Tag Archives: Family

There Are Christmases I Remember

There are Christmases I remember made vivid and nostalgic by the people and things I associated with them . Some of these people and things have changed, some have gone and some remained. But the heartwarming memories remain.

Christmases are for children as they say and I’ll always remember Christmases when I was a child. There was the pop-up paper Belen that we had.

From Pinterest

We also had a Christmas tree , made of a cut tree, usually a bakawan (mangrove) which was plentiful in our place being a seaside town. (There’s much focus on the mangrove now with environmental consciousness. The mangrove area was reclaimed so the bakawans were probably not preserved because they would really be cut for the reclamation) . The branches were wrapped in cotton. Other friends’ Christmas trees were painted white. I realize now that we were imitating the snow-covered trees of temperate countries (which the Philippines didn’t and doesn’t have. I don’t see Christmas trees like that anymore). Had I known then, I would have told my playmates that cotton resembled snow more.

We were not big on Santa Claus decor, but we did hang socks in our Christmas tree for Santa’s gifts. These gifts were almost always the Serg’s chocolate and some crispy, new peso bills. (Yes, young folks, we did receive money in those denominations shown in the pictures) We liked to smell the new money. (The Central Bank of the Philippines still issues new money at this time of year) .

old philippine peso bills | Philippine peso, Philippines culture,  Philippines
From Pinterest
4 pcs Fractional Notes 5, 10, 20, 50 centavos Philippine English Baknotes |  eBay
From eBay

Serg’s chocolates are no longer in the market or the company stopped producing for a long while ( they have a Facebook page which I reached when I searched for Serg’s chocolate image).

I remember Nanay’s (mother) special fried chicken and bistik during Noche Buena. There were apples and grapes brought home by my siblings studying in Manila. Apples and grapes were imported and rare in those times and the mere smell of apples evoked the Christmas feeling in me. We also had the Tagalog tikoy. We ate the tikoy as is from the wrapper which was made of native palm, unlike the Chinese tikoy which is cooked by dipping in eggs and frying them.

Quezon Special Tikoy - ATBP
Quezon special tikoy -ATBP

We wore our new outfits in going to church for the mass on Christmas day. We met almost everyone in church and we knew almost everyone in our town so after mass, we kept beaming and smiling because we saw and greeted familiar people. As we walked home , we were greeted and greeted back in turn by people we met on the streets. Then we kids would go to our relatives and godparents to visit them, in Tagalog namamasko. It was heartwarming seeing many walking on the streets for their pamamasko. Some of us felt the strain on our feet due to new shoes but we kept on our pamamasko. In the afternoon, it was customary for the teenagers and other adults to have their turn in visiting friends and relatives.

Children usually graduate from pamamasko at age 13. It was nice observing the children who came to our house. My Dad would ask “Sino ang mga magulang mo? (Who are your parents?)” Or “Sino ang Ninong o Ninang mo? ( Who’s your godfather or god mother ?). It was a nice way of knowing the kids and their knowledge of their families or lineage. It was a time to get acquainted with the children of friends and relatives if the kids came for the first time or to get to be updated on how the kids had grown. There were some kids who came without a relative or godparent in our house, my parents gave them something for Christmas too.

That was Christmas in the olden days. I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before and made Christmas special. I know I’ll stop and think about them specially during Christmas time.

Now it’s our turn to make Christmas memories special for the young ones.

Christmas 2017, photo by Ronnel Tolentino

Maligayang Pasko! Merry Christmas!

Children’s Month – The Children Weren’t Kidding

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In celebration of the National Children’s Month this November, I write about the fun and funny moments with my nephews and nieces when they were very young.. Some of them are young men and women now but the fun memories remain.


