By Jenny Bonto
No balikbayan experience wouldn’t be complete without a reunion – whether of the family, your high school class, college barkada, or former colleagues at work. These get-togethers can even be considered the be-all and end-all of one’s trip back home.
In the Philippines, anything, and we mean anything, can be a cause for coming together and enjoying each others’ company. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, from conception till death, we Pinoys love company. So a reunion would always be in order whether its a child’s baptism or an elder’s wake, a birthday or a death anniversary and anything in between.
Sometimes, the mere arrival of a balikbayan triggers a reunion, especially if paid for by the balikbayan himself.
There are, of course, grand family reunions of such scale and magnitude to rival the Olympics. These are the clan gatherings held once every three to five years and involving at least three generations and several branches of the family tree. These are the type of family reunions that see family members wearing specially-designed t-shirts, performing various cultural numbers (although that doesn’t count for much in this age of “magic sing”), and consuming enough food to feed half of the African continent.
These are the reunions we go home to. The ones we are usually asked to fund.
So for the smart woman, here are some guidelines for your next reunion back home:
* Small is beautiful. Grand reunions are stressful, whole-day affairs where you hardly get to talk or get acquainted with others. An intimate lunch or dinner with select members of the family or friends is often more meaningful and enjoyable, not to mention easy on the pocket.
* There’s no such thing as enough food. Filipinos love food both in quantity and quality. Be prepared; family reunions usually start at lunch stretching all the way past merienda, sometimes even till dinnertime. If Pinoys love eating, so do they cooking. So go ahead and do a potluck.
* Try a restaurant. Reunions are traditionally held in some family member’s or friend’s big house. But a restaurant with a good buffet table or an events venue with your caterer of choice is just as good. It migh be a tad more expensive but considering the less hassle of someone else worrying about the house, the food, the dishwashing, and the parking space, I’d say it’s worth it.
* Ditch the videoke. Filipinos love music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work vice versa. A videoke or “magic sing” makes everyone think they’re the next Pinoy Idol. So if you don’t want your reunion constantly marred by someone’s booming falsetto, better stick to an ordinary microphone. Unless, of course, it’s your singing you want them to hear.
* Don’t forget the politics of pasalubong and pabalot. A balikbayan without pasalubong is as unthinkable as a reunion without leftover pabalot. The pasalubong itself is of little regard. It can be a can of Spam, a pair of socks, or a second-hand bag bought in a garage sale. In the same light, the pabalot can be anything: a slice of puto, a plastic bag of kare-kare, a llanera of leche flan, or the lechon’s head. What is important is the thought of being remembered and appreciated.
The main thing about reunions, though, is that they are meant to be fun and memorable. That’s what makes a reunion so priceless.