Keeping Up With Traditions

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the kind of person who honors traditions. I stick to the same plan every year, never really changing what I’ve grown accustomed to doing growing up.

Birthday at Xavierville house
A very washed out shot probably from a film camera.

Every birthday meant I’d have my friends over, have them sing me a birthday song, I’d blow out the candles and make a wish with my eyes closed. Even the food would be the same: lasagna with my mom’s bechamel sauce, orange spare ribs, and jungle juice (a recipe taught by my high school English teacher of all people, lol). When we were still living in Xavierville, the night would not end without a midnight walk to the park. History would repeat itself over and over again.

My 20th Birthday
The year I turned 20.

Until one year, I didn’t want a party. My friends still surprised me that year, but eventually, we also moved out of our house. I could no longer have friends over. And my birthday tradition was suddenly gone. Or so I thought.

It simply changed. I celebrated with smaller groups and stretched my birthday into weeks. My awesome friends even surprised me by pooling together money, so I could buy a new oven a few years ago. These past few years, I’ve tried to go on a birthday trip when I can and when I have the funds to splurge.

With my mom in our house in Marikina many years ago.

Christmas is another tradition that has constantly evolved for me. From getting our stockings filled with chocolate and toys when we were still living in Marikina to heading over to my Lola’s place in Iba to open gifts after midnight. I remember my parents would take us shopping for clothes and gifts on the 24th because there were hardly ever any people at the mall anymore. That and my mom is just really last minute, haha.

I used to complete Simbang Gabi with my parents—first in the Xavierville chapel then eventually in Gesu. Then when my mom passed away, I just stopped going completely. Maybe one day, I’ll go again.

The year before she died, we spent our holidays in Olongapo, where we had Noche Buena at a Korean restaurant that oddly served Filipino food. It feels so long ago, but I still remember the tiny tree my brother brought along with gifts for all of us.

With Mira on Christmas Eve
Mira Christmas

And when Mira came along, we all got excited seeing her rip her gifts open and excitedly play with her new toys right away. I would bravely drive us all the way to the South just so we could spend Christmas Eve with her. These days, you can’t even get me to drive myself to the grocery. LOL.

Maybe this year will be different again, but it doesn’t worry me. Traditions are great, but they’re also not permanent. They can fade, linger, and sometimes transform, depending on your situation. Maybe they stay the same for as long as you need them to.

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