When Alex was three, my father in-law invited us to a trip to his home city of Silay in the province of Negros Occidental. Being a born and bred city girl, I was terribly excited to experience even just a slice of the provincial life. I had always dreamt of it, but never really found the place I could imagine calling a second home. That short trip, however, opened another world for me. Beyond the quaint and rustic images conjured by our trip to this majestic city in the South, I also discovered a connection to the people who lived there. In fact, even just for the brief week my family stayed there, we felt a really strong kinship to the people who welcomed us with open arms.
It has been more than 14 years since my first and last trip to Silay and I still carry fond memories of the place and its people. As such, the arrival of my husband’s cousins from the province was a cause for celebration. Manang Gemma and her husband flew over from the province to help their eldest son get settled in his new accommodations for his freshman year at the Ateneo de Manila University. Since we haven’t seen each other in more than a decade and our correspondence has been limited to text messages, e-mail, and Facebook, we were definitely excited to spend time with them.
Our boys have grown and changed immensely in the years we were apart. At 17, both of them are almost grown men. After the initial awkwardness common to people who are getting to know each other, Alex and his cousin began to talk. Discussing things they liked and had in common (in this case, both are video game and music addicts, with earphones perpetually glued to their ears; also, this year, they will both be in the same campus), I sensed them both put their guard down — reconnecting and realizing that they are, indeed, kin.
Our time together was much too short. Dinner last Saturday night was great, made even greater by delightful company. I’m glad we’ll get to see each other one more time before Manang Gemma heads back to Silay this weekend. I absolutely love her, she with the vivacious and effervescent spirit. Of course it helps that we also happen to have the same affinity for all things food, which is immensely helpful in encouraging our loquaciousness. Quick to laughter and easy to talk with, she reminds me so much of the welcoming extended family my husband has in the province.
As I grow older, I realize more than ever the value of extended family. That the connections among us grow more tenuous as each day passes only serve to remind me to savor each moment as if it were last. These are the memories that are worth holding on to- memories of kinship and fellowship. Memories of love.