“Laglagip ken Panagrambac” (Part 2)

The second half of our clan's (over 300 at last count; half is scattered all over the world) 75th annual reunion was indeed a celebration (panagrambac) of a different kind.

After being zapped back to the launch pad for this tradition (laglagip or memories) in Pangasinan, our long motorcade led us to a resort in a nearby town where fun and laughter took on lives of their own.

Sports, games, swimming, ukulele jamming, talent show, sub-clan presentations, bidding ala Sotheby’s, rummage sale, raffles, prizes, and kunol-kunol (bonding) came one after the other, or crammed simultaneously. It was as though time was running out. 

And the coup de grace! A formal dinner.

Dressed to the nines, we sashayed into a huge, dream-like ballroom richly decked with fresh flowers above, below, and before us; lights dripping from the ceiling and blooming out of vases; a red carpet leading to the stage, and ornate dinnerware. Glitz and glam all the way.
On this culminating activity, we . . .

- waited for the year 2019 to end, watching the clock move its way toward midnight for the beginning of 2020;

- held hands in a huge circle to sing our grandparents’ favorite Ilocano folk and gospel songs;

- prayed together as one to thank God for His blessings all through the past year;

- blended our voices in Lutkin’s Benediction—impromptu, yet again in perfect harmony;

- sang this hymn prayerfully together for the 75th time since 1945 -

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

- welcomed 2020 with a lusty countdown, tight hugs, and a noisy snake dance.

Before we went our separate ways at noon, the host sub-clan turned over the chairmanship to the next sub-clan. The following reunion will morph into another format, as every single one has been unique, shaped by the hosts-in-charge.   

To many of us, this yearly clan reunion is a grace event that can’t be missed. And why not?

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT)

Photo gallery of Panagrambac :



“Laglagip ken Panagrambac” (Part 1)

If that sounds Greek to you, it might well be. It was the Ilocano theme of our 75th (yes, 75th!)  annual clan reunion that ran from the last two days of 2019 to the first day of 2020.

Translated to English, this means “Memories and Celebration.”

Laglagip . . .

The host sub-clan took us back to where it all started in Pangasinan:

- the first reunion site (UCCP church) to unveil a commemorative marker
- the lands of our grandparents that financed our early reunions
- the man-made water reservoir to maintain their farms
- the school that bears our grandfather’s name in appreciation of his donating the land
It was a historical journey for the few remaining cousins who were in the first reunion, and a heritage lesson for the younger generations (3rd to the 6th) who have no idea about their roots. 

In a convoy of about 50 vehicles, we stopped at all the above places. Then we gathered inside  the church—built by our grandparents and which remains robust today—for a memorial service, remembering all the clanistas (clan members) who are no longer with us. More than a hundred of us sang at the top of our voices old hymns reminiscent of a bygone era when our forefathers sang the same tunes in praise of our God.

"Count your blessings; Name them one by one."

"Great is thy faithfulness, mercy, and love." 

From there, we visited our grandparents’ burial ground, which is a vivid narrative of their faith. Our lolo designed and supervised the building of his and our lola’s tomb himself, knowing this mortal coil would one day cease. And after that one day, we would finally be home to where we truly belong—the house of forever with Jesus. He had this built while he was still strong, years before he and our lola breathed their last. 

How can we not remember the blessings of yesteryears? How can we not celebrate His faithfulness and His grace of family

We then drove, still in a convoy, to a resort in a nearby town for the panagrambac (celebration).

Random photos of Laglagip . . .

(to be continued next post . . .)

Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2118128734969348/


When Flowers Bloom

Just across our house, this refreshing view greets me every morning:
It’s the first thing that catches my eye when I open our gate. These bougainvilleas somehow bloom every day, rainy season or dry.

Flowers of every kind never fail to stun me, even if I am a total failure at gardening. That’s probably why I paint flowers instead (now and then) . . .

And write about them—which I did from the first page to the last in “When Flowers Bloom,” the 3rd book in the Oh, Mateo! series (illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero).
For this book, I focused on the value of hardwork—of using time wisely. To help young readers visualize this value, I created a character, Ms. Milagrosa Florera Flores, who loved flowers with so much passion she never stopped making them bloom.

How? By planting them, embroidering them, crocheting them, quilting them, knitting them, drawing them, painting them, etc. etc. etc. on fans, baskets, bags, vases, curtains, scarves, etc. etc. etc. 

Only one little boy, Mateo, and her father, who remained awake while everyone slept before sleeping time, welcomed her.

But in the morning, how could anyone not notice a happy lady (“It is easier to be happy than to be sad!”) wearing a floral dress and flowers on her hair, who lived in a house that bloomed with flowers from the roof to the ground?

And what do you know? The townspeople were roused from stupor into excitement. And they, too, made flowers bloom!

(All the books in the Oh, Mateo series are available in any bookstore at P120 per copy)


Old Dogs, New Tricks

My learning curve for technology is steep, perhaps more steep than Mt. Everest. 
One day, my generation—who grew up on snail mail, the typewriter, and social telegram to name a few—woke up to a sea of gadgetry that challenged and upset our equilibrium.

What took my then 12-year-old son to learn in minutes took me a year or more. Before I could blink, more new-fangled contraptions rushed in and continue to deluge my already jumbled brain. What can an old dog do?

