The other day, we attended a picnic for Young Filipino-American families at a park, organized by Venessa of the Filipino School of New York and New Jersey.
As if on cue, the weather obliged us with a near-Philippine high of 94 degrees. And yet, unfazed by the sweltering heat, we all stayed for at least a couple of hours, sharing Pinoy food, games, and pagsasamahan (fellowship) – perhaps just a tiny bit envious of the kids who donned swimsuits to cool off in the park’s water splash area.
True to form, we showed up on “Filipino time” – about 20 minutes late – and yet still managed to beat everyone else to the picnic, save for Venessa and another family. But families (and food!) continued to appear, until in the end we were about 80 picnickers in all.
It was our family’s first time attending a Fil-Am picnic like this, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a few “old” friends, and even more new ones. I was most interested in finding out where each of them came from and how they came to be at the picnic, asking questions that may at first glance seem to be (at least by non-Filipino standards) too personal, too probing, too…nosy.
But for Pinoys, questions like these are par for the course. For we know they bear no malice, on the contrary revealing much goodwill. Ever hopeful, these questions attempt to find connections with others, searching for personal links that may eventually prove to be lifelong bonds of friendship – even kinship at times.
I know no one more skilled at asking such questions than our mom. Once, on a European tour, she went about happily introducing everyone in our coach bus to each other on the mere second day of the tour – having already extracted with ease (and without offense) from each one their names and histories!
This type of questioning is, in a sense, the Filipino way of living out the “small world phenomenon”, by not just striving to prove with confident optimism that we all can’t possibly be more than six degrees separated from each other, but even more so by forging new bonds with others that will hopefully further lessen these degrees of separation, making this world even “smaller” than before.
And so it was that I met Tita Pearl – a “Lola” who, though no longer with little ones in tow, still made yummy pancit and joined the picnic (Salamat po, Tita!). And although most who came to the picnic live close by like Tita Pearl, still others traveled at least an hour to get to the picnic. But a young man named Randy traveled the farthest, having flown here on vacation from the Philippines for the first time.
Yet unlike others who, on their first trip to the States, would probably rather sightsee, Randy made it his mission to attend the picnic. He was keenly interested in how Filipinos abroad keep the culture alive – and he helped in doing just that, by teaching the little ones some traditional Filipino games like tumbang preso and sipa (using hands – who knew?). Thank you, Randy!
Perhaps the family who impressed me the most were twin sisters Hali and Ella, who were only a “quarter” Filipino by blood but completely Filipino in their desire to learn and keep the Filipino culture and values alive in their families. It is truly remarkable and inspiring to meet those born outside of the Philippines like them (and of course, Venessa) who truly appreciate their heritage – sometimes even more than others born back home! – and go out of their way to hand it down to their own families.
But I was thrilled, too, to experience that “small world phenomenon” with someone at the picnic. A while ago I had chanced upon another blog by a Filipina who was herself a wife, mother of a large family, and a foodie to boot. To my dismay, I noted that her last entry (at the time) was dated 2012, and I was left wondering what had ended “Nanay” Rozelyn’s blog days at Nanay’s Choice.
To my delight, I not only came face to face with Rozelyn and her family at the picnic, but also found that she, in fact, continues to blog at The Frugalista Mom’s Allergy Friendly Home. And because of her family’s many food allergies, Rozelyn often blogs about gluten-free recipes, even Paleo-friendly ones…Small world indeed! 😉
All too soon though, our kids had wilted enough and were begging to go home – but not before the final game. For the pabitin of little trinkets hanging from a wooden frame was too tempting to pass up – a tradition our kids weren’t familiar with, having only known piñatas at birthday parties.
They needed no guidelines for this game though, and simply mimicked the other kids – jumping every time the frame was lowered, and pulling with all one’s might until a clutched trinket was torn from the frame. Between them, our kids managed to procure a toy plane, a little squirt gun, and some bubbles – a fun way to end a wonderful picnic!
Maraming, maraming salamat, Venessa, for organizing such an enjoyable day!
We truly appreciate events like this which allow us to forge new bonds with each other and renew old ones, all the while strengthening the one that already binds us all – a common desire to enjoy, affirm and live out our Filipino heritage.