After college, I lived with my older brother Arturo and his young family, his wife baby and young sons Ronnel and Randel. I stayed with them for about 5 years then I moved with my brothers who were single then, Abner and Hernani. After a few days of my transfer, my sister-in-law Baby told me that she heard Ronnel and Randel looking for letter T in the telephone directory because they wanted to call me. (This was before the time of cellphones so the directory was the yellow pages and even if cellphones were available then they were much too young for them anyway) They searched for T, because they called me Tita Joy (Auntie Joy)


Hernani moved to the US and his kids grew up there. On one occasion that they were in the Philippines and the kids were playing with my other nephews and nieces, his son Andrew said, ” This move will surely defeat you, better call 911. My niece Cris who’s based in the Philippines said, “yehey, oorder ng pizza (we’ll order pizza) . The number of Pizza Hut in the Philippines was 911-11-11)


In one of the visits of my brother Hernani and his family, we went to one of the malls. Erwin wanted to buy a toy but his dad said he already had a lot. Erwin protested, teary eyed, saying ” I have $2 at home”.


I was singing Shalalalala mindlessly, and I thought softly, inside the car with my sister and some nieces. When I reached the part, ” My heart goes shalalalala”, we were all surprised when Matess clapped three times from the back (as the song goes).


Then there’s Joseph (my cousin’s son) who challenged all his cousins to a dance showdown in one of our gatherings. He said he danced as well as Michael jack Stone. (Note: Jack Stone or “sintak” is a traditional Filipino game, he was referring to Michael Jackson)


On mother’s day, my brother Abner and his family used to come to visit us to celebrate with our mother. The kids greeted my mother Happy Mother’s Day, one by one. When it was Myla’s turn, she couldn’t say it and asked my mother, “Lola , pwede Happy Birthday na lang? ( Lola, can I say Happy Birthday instead?” ) Of course my mother said Yes!


My nephews and nieces, at a certain age invariably ask me,” How old are you? “I would always say 16. They would accept it without question. Then one time, when it was Rhoda who asked me and I said my usual answer, she paused and said ” Di ba 17 si Kuya Sigmund? (Isn’t Kuya Sigmund 17?”).


When it was Lanie who asked how old I was, I gave my usual answer, She thought for a while , smiled at me and said “Siguro 26 ka (You’re probably 26)”. To a young child 26 is old ( I was in my 30s then)


My sister and the young ones come to Manila from the province for the Christmas celebration/reunion. They usually stay at my house while in Manila. The kids wanted to play with my cat but I cautioned them, the cat didn’t know them, he might scratch them. They held back, then after a while Gio said to the cat, I am Gio, this is Yoyong , that’s Niel and proceeded to introduce the others.


In one of our summer vacations in Caylabne Bay Resort, Ate Luisa carried Cris and walked around the site. There was a fountain in one area which looked like a church font. Cris dipped her hand and made the sign of the cross.


One Christmas, I gifted one-year old Arben with a shirt with a necktie. His sister Myla when she saw my gift said, “Ay, pang office ni Arben (Oh, it’s Arben’s office wear)”


A young Me-an , daughter of my brother Abner asked me, Tita Joy, ano mo si Lola? (Auntie Joy, what’s Lola to you?) I said, Nanay ko (She’s my mother). Her eyes widened and she exclaimed ‘Magkapatid kayo ni Daddy! (You and Daddy are brother and sister!)


One day, my car had difficulty starting. I said, it’s probably the battery. My niece Rhoda said, low bat na Tita? (Low bat is a term usually used for cellphone batteries)


When Lizette was an infant , I offered to watch over Lizette when I was at my brother Abner’s house, because my sister-in-law Merlie had to attend to some things. I took Lizette in my arms to rock her to sleep. She snuggled close and rubbed her face against me. I was so touched , until I saw some rashes on the side of her face which she was rubbing against me, she was probably feeling itchy.


