For titles for this blog, I could have used “Finding the Rest of Me”, “Reconnecting” or “More than a Party” – because that is what family reunions are all about.
This Christmas season, I am sure hundreds of thousands of people filled up their cars, crowded buses and trains, or hopped into airplanes traveling thousands of miles to be a part of something they look forward to every year – a family reunion. My family had its reunion last December 20-27, 2014.
Family reunions are popular among all cultures. Filipinos are no different.
For my family, there is one major reason why we have reunions every year. It is the love of family. Just like most cultures, Filipinos value their families. Eating together and sharing stories together are all a big part of our reunions. Another reason why we have reunions every year with my children (and now with a grandchild) is because my wife and I grew up attending family reunions with our aunts and uncles and grandparents.
We have four children. Three of them are married. Two of those couples live in different states of the country. Therefore, our reunions are a time to reconnect. This is important for us because two of our children married special loved ones who are from the white American culture. Reunions help us bond together as a family even if we may have different backgrounds.
Lest I forget, taking care of my granddaughter, Amelia, is a highlight for me during our reunion. I can’t explain why, but she is just so adorable!
Our reunions are planned. They usually take one week. This gives us ample time for bonding, fun, and conversations. We bring with us my mother-in-law so that our children will get to know their grandma a little more and discover some of their roots.
Reunions should not be just during funerals. Often, this is usually what happens in most families. The family members and relatives meet, but at a very difficult circumstance. It is good to plan for reunions during happy times like summer or holiday vacations.
In many reunions, there is diversity. For instance, they are diverse in occupation and income levels. They may include a variety of religious beliefs. It is possible that men and women who divorced from each other may be at the reunion because of their attachment to their in-laws and children. The former spouse may be married again and present with the newer spouse, but that does not keep away the first wife or husband. Reunions give us opportunities to be gracious towards each other. It is an opportunity to rise above differences and unite for family and love’s sake.
The sick and disabled are also present. Many testimonies are given at the reunion from people who come even though they are quite ill. Perhaps, boyfriends and girlfriends are present. Adopted and stepchildren are as accepted as biological children. In-laws are treated like regular family. People of different ethnic groups are embraced.
For my family, duties and responsibilities are shared. Each family chooses which meal and day to cook. Everyone is involved in the upkeep of the residences we stay in. We play Scrabble, walk on the beach, watch a movie, be at a park, swim, shop, and talk. I value our time to talk. Since we are all from a Christian background, we enjoy our small group discussions during reunions. We open our Bibles, pray, and share plans and dreams. I hope the tradition will continue even when we parents are gone. Reunions pass on important values that we embrace. Young and old people alike see the value of relationships. Unity, love, and support are key values we hold dear. We not only talk about these values but they are a part of who we are.
Every family seems to have a colorful background, and it is one that instills a sense of identity. As one hears stories of faithfulness, achievements, courage, and perseverance from others, our bond gets tighter. It is also an opportunity for me to tell them some Dizon stories. For example, I tell them stories of my dad during World War II on how he survived the Japanese Imperial Army’s atrocities. I share with them stories of my mother’s struggles during the war on how she had a miscarriage of her first child because of an abuse she received from an invading soldier while she was selling fish at the market. My wife tells her side, too.
Reunions include lots of hearing stories. It is my hope that our children will continue to do the same and carry on the heritage that should be captured throughout the generations.
Just so people do not get tired of hearing about their history at the family reunion, we also play board games at night. In truth, there is a lot of laughter. As the father and granddad, I relish and enjoy just looking at their faces when they all laugh. Such a sight is priceless.
My wife and I are looking forward to our next reunion.