61. Family Time

Family Time: For the second time on this trip, Amy and I have been fortunate enough to land in a new country and enjoy the hospitality of friends from home. In the Philippines, we joined up with friend Emy, who left her family here for college in the States some years ago. We bumbled a few days on our own in Manila before Emy arrived to meet us, but shortly before, I talked to her mother (above) on the phone to arrange our meet-up. It was immediately apparent that we were going to love being with a family again.

Me: I’ve been fighting a cold for the last wee-
Mom: Do you want me to drive over some cold medicine?
Me: No no, the hotel pointed me to a pharmacy an-
Mom: Hmmm. Is this hotel nice? Safe?

Indeed, we lived the good, sheltered life of a happy family. We ate (and ate and ate) with them, we vacationed like royalty with them and, most rewardingly, we enjoyed the intense bond of the Filipino family with them. The centerpiece of this was the weekly gathering of extended family at the home of Emy’s grandmother, 93 year-old matriarch and mother to eight children. With many of those children and their own families living in the family compound, these gatherings can be big, looking more like an American Thanksgiving than a casual Sunday brunch. And while Grandma is the sun around which this family orbits, it is abundantly clear that the real rock star of the Filipino family is its newest, youngest baby. In this case, it was Emy’s nephew Seb (also above), who seems to have locked his spot in the Pantheon for a while, as there are no new family pregnancies on the horizon. When Seb is in the room, he commands a crowd of beaming relatives that shower him with good news about how precious he is. When he’s not in the room, every conversation eventually meanders back to, “I wonder what Seb’s doing right now.” It’s all wonderful to be around, the adoration of young and old, the food, the gossip, the constant concern about your well-being and are you sure you ate enough? It’s made our memories of the Philippines immeasurably richer and we wouldn’t trade any of it for the fanciest hotel in Manila. Not even the one that gives you those really big bath robes.


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