Kids are usually allowed to drink soft drinks only when there are special occasions like Christmas , birthdays and the like. In one of the visits of my brother Abner and his family to our home where my mother lived with me, I told him that there’s C-O-K-E in the refrigerator so the kids wouldn’t know about the soft drink.. Then when my sister-in-law came near me, I also spelled out coke. Myla, who was also near said “Gusto ko ng C-O-K ( I want C-O-K)”

Remembering Our Departed Loved Ones

At the start of October, while many in other parts of the world prepare for Halloween, we prepare for the observance of All Saints’ Day on November 1.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Catholic churches begin issuing prayer lists for our departed relatives and loved ones. This is a practice that evolved from offering masses or prayers for our departed loved ones. This was done verbally to the priest who used to go around the cemetery in our town when I was a child.

Those in the list are included in the daily masses for November.

I used to fill this out with my mother dictating the names of our dead relatives. Aside from my father and grandparents on both my father’s and mother’s side, she made sure my auntie, her sister who died unmarried and my uncle, my father’s brother who died a bachelor, were included. She said they were both single and didn’t have families/children of their own so we must make sure that they were remembered.

Now that my mother has passed away, I’m continuing the mass offering. The firs time I wrote her name, I was teary eyed. Memories flooded my mind. I was pensive. I thought about mortality, how fragile life is, and the inevitability of death and change. And I said a prayer:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.


Related Post:

No Halloween

World Day For Grandparents and the Elderly

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Pope Francis announced Sunday the establishment of an international day to honor grandparents and the elderly to take place each year on the 4th Sunday of July. He said, “Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he continued. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”

It’s very timely because society is getting more and more dependent on social media and the internet for answers. The youth seek advice from research and social media and other sources of information than their elders. This is slowly resulting in ignoring our elders as they lose their value as guardians and advisers or counsellors. Some elderly are regarded as burdens because of their age and sickness. They receive a condescending treatment or at best a patronizing treatment from their younger relatives. It doesn’t help that the movies and stories deal with “uncommon” or rebellious behavior that undermine traditional values.

The people of the world are becoming youth- oriented. Probably business is to blame for developing and advertising products that glamorize youthful appearance. Marketing principles say that they respond to market needs, but they also highlight these needs . even create them in some instances. They feed on people’s insecurities. It’s good if these are products about health that will make people keep their body strong and healthy , attributes associated with youth. But most of the time products are about external appearances.

I wrote about grandparents on Grandparents Day that “Honoring our grandparents and the elderly is a valued tradition in the Philippines even before a Grandparents Day was ‘invented’ or proclaimed. Our grandparents live with their families. Even at present, there are few homes for the elderly in the Philippines which are resorted to when there are no better options for home care.” The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will help in keeping this tradition.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m glad the Pope specified the elderly. I’m happy for all single people who are not parents much less grandparents. I’m happy for all the married people who tried to have children but failed. I’m happy for all religious who have embraced single-blessedness. Let’s honor and celebrate all people who spent their youth contributing to rearing children in their own ways , in rearing society in whatever capacity.

My Parents’ Generation’s Ways Are What We Call Frugal Ways

The ways my parents and others in their generation lived are what we consider now as frugal ways. I am practicing some of them now though not as strictly as they did but definitely similar to what I observed or lived in childhood.

Caring for items

One example is caring for furniture. Most homes had seat covers on their sala sets. The seat covers protect varnish or upholstery. Seat covers are cheaper to replace and are easier to clean.

Some of my furniture have seat covers at present.

Buying replacements only

We used our shoes for as long as they were functioning or when we outgrew them. Sometimes our parents bought us new pairs even if our shoes were still good if they became too small for us because we were growing.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I do this in buying durable items. I somehow do this in buying shoes and bags.


Our shoes were repaired if they could still be repaired. There was a reliable sapatero (shoemaker but more of a shoe repairer) in our town which did this kind of repair.

Our clothes were mended if they’re torn specially if it’s for house wear or pambahay. Fast fashion (a term used to describe a highly profitable business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, and mass-producing them at low cost) wasn’t in vogue in those days. We knew how to replace buttons or snaps or press studs which we called automatic (I still have to ask older relatives the origin why we called them such). My mother knew how to replace stuck zippers and worn garters.