Learn new tricks, even way past the learning phase. Meaning, slog on, ask the same questions over and over again from any young tech savvy, who’d rather do it (with a scowl) than show you.

“Have an FB page apart from your personal page, Mom,” suggested son #1. “There you can freely talk about books without alienating any of your friends who do not read.”

It was a brilliant idea. But how was I going to do it?

“Read the instructions,” he said, instead of volunteering to do it for me.

Yeah, for one who loves reading, reading instructions should be a cinch. Naah.

So during the Christmas break, every waking hour, I fiddled with icons on my computer. This was in cadence with a dull ache in my head that came and went with every mouse movement and keyboard click.

After two weeks, just two days before Christmas, voila!
“Try Instagram, Mom,” my daughter-in-law prodded me. Naah.

“Do Twitter,” suggested son #2. Naah.

“Download the app that I use for . . .” my student chirped. Naah.

One trick at a time.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV)


Does God Play Favorites?

God’s Favorite is a series of three children’s books for beginning readers. These are concept books especially written to help adults (parents and teachers particularly) introduce to young children basic knowledge—colors, shapes, and faces—that will become an important part of their learning process. 
What makes this series different from all other concept books? 

It builds on what children already know about God. It weaves concepts with God’s wondrous creations. In colorful images (by imaginative artist Ggie A. Bernabe), every page shows the little ones that everything good they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is a gift from above; that our Creator understands and loves all children. 

Through this inter-connectedness of concepts and a loving heavenly Father, children will gain a deeper appreciation of a mighty God whom they need to thank and praise as they grow up. 

Book #3, God’s Favorite Face, tackles racism in a light, simple manner. My prayer as I wrote this book: if only children at an early age will discover that facial characteristics and skin color vary from country to country, and that God loves them equally (no favorites!), they might grow up without prejudices.  
But an author and an artist can only do so much. It is only by grace that knowledge can come to any child through his parents’ values and guidance, reinforced in school by his  teachers.

". . . Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.'” (Matthew 19:14 NLT)

These books are available at any bookstore at P120 each. You may also order them online: www.omflit.com


The Secret Ingredient

Many successful family restaurants have a particular dish or specialty that makes them different from all others. The recipe, which is a tightly guarded secret, is usually passed on to the next generation by the matriarch of the family.

While eating the paella in one such restaurant recently, I was reminded of my book,“The Secret Ingredient” (Oh, Mateo! #9) written in the year 2006.

What inspired the book, however, was not this kind of secret ingredient, but the “ingredient” that pleases the Lord.

Mateo, the eight-year-old hero in the book, had often wondered what was inside the small clay jar atop the highest shelf in the kitchen. His father always took a pinch of the ingredient inside and sprinkled it into everything he cooked.

But whenever he asked his father what it was, he’d  say, “This was your late mother's; she passed it on to me when she got sick.” He would add that Mateo had to wait till he was older to cook and find out for himself what the secret ingredient was. 

Teo didn't have to wait. His father figured in a mishap and Mateo had to do the cooking! This unexpected accident led to his discovery of the secret ingredient that made his father’s cooking so yummy.

The book and the author (right) before age crept up on her
What could that secret ingredient be?

If you are a faith brethren, and you believe in the saving grace of Jesus, birthed over two thousand years ago, I am sure you know what makes you different from all others.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert: This was handwritten on a tiny piece of paper by Teo's late mother. She placed it inside the small clay jar as a reminder to always honor God with her cooking and everything she does.


River of Praise

When I was told that our first stop in my Cebu Book tour was a school named River of Praise, I was reminded of this verse:

“Look! There is a river whose streams make the city of God rejoice, even the Holy Place of the Most High. Since God is in her midst, she will not be shaken. God will help her at the break of dawn."  (Psalm 46:4 ISV)

We were going to a Christian school, where God is in its midst!

The general vicinity was an unlikely place for an educational institution. A line of busy stores and a public market were beside and across it. But as soon as we entered the tall gate, I seemed to have been transported to a river whose streams make the whole campus praise.

There must have been 300 children in the auditorium where I was to tell the story of  The White Shoes (art by Sergio Bumatay and published by Hiyas.)
My thoughts, What should I do to keep their attention?  How can I reach the kids at the far end of the place?   

I worried for naught. The children from the first row to the last listened and answered all my questions in a roaring chorus. Then pandemonium broke loose when we offered free books as prizes to whomever was brave enough to say his thoughts about the story.    

Ah, the school was indeed a river of praise. Chatting with the teachers and school head before leaving the campus capped a morning of grace.   


Unique School, Unique Kids

One of the nine stops in my Cebu book tour was Marie Ernestine School (founded by Dr. Marie Ernestine D. Fajatin).

What makes this school unique is that it employs the Environment Science Education Curriculum (ESEC). Its thrust is on interrelationships of people and their environment and focused on environmental consciousness. Founded in 1976, the school has two campuses; we visited the one located in Lapu-Lapu.

And there the grade school children were waiting.

It was the same drill—some story telling, some Q and A, some interviews, some book signing—but it was another totally new and grace-filled experience.

Kids are unpredictable and their responses to anything is different. They are adorable and unique this way.

These photos tell the tale of that unique afternoon: