisters already said she would spend for my mom’s fare. Still, it took some time for her to agree — only after my other sister in Singapore said she would fork out the fare of our new stepfather.

We prepared a buffet party for her complete with two lechons (roasted pigs) and several birthday cakes. Drinks were overflowing and the atmosphere was not dampened even by the threat of a typhoon.

There were even dance instructors (my mother’s request!) to help my mom and her guests boogie the night away. Her grandchildren also prepared an enjoyable song number for their lola, complete with specially mixed minus one music.

To cap it all, we helped my brother put together a special audio-visual presentation, complete with pictures of her before she was married and bloopers!

For several Sundays we got together to take videos for the AVP and so that the kids could practice. The party was not a surprise, but this was!

I hope that when I am 75 (or around that age anyway), my daughters will treat me the same way we did my mom. She was so touched with the attention we showered on her, throwing her a themed party and all. But surprisingly, her American husband was even more touched.

In America, when kids grow up they move out of the house and seldom visit their parents at all. Most actually send their parents to an old folks’ home. My mom met her new husband when she was vacationing in Florida ten years after my father died. He has several children who are all married and have their own families, whom he never sees.

Little wonder he was amazed that we get together a lot, and that my sisters even spent for his and my mom’s airline tickets. That’s something quite rare, almost unheard of, in America.

Unlike most people, I do not dread growing old. Children follow the example set by their parents, and if the party is any indication, my children will treasure me as much as we brothers and sisters do my mother.