I do simple repairs which I can do like replacing buttons, sewing a tear, gluing a small space in my shoe and the like. For others I do a simple cost-benefit analysis because sometimes repair costs so much that it’s better to buy a new one.

Buying/Having Only What’s Needed

We didn’t have extras like another bag or different colors of shoes – just one pair of leather shoes and a pair of rubber shoes.

I buy only what’s needed as much as possible.

Conserving Water

This was a practice probably because there’s no continuous flowing water in our town at that time. Water service was rotated thus there were specific days for specific barangays. And there were days when the water flow was strong only late at night or even dawn. When there wasn’t enough, we bought water delivered in drums. There was no room to be carefree with water use. There were no bottled drinking water or filter stations which are now available in our town.

I now collect rainwater for my plants and use the last rinse in laundering for cleaning the car and rags or watering some plants (like hedges)

Wearing Hand-me-downs

I know, I wore hand-me-downs when I was a girl. These were from my cousins ,not from my sisters, because I am the youngest among 6 children and there were 3 boys between me and my older sisters who were 1st and 2nd children. Some of my classmates wore hand-me-down uniforms.

This is still being practiced among my nephews/nieces.


Some of the commonly upcycled items were clothes. Those were the days of modistas (dressmakers). Ready-to-wear (RTW) have not gained acceptance. The biling-yari or ready made as we called them were considered of a lower notch, these were probably the precursor of fast fashion.

Rarely worn dresses were upcycled into new ones through dressmakers. Gowns were made into cocktail dresses. Cocktail dresses were made into party dresses and casual dresses were restyled to update or made into girls’ dresses.

Old bedsheets were made into pillow cases provided they were not too worn out.

Old towels were made into kitchen towels.

I don’t buy rags or paper towels, I use old shirts or towels/hand towels. I have a post related to this – Mindful Discarding

Waste Segregation

During those days, we returned bottles of soda and other bottled products and get the deposits. (The present manufactures should take a second look on that system to lessen garbage) . Or we sold empty bottles to ‘bote-diaryo‘ ambulant men with their pushcarts who bought empty bottles and other recyclable materials. These men are now called mangangalakal and usually use a bicycle with side cars.

I now segregate waste into biodegradable/compostable and non-biodegradable. The latter items are further segregated into saleable to junkshops and non-saleable or residual wastes which are thrown away.

Avoiding Food Wastage

Wastage is avoided in all items. But food is special, almost sacred. We have a Tagalog word “busong” which means repelling God’s blessings. Some say magtatampo ang grasya o magtatampo ang biyayà. Leftover food/meals are eaten during the next meal as is or recooked with new ingredients to make a new dish.

I’m still very careful with food . Leftover food /meals at home are served the next meal. When eating out in restaurants I take leftover food home.

Bayong - Wikipedia
Bayóng -from Wikipedia

Using Reusable Biodegradable Baskets/Bags

Baskets made of rattan or other endemic materials were used when going to the market. Some used bayóng , a bag made of woven strips of palm leaves. These were used over and over until they’re worn out. Plastic bags were not used then.

Now, I use eco bags as much as possible when buying groceries.

Uplì (Ficus)

Use of Uplì Leaves For Cleaning

Back then uplì leaves were used for scrubbing. Uplì is an endemic plant with abrasive leaves. The leaves were used for scrubbing instead of steel wool or scouring pads. They are free and renewable.

We have the uplì plant in our yard, it just sprouted and grew. I don’t let it grow big, I use the leaves once in a while.


Kids walked to schools. Teenagers walked around town when they hang out with friends. Adults walked to their places of work, to the market or to visit relatives and neighbors. Families walked to church to attend mass. That’s the benefit of living in a small town. But now people ride even for short distances, even in my hometown. They use tricycles.

