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Lolo Peding & Lola Openg & My First Christmas Ever in the Philippines
January 2, 2007. . 6:00 in the morning . . .Whew! Another day, another year. I should be preparing for school, but I want to lay back for another couple of minutes, feel the warmth of my bed. I missed this old bed of mine. I hadn’t been here for a couple of weeks. Dad
[ Louie] and I arrived yesterday from a short 15-day Christmas vacation in the Philippines. I still feel the pleasant aftershocks of exposure to the Filipino culture. . . already I can’t wait to be back! I smiled as I remembered . . .
December 16, 2006, at I;30 A. .M . . . Dad and I arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila. We were just a couple out of the thousands that arrived home for the Christmas season. We were both exhausted and the abrupt change of weather caused such a shock to our system. But I couldn’t explain the excitement I felt inside. After 16 years, I will be celebrating Christmas in my own country. . . . for the first time.
Busy streets, lots of people on their shopping sprees, and the priceless moments I’ve had with my siblings – Ate Princess, Kuya Jeff and Ate Vanessa . . .there’s never a dull moment with them . . .full of fun, full of laughter-till-it-hurts-jokes and endless story-telling, reminiscing our childhood.
The reason behind our travel to the Philippines was to attend the celebration of the Golden Wedding Anniversary of my lolo and lola [ my Dad’s uncle and aunt] in the idyllic town of Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur. Though I have not really spent a lot of time there but it is so familiar. Dad takes pride in his family and he never got tired of
sharing with me the fond memories he had of his town. Remembering, added fuel to my excitement. Butterflies fluttered round my stomach though I couldn’t wait to meet the Jaramillo clan! I shall meet the whole lot at one go, it is quite intimidating.
Midnight of December 23rd, we [dad, Ate Vanessa and myself, with the driver of our van, of course] left Lucena City, to start our journey to the Northern Province. Along the way, we spent more time on detours, chasing and feasting our eyes on the many beautiful scenic spots that caught our eyes- attractive and huge Christmas lanterns of Pampanga, green rice fields of Pangasinan, white sandy beaches of La Union and Ilocos Sur, topped by warm and friendly people on our numerous stopovers.
Finally, at about 2:00 P. M. of that same day, we arrived in the Dumag’s Residence [ once the Jaramillos’ ancestral home], in Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur. We were affectionately greeted by the people who welcomed us, most of whom I have met only for the first time – lolos and lolas, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces- and typical Ilocano folks of different faces. All I could remember was that everyone belonged to one clan, the Jaramillo’s, from whence I, too, descended.
Not a single minute was wasted. After a short rest and right after we have unpacked our bags, we [Ate Vanessa and I] joined a group of teens, who are all cousins, and swapped stories. Of course, together with the story telling was the sharing of native Ilocano dishes which was also my first time to taste- original pinakbet, dinengdeng, bagnet, higado, pinapaitan, kilawen, tinubong, sinuman, and royal bibingka-[ why the name royal I did not question as I was so replete]. I’d say, I gained a few pounds because I could not resist sampling all the delicacies and specialties of the place.
The following day, December 24th, came the much awaited event. At the Sto. Domingo Church, during the 10:30 A. M. Mass, was celebrated the Golden Anniversary of Dr. Pedro U. Dumag and Mrs. Guadalupe Jaramillo-Dumag [ my grandparents]. For those present, who had also witnessed their wedding 50 years ago, several points of similarity struck them forcibly as very relevant on that same day.
Fifty years ago, the wedding of Pedro Dumag and Guadalupe Jaramillo took place in that very church. It was officiated by my late lolo, Fr. Elpidio Jaramillo, brother of my grandma. Now, it was Fr. Peter J. Dumag, son of the celebrants, who officiated on their golden wedding rites.
Fifty years ago, one of the principal sponsors was the late Ilocos Sur Gov. Pedro Singson, uncle of the present Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, now, himself, one of the principal sponsors, paired with another of my lolas, Sr. Nieves J. Fagela, O. P. Other sponsors were the present Rep. and Mrs. Salacnib Baterina, natives of our town.
Representing Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, birthplace of my lolo Peding [ the groom], as another pair of principal sponsors were the former Ilocos Sur governor, Dr. Godofredo Reyes, MD, and his wife, Dra. Dedicacion Reyes, MD; retired president of the University of Northern Philippines, Vigan City.
Not to be forgotten, as one of the principal sponsors, is the present mayor of the town, Floro “Butch” Tadena, chosen as one of the 2006 Outstanding Mayors of the Philippines by the Local Government Leadership Awardees [LGLA] of the Philippines.
Fifty years ago, my Dad was the ring bearer while his sister, aunt Ester was one of the flower girls. Now, they are part of the wedding entourage as Secondary Sponsors, together with the other living members of the first wedding entourage. The present entourage now included the couple’s five children [ all professionals] with their spouses, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. The rest of the assembly was composed of relatives and friends of the celebrants.
Incidentally, my lolo Peding was not only a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, he was also an educator and a retired government official. My. Lola Openg was a retired teacher and school principal.
This wedding was also a first for me to ever wear a formal golden gown, something I was not used to, because I was one of the Youth Usherettes. A few months ago, when I was told that I would be wearing a formal dress, I nearly refused. I couldn’t buy the idea of seeing myself walking down the red-carpeted aisle of the church in a formal gown. But as I thought it over and realized how important this affair was to the family, especially to my Dad, I reconsidered. After all, it was not going to hurt me except perhaps for a little personal discomfort. Indeed! It was an unforgettable moment and I am glad. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything else.
The affair was exceptionally well planned. I discovered that a whooping 1,500 guests attended the occasion. Guests and relatives arrived as far as the USA, not to mention that we ourselves came all the way from Tripoli, Libya [ my birthplace].
One of the highlights during the reception was the performance of the 20-member Hawaiian Dancers with their own band. They came direct from Maui, Hawaii, where Fr. Peter Dumag was the parish priest, specifically for this event. Everyone was greatly surprised and the dances were very much applauded. In addition, the fare of special native Ilocano food and delicacies were served by a catering crew of 50 waiters and waitresses.
The special day did not end there. Too restless to relax after all the excitement, we visited “Baluarte”, a famous zoo that is one of the landmarks of the province, privately owned by Gov. “Chavit” Singson. We also visited “Heritage Area”, a tourist spot of Vigan City, where we bought some souvenir items, memorabilia and chichacorn. That night, we went back to the Spanish built church of Sto. Domingo to attend Midnight Mass and altogether, we sealed the night with our thankful Christmas Prayers.
Every single moment of our four-day stay in Sto. Domingo was worth spending for. I know, it will take some time before we can ever repeat all those wonderful times.