Last weekend, I and my whole family celebrated Nengkoy’s 82nd birthday. And every year, we make sure that Nengkoy’s birthday is celebrated in a grand way. The whole family would spend overnight in an opulent resort out of town.
But this year was a little different. Though it was still an overnight out of town, it is now held not in a luxury resort but at a more private place. The venue this year was a little different and a lot farther from Manila. It was a 5-hour travel by land. We held it at the super huge and lavish house of Thatcher and Alexis, my niece and nephew-in-law or the two of the plenty grandchildren of Nengkoy.
And like every other year that was, this year’s celebration was a blast. And an addition to the already huge family has joined us, our little boy Arziolo joined the fun filled celebration.
Nengkoy gave us a scare last year when she suffered from some numerous serious ailments. We hope that this year would be a very good year for Nengkoy health wise. The whole family only has two wishes for her. That would be good health and continuous luck in her mahjong exploits.
Last year on my birthday, I went to the Love Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, and surprisingly met an angel in disguise. This year on my birthday, I went to Mexico City and saw the cloak of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
My birthday this year was really special because I got to visit the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe! The basilica that houses the very popular cloak in which the image of our Lady of Guadalupe has been miraculously been impressed and printed so as to authenticate Virgin Mary’s apparitions in the area.
My birthday this year fell on a Saturday yet there was a Holy Mass service held in the basilica when I arrived. This gave me the opportunity to hear a Mexican Holy Mass and say humongous thanks to the Lady of Guadalupe for the rare travel gift of experiencing the amazing city of Mexico.
The modern Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is vast and massive complex. It is the most visited Marian shrine in Mexico because it houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is interesting to know that the new basilica was only completed in 1974. The old basilica (finished in 1709) on the other hand is just adjacent to it but is already sinking. Its floor has got some deep slope and its façade has evidently tilted. It looks like it will dangerously fall and crumble anytime.
My prayer to the Lady of Guadalupe was all about my being thankful that I got to experience Mexico. I did not asked for any miracle because my seeing and marveling over the beauty and holiness of the cloak during my birthday has been one major miracle for me already.
If I am to choose a place where to bring a foreigner-friend so as to fully immerse him to the culture of the Philippines, I would choose Villa Escudero in Tiaong Quezon.
Villa Escudero seem to contain and characterize a wide assortment of a true Filipino culture. Employees from engineering, to servers, to housekeeping and receptionists are all comfortably dressed in the traditional “patadyong” for the ladies and the colorful “camisa de chino” are worn by the guys.
The structures of Villa Escudero room accommodations are all native, characteristic of the traditional Filipino house known as “Bahay Kubo”. Villa Escudero also boasts of a marvelous museum collection, majority of which are about the rich Filipino religion, clothings, history and even fauna.
After a glorious Filipino buffet lunch right in the middle of a river with a man-made waterfalls as a backdrop, guests will get to enjoy and watch a Filipino show inside a humongous pavilion. The show features various uniquely Filipino dances, costumes and customs. I particularly loved the energetic TInikling dance, the funny vignette about Sabong, the robust and brawny Maglalatik and of course the singing of the song Filipinas at the end of the show. The show boasts about its authenticity for it was conceptualized and choreographed by the late Filipino National Artist for Dance, Mr. Ramon Obusan.
Then later in the afternoon, guests would get to enjoy and listen to a “harana” (a serenade). In the old days in the Philippines, a way for a suitor to woo a lady is by having a visit in the lady’s house. But prior to being allowed inside the lady’s abode, the suitor needs to sing by the lady’s window otherwise known as the Harana.
If the young lass showed up through her window, it means that the admirer will be welcomed inside the house after he finish his singing. But if the lady refuse to show up and face the singing dude by her window, it signifies that she is not interested towards the guy singing outside. In Villa Escudero, their male employees get to sing old and traditional Filipino song in front of the houses where guests are billeted as if they are doing a “harana”.
But what I am most impressed about the authentic Filipino element present in Villa Escudero was its excellent food selection during breakfast. Never have I seen a buffet breakfast as Filipino as that of the selection of dishes served in Villa Escudero!
It seem that all remarkable Filipino breakfast dishes are featured in their buffet. Aside from the usual fruits, yogurt, cereals, jams, milk and eggs, there were Filipino breakfast varieties like Champorado, Singangag, Lannganisa, Lugaw, Gatas Ng Calabao, Suman Sa Lihiya, Bibingka, Crispy Danggit, Crispy Dilis, Quesong Puti and of course Kapeng Barako.
Why do I know all these? It is because Villa Escudero was again the chosen venue of Nengkoy for her to celebrate her 81st birthday. Six years ago, this was the same venue for Nengkoy’s 75th birthday. Villa Escudero no matter what year we visit still has the same authentic Filipino elements for everybody to enjoy.
Theory in quantum mechanics has mathematically proven that an alternate universe subsists. That similar us’s actually exists in those universes. And if I would be given the choice, I would still want my mother to be my mother in that alternate universe. Nengkoy no doubt has been such an awesome mother and she has turned 80 years old last March 3.
I was too happy to write a blog then. And now that the elation has receded a bit, let me blow a shower of kisses and greet an awesome Happy Birthday to Nengkoy!
Me and my elder sister Gaying believes that there is a direct and positive correlation between the way a person looks and the number of flyers that person receives every time he or she is in a mall. We believe the more affluent-looking or rich-looking you are, the more flyers will be handed to you by Flyer Ladies and Flysheet Dudes inside a mall.
That is why when I and my elder sister Gaying would be together inside a mall for some shopping, we have some sort of a small competition. We would tally how many flyers would be handed over to each of us. The person who receives the most number of flyers at the end of shopping wins.
Scoring would actually depend on the type of flyer given to us. If the flyer would be about a luxury car, a posh condo unit or a high-born club membership that would mean high points. But if the flyer is about a missing pet, a launching of a new soy sauce brand or would be about a dishwashing liquid that would definitely trigger hilarious pang-aapi (verbal oppression) and riotous heckling towards the person who received it.
And since it’s my Ate Gaying’s birthday today and though we did not go shopping today, let me concede and declare that today even without any flyer (just for today though) that she looks richer and more high-heeled than I am.
Sige dahil bertday mo, mas mukha kang mayaman ngayong araw kesa sa kin. Happy Birthday Ate!