I walk whenever possible like I walk to the fruit stand to buy fruits, to our church, to the nearby Mercury Drug store.

Nanay’s Song for Daddy

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Nanay loved this song. We used to sing it in duet when she was alive. I sang the melody and she sang the second voice. I accompanied ourselves with my guitar.

It’s a song I learned in grade school. It was nice but I didn’t think it was special. It was only when Nanay wanted to sing it that it had a special meaning for me. And by then I had matured and was more discerning of lyrics and melodies. I noticed it’s haunting melody and that the lyrics were very apt for my mother. You see, Daddy passed away 25 years ahead of Nanay and the song is about a loved one who has gone. It’s not that she moped during those years, she’s God-loving and prayerful and looked at the bright side of life. But she she really loved the song. Whenever she saw me getting my guitar, she would come near, that was my signal that we would be singing her favorite song.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Here’s the song.

Blow, Blow Winds of the Sea

He sailed away, at break of day

As I stood there on the shore

He waved his hand and it made me cry

‘Til I found my love no more

Blow, blow, winds of the sea

My love is waiting somewhere for me

Blow , blow winds of the sea

Bring back my loved one to me

The years blow on, from dawn to dawn

I saw the ships passing by

But not a word from the one I love, since the day we said goodbye

Blow, blow, winds of the sea

My love is waiting somewhere for me

Blow , blow winds of the sea

Bring back my loved one to me

The winds blew on, and here am I

Alone with my memories

My Love has gone

But I carry on feel the winds that blow for me

Blow, blow, winds of the sea

My love is waiting somewhere for me

Blow, blow, winds of the sea

Bring back my loved one to me

I found the song in You Tube. There are minor differences in lyrics, I used the words I remember.


For non-Tagalog readers, Nanay is Tagalog for mother.

Mother Earth, How Do I Care For Thee

Let me count the ways.

1. My little garden.

My garden is little and simple. It’s a place where I nurture plants- flowering, ornamental, some vegetables and some fruit trees. In their own little ways the plants provide oxygen to the atmosphere. My flowering and ornamental plants provide beauty to the place and flowers to grace my altar and make my house a pleasant place. The flowers attract butterflies and emit a faint fragrance.

My garden also nurtures me specially during this time of staying at home to stay safe because of the pandemic. I feel close to nature even at home. It’s one of my positive realizations in the days of Covid.

Balimbing blossoms

Balimbing fruit

The fruit trees, just the small varieties in the corners of the garden, provide fruits for my health and their branches and leaves provide a shady playground for birds.

See (spot) the lone bird in the shade of the kamias (or kalamias in Quezon), there are more birds actually but they fly away when I start to take pictures.


2. Natural insect repellant/fertilizer

Repellant /fertilizer from orange peel.

I use orange peel as insect repellant and other fruits for fertilizer (in addition to compost).

3. Composting

It gives two benefits. It minimizes wastes thrown to landfills as all garden trimmings and dry leaves go to the compost pit as well as biodegradable wastes such as fruit and vegetable peels and other kitchen wastes. The compost serves as organic fertilizer.

4. Use of Environment Friendly Stones in Garden Instead of Cement

I use stones in the areas not reached by sunlight and where grass doesn’t thrive. It’s said that cement causes flooding as they don’t allow rain water to seep into the soil.

5. Mindful Acquiring

This is made easier by the pandemic. I’m trying to extend my year of frugal living and to maintain the practice of buying only what are needed.

6. Mindful Discarding

I discussed this in detail in my post Mindful Discarding which covers:

  • giving away to those who want or the need the items
  • recycling
  • repurposing
  • throwing away as a last step if the first steps are not possible..

7. Use of Public Transport Whenever Possible

I practiced this before the pandemic. I must admit though that I use vans used for point-to-point transport where the loading center is provided by the mall where I park my car and the off-loading terminal is also at a point near my destination in Makati Business Center so it’s not “as public” as regular buses.

