Three weeks of festivities – Moalboal, Philippines

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I survived the brutal heat and humidity during the three weeks I spent in Moalboal, my hometown on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  Whew, summer in the Philippines is like living inside a broiler oven 24 hours a day, not to mention the ever-present humidity and stickiness on the skin.  But I endured it for the love of family, and to attend other festivities there – birthdays, reunions, a town fiesta and a wedding!

Celebrating my mother’s 97th birthday was every bit a good reason to return back home, even though Steve and I had visited her just a few months before.  The multi-day event began with a group of friends serenading her at dawn on her birthday, and continued with a tribute to her a few days later when everyone from abroad had arrived.

Monica Babiera Sandalo

The birthday girl at 97!

Many of you know I come from a family of twelve, me being the eleventh child.  My dad passed away in 1969 and my mom was left behind to support and send all of us to school on her meager salary as a public school teacher.  She has always been the glue that holds us all together, and I have to say she is one amazing woman.

Em Mo Sandalo Family

It was cheaper by the dozen then, and my parents produced an equal number of boys and girls! That cute girl striking a pose in the front row is me

During all of these subsequent years my family has multiplied and lived in different parts of the Philippines and other countries.  We always look forward to big family gatherings and re-connecting again, along with getting to know new additions to the family tree.  We dubbed this family event the Em Mo Sandalo family reunion, Emiliano being my dad’s first name and Monica my mom’s.

Thered1

The amazing mother with “only” nine of her brood (three could not attend), 54 years after that first family picture was taken

The descendants of the Emiliano and Monica family tree have continued growing, as shown in the group picture below.  About a third of the family could not attend this gathering:

The Sandalo' today

My family by the numbers: from the original twelve there are 28 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren

A family this size required a two-day family event – one day at the beach which the second generation sponsored, and a second gathering at the ancestral home sponsored by the grandchildren.

Despite the sweltering heat, the beach bash was a great success with plenty of food to go around and activities for all age groups.

Em Mo Sandalo Family Reunion

The family reunion at the beach

Not to be outdone, the grandchildren sponsored a Mexican Fiesta-themed gathering the following day that featured a huge food spread.  All of the eating was followed by a night full of karaoke singing.  Many Filipino homes have a karaoke machine or a “Magic Sing” microphone, which is a digital device that turns a television into a karaoke machine. This entertainment is often featured at family events, and our gathering was no exception.  As always, there were “aspiring” singers and then there were talented singers.

Sandalo Family Reunion

A spread to feed an army – a table full of grilled seafood, pork ribs, chicken and hanging rice (puso)

Mother was truly touched on this evening.  She was full of happy emotions as she watched her grandchildren and great grandchildren dancing and singing to pay her a tribute.  It was a night full of fun, laughter and much happiness.

Monica Babiera Sandalo

A very happy grandma!

Our family reunions are always a time to rekindle ties and refresh relationships, especially for those of us who now live outside the Philippines.  Each passing year yields one or more additions to the family, either by birth or by marriage, and our gatherings are often the only chance we get to meet them.  We always look forward to seeing each other again!

I also attended my high school grand reunion during this visit.  I had looked forward to this event too, as it was the first time I had attended an alumni homecoming since my high school graduation.

SJHS Class 74

San Juan High School – Class 1974

What made this gathering so special was that our Father Director from my school was also in attendance.  His mentoring and training had a big impact on my career and life in general.  I was very happy to see him again after 41 years!

Fr Francisco G Silva

With Father Francisco G. Silva, the former director of San Juan High School

In sweltering heat, wearing makeup and dressed to the nine’s, I traveled to another island in Dumaguete City to attend my nephew’s wedding.  This was also a great occasion for meeting cousins from distant islands.  In Dumaguete City I met with my first cousins whom I used to visit with my dad in my younger days.  I had not seen them since my dad’s passing, and it was so great to catch up with them again!

All of the festivities made the three weeks fly by.  As hectic as my schedule was and as hot as the days were, being able to bond with family and reunite with cousins and high school classmates made this visit very precious for me.



 

 

 

 

Days filled with outdoor fun – Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

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Banana Leaves for umbrella

This is the 3rd in our series of posts about our trip to the Philippines.  Check out #1 here and #2 here if you’re interested in the first two installments.

Laughter

Laughter and good times were the order of the day!  With Beboy, Gigi, Bebut and Gwen

Aside from spending quality time with family, we also sneaked out to have some outdoor fun with my longtime hometown friends.  A favorite pastime during our visit was to show up at a friend’s house where we would sit, talk, laugh and eat all day long – forgetting about time as we can only do while in my country.

