It was the line of Hermes, played by actor Nathan Fillion in the movie Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters, which resonated when the idea of family zipped through my mind. It seemed like Hermes was talking to himself, remembering how he shouldn’t give up on his wayward son, Luke. He told Percy, “One never gives up on family.” Given my naturally sarcastic disposition, I rephrased that into “One never gives up on select family.” Some are, as I conversed with myself, just meant to be at best acknowledged and at worse ignored.
It is quite easy to pontificate about family and how it is the very reason for one’s existence, but the ideal vis-à-vis reality is a different story. More often than not, it is family that is the very first to betray you in the face of adversity, choosing money over kin. Propinquity is automatically expected because of the same blood that runs through the veins, but reality is farther from the truth. Friends act more like family, bonding with you through your joy or empathizing with you in your tribulations, while the Tito, Tita, and pinsan (Tagalog for uncle, auntie, and cousin respectively) are nothing but perfect strangers. Complete strangers, in fact, are easier to deal with because there won’t be any love lost if verbal jousting had to be resorted to. The familial strangers are too outré, complicated even, to lock horns with because of the underlying belief that they would never be spiteful and all that jazz. Again, reality says otherwise. Family members can, in fact, be more acerbic, pointing out bluntly your inadequacies – never mind theirs – such as being single, fat, aged, old fashioned, having a nondescript job, technologically challenged, and penurious.
Fortunately, Lady Serendipity was feeling benevolent and the ideal and reality coalesced. I began hanging out with Tito Ric, my mum’s older brother, who was in and out of my life when I was wee child, but in the recent years have hung out with like a kabarkada (colloquial Tagalog for ‘part of the gang’) whenever I’d be home for a holiday. The meet up would be for lunch at Makati, choosing a restaurant we both liked, and then spend the next few hours chatting away. Tito Ric and I had eaten at Museum Cafe and Razon’s before so Via Mare Oyster Bar in Glorietta was it this time. We ignored the oysters zooming straight for the pancit luglug as our main course and sotong goreng (a hint of Indonesian flavour for the Filipino-Western restaurant) for appetizer. Given that squid is a tad difficult to cook – it becomes tough when overcooked – the sotong goreng was a fantastic choice. The deep-fried battered squid tentacles dipped in chili sauce were crunchy and flavourful even to the last hour of our lunch. The pancit luglug – thick vermicelli noodles in shrimp paste sauce topped with squid rings, boiled egg, and crushed chitsaron (Filipino for pork crackling) – and the sotong goreng danced a mean samba on the palate.
Our chat fest – anything under the sun as one of my former high school Maths teacher always used to say – continued, moving from Via Mare to Coffeebean and Tea Leaf. He had his Americano poured, as he requested, in his Starbucks tumbler while I had a pure double chocolate ice blended. As we sipped our drinks, I saw how the family jigsaw puzzle was getting formed with the pieces coming together with our sides of the “stories” – personal or otherwise – with the personal aspect particularly the blurry episodes in the past now making sense, familial connections and disconnections confirmed, and the family tree clearer.
Lunch with Tito proved how good company and good food will always make for a wonderful experience, and how, giving it time, family ties can only get better. Now, we are deciding where the next lunch is going to be.