Now during the pandemic, I work/stay at home most of the time and only go to places near our home by walking or short rides.

I’ve done something, I can do more. As I do more for Mother Earth, I do more for me because the earth nurtures me as I nurture it.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Love Beyond Words

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have a special niece.

My niece was born prematurely at 7 months. She was a regular baby, cuddly and cute. She was a regular toddler, huggable and happy. It was only noticed that she was special when she reached the age when she was supposed to talk and she didn’t.

My brother and his family migrated to the US when she was around two years old. She was already attending a special school for kids when we met again when I visited the US. She smiled at me when we met. I stayed at my brother’s house so we had time to bond. Sometimes she would come near me , smiling and sometimes hugged me. The indication that she remembered me was when she wrote my name on her small notebook which she always carried at that time and showed it to me.

Their family visited the Philippines over the years. They maintained a house in the Philippines so our meetings were short, when they visited us /we visited them or we met in a restaurant.

In between , we received pictures of her as she grew up from a school child, to a teenager, into a woman.

Our next meeting was when her older sister got married and I, with another brother based in the Philippines, went to the US to attend. We stayed in the house of my niece about to get married where my special niece also stayed a few days prior to the wedding. My special niece gave us her usual smile, a smile that is addressed to everyone and to no one in particular. One afternoon while I was lying on bed, my special niece came to my room, lied next to me and cuddled me. We stayed that way for some time just exchanging smiles, cuddling each other, enjoying each other’s company, silently.

We had a prolonged bonding when she and my brother were stranded in my home in the Philippines during the pandemic, from March 15, 2020 to June 27, 2020. She would always be smiling most of the time. As always ,she exuded an air of innocence and inner peace. She joined me when attending TV mass. When she saw me playing Candy Crash Soda Saga in my computer she touched a few keys and laughed happily when we made a hit and said Yes! , one of the few words she could say. From then on, she would always join me when she saw me in front of the computer. She always stayed indoors but in the latter part of their stay she sometimes followed me outside when I tended the garden. She wanted to play with our cat but I always saw to it that she didn’t touch it. She disagreed occasionally. I helped her in her daily bath/shower and there were times that she didn’t want to initially, but she would agree eventually. This daily activity probably brought us closer or at least made me a more familiar, comfortable person to her. At night I’m the one who closed the windows and doors prior to retiring for the night. During the latter nights she would wait for me and at one time was the one who closed the main door. She smiled when she did it, this time, a knowing smile, a proud smile. I still was the one who locked it because the door still wasn’t fully closed but I understood her gesture of helping me. One night before she entered their room, she kissed me good night. I was so touched because she doesn’t usually display such emotion or courtesy unless instructed.

Then it was time for them to leave. They were leaving early in the morning and when I woke up, she was already dressed. My brother said his goodbyes. When he instructed my niece to go to the service car waiting for them to take them to the airport, she turned to me and kissed me goodbye. I hugged her. I was teary eyed as I watched the car leave.

I see her now as her mother posts pictures of her in social media. She looks happy, contented and loved.

I don’t know when we will be together again but she remains in my heart. I can’t be sure if I am in hers but it’s said that the mind forgets but the heart doesn’t.

She gave us a special love, a love beyond words. In return she was loved back. She gave a chance to us her family and other people around her to feel and experience unconditional love, a love that doesn’t expect anything in return because we all know that she could only love us in her special way.

When I see her kind of love and the love she receives in return I think of agapé.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Old Christmas Cards

Old Christmas cards, the ones in hard copy, are special. They contain the personal touch of the sender, heartwarming thoughts in the sender’s handwriting and his signature. They preserve happy memories of Christmas. They can be bought or self-made like the ones made by my nephews and nieces when they were much younger..

Old Christmas cards can last a lifetime. They are forever accessible unlike digital greeting cards which may easily be rendered obsolete and inaccessible by ever changing technology.

Below are some of them:





Saudi Arabia

United Kingdom