My childhood bff Gigi and her husband Stan flew in from Australia while we were there.  Although we don’t normally talk very often, when we do, it seems like we just pick up where we left off the last time.  You see, we have known each other since kindergarten, as our mothers were co-teachers at our public school.  During our growing years our hometown was very small, and we knew everyone.  Most of the original “locals” are gone now, but Steve was still amazed when I yelled out the name of someone and started an exciting chat as we walked down the street.  But I digress…

Anyhow, I am proud that my  hometown has one of the best scuba diving areas in the Philippines, and according to many of the divers there, some sites are world-class.  That’s why Steve selected Moalboal as his place to get certified during our trip in 2009.  Although he hadn’t dived since then, he was excited to get back out there on this trip to enjoy the beauty – after taking a “refresher” dive off the beach at the resort where he stayed for 2 nights.

It’s quite ironic that an island girl like me who grew up here has never seen and experienced the beauty below the surface of the sea.  But Steve and Stan dove together several times; Stan is a very experienced diver, and Steve was happy to tag along as his partner on their adventures.  Judging by their big smiles and excited talks afterward, a good time was had by all!

Scuba Diving in Moalboal

Diving partners Stan (left) and Steve heading out to the diving boat

Diving in Moalboal

Off they go to Pescador Island, the destination for this dive – that little island in the left of the picture

Since we don’t have underwater cameras, I found this video clip of some of the amazing creatures they saw under Pescador Island:

Steve assured me that this is exactly what it’s like there, although they didn’t encounter the “clouds” of sardines swimming around on this dive as he did in 2009.  But what a fantastic adventure!

On another day we took an early morning walk with Stan and Gigi, but halfway through a sudden rain storm hit us.  Although the rain felt good, we didn’t want to get drenched. We were happy when Gigi asked a lady along the road if she could spare some banana tree leaves for us to use as umbrellas.  We showed our husbands how we dealt with rain storms in the days when we didn’t have such luxuries – they were impressed!

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Four umbrellas coming up!

Banana leaves

And viola, we have instant umbrellas!

The rain did not let up after we donned our new rain gear, so we took shelter near a school to wait it out.  When it was apparent that the storm was going to last for a while, we were finally able to flag down one of the ubiquitous “pedicabs” that service the areas around town.

As I explained to Steve, in the Phlippines a pedicab is a motorcycle-propelled cab that holds up to 4 passengers or more and the driver.  A “trisikad” is the same except the propulsion is via a bicycle.  You don’t want to get stuck behind a trisikad when you’re driving through town!

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Just another day in the Philippines!  Isn’t it obvious that Steve loved riding around in these things?

Near Moalboal is a big tourist draw, the Kawasan Falls.  It’s only a 30-minute drive from home, but believe it or not I had never been there.  Because of my ultra-strict mother, I was a sheltered child (cue violin music here) and not allowed to go anywhere she thought danger lurked – and swimming at the falls was one of them.  Although she gave her blessing this time, she didn’t fail to offer us many warnings about what not to do while there.  At 96 she is still very protective.

Kawasan Falls

The walking bridge had been destroyed during the typhoon “Quennie” we endured on our first day here, so we had to walk with a guide across this hazardous passage.  Good thing mom didn’t know about this!

The waterfall consists of three tiers, but we were told by the locals at the gate that we could not go above the lower falls.  The recent typhoon had washed away foot bridges and trails, and we had to have a guide to get us out there.  Due to the recent heavy rains, the waterfall was gushing with beautiful clear water.

Kawasan falls

Kawasan Falls

Stan, Gigi, me and Steve – look mom, we survived!

Along with all the fun was a little business I had to take care of.  On Facebook I led a group of Moalboalanons to take on a small project in our town.  Thanks to FB, our membership is global.  We mostly chat on Facebook or use Skype for our meetings.  Since I had not met most of them, this visit was my chance to meet, in person, the active members who were doing a lot of our project’s work.  We have had limited success on our initial project, but we’re looking forward to doing more good things for our little town.

Trashbins in Tulay

Our first project  – installing trash bins along our rock pier – called  Tulay

Facebook Tulay

Facebook Tulay group local active members – Joe D, Dong B, Creamz Blue and Vincent E

After filling our eight days with family bonding and fun with friends in Moalboal, it was time to move on and explore another island…

Next up:   Experiencing a slice of The Most Beautiful Island in the World for 2014