By Becky Pagsibingan
The setting was at the Estes Park, Colorado, way up where the skies seemed to meet the top of the mountains. Some still glistened with snow in August. It was cool, but not cold. The air was fresh with the scent of the Pine trees. The view was breathtaking and one could not help, but commune and savor the beauty of the nature. It was nice to take a walk to just enjoy the scenery, a perfect vista to be quiet and meditate.
It was beautiful, not only the place but the reunion itself. The family members arrived from California, the State of Washington, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Canada and the Philippines. This family was big with thirteen siblings.
During the fun night, each family was introduced evoking happy and sad feelings. Happy because this was the first time the clan had the chance to be in one place to bond and sad because they missed their parents and their brothers and sisters who passed away and are no longer here to enjoy this reunion. How they wished they’ve done it earlier, but time won’t come back. Of the thirteen brothers and sisters, seven already were gone, leaving two brothers and four sisters. This reunion was actually the idea of their “Sangko,” who died a few years back in Los Angeles. It was one of his daughters who pursued this family event. The two remaining brother and sister from the Philippines made it to the reunion joining the other brother and three sisters from Virginia, Illinois and State of Washington. Not everyone made it to the reunion, though, especially those in the Philippines – the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Only about seventy were present. It could have been more than a hundred if all made it.
It was heartening to watch the grandchildren who were seeing their cousins for the first time. They were not talking at first, but after the warm-up, the” long lost cousins” caught up smoothly. If they met at some other place, they would not have realized they were relatives. There were episodes in Manila when the two cousins were classmates in the high school and were trying to get the same seat during the first day of classes. When resolved and they were already in the chatting mode, they found out they have the same “lola,” named Carmen. Another funny and not so funny incident was when four siblings were seated in a clinic, waiting for their dermatologist cousin to call them next. An auntie arrived who had also with an appointment, noticed that the four siblings and another teenager were sitting together, but not talking.
The “tita” realizing the situation scolded them for not knowing each other. “Bakit hindi kayo nag-uusap na magpipinsan? Nakaupo kayo diyan pero hindi kayo nagkikibuan!” Of course, the children were startled, not their fault. Well, I saw it as a case of the parents, either missing the chance to take their children to family gatherings or they were too busy with their own family schedules that this matter was taken for granted. Coming from a big family, they did have family gatherings, but did not really have the chance to require all of them to be together at same occasions. The matriarch in the family, widowed at a young age raised the thirteen children by herself with the help of the older children taking care of the younger ones. Her husband died at the age of forty six and did not remarry. She got married at age sixteen, by the way. Her talent to cook helped her to solely bring up her children.
She catered and sold cooked food to her neighbors and nearby big gasoline company in her area. Her older children also helped her finance the schooling of the younger batch. Her clan produced about fifty grandchildren, about twenty great grandchildren (apo sa tuhod) and some great, great, grandchildren(apo sa talampakan). I was amazed with their mother and I told them so. She was a tiny four feet and eleven inches tall, woman, who delivered all her thirteen children at home with just a “comadrona,” a midwife, without the convenience of the modern technology at the hospital and the able hands of the doctors. She must have endured a lot of difficulties starting from the delivery of her children, to being widowed at an early age, solely bringing up her children. She was a strong and determined woman and I salute her with much respect. Everyone felt the same.
The clan had a wonderful and truly enjoyable time with remaining siblings bonding together with their children strengthening their relationships. After eating together most of the time, having fun during the cookout, campfire and doing enjoyable activities together, the goal and objectives of the reunion were achieved. They now better know each other, promising they will get in touch with each other more often, especially the younger generation. The reunion was attended by family members aged three weeks to seventy eight years old. For posterity sake, it was documented with pictures and video tape recordings. It was decided that they will hold it again after two years, with the venue still on hold. Suggestions were Hawaii, a cruise or in the Philippines.
Wherever they decide to hold it, I will be a part of the reunion again, because my husband, Pat, was one of the six siblings who were in attendance. I truly enjoyed the gathering feeling the closeness of the Pagsibigan family. I had been close to them. We were all grateful to Linda Luna from Chicago, who had pursued and worked hard to make this reunion a success. It was. Other family members who attended from Virginia were Jojo Pagsibigan Masanque, David Pagsibigan and Ruth Pagsibigan Perlman, their spouses and children.
On our flight back home, I told my husband that I should also initiate a reunion in my own family. We are still complete seven siblings minus our parents who already passed away. Our family is not as big as the Pagsibigans and maybe easier to manage. The next morning, I called my sister in San Francisco and my other sister in Toronto. They were receptive of my plan and we agreed to start working on it. This recent gathering was an inspiration that opened my eyes to the beauty and joy of a family reunion. The wonderful memory will have a lasting effect to our children and our clan down the line. I realize the value of it.