Thursday, January 15, 2015

Philippines Day 6: Family party

December 27, 2014 - family party in the garden
The new gazebo in the garden
One of the big events during our trip was our family party. We have a section of land near our family compound that's simply known as "the garden" or, sometimes more formally, as "Nanay's Garden", referring to my grandmother. A neighbor's house stands between our family compound and the garden so it's literally just a few steps away from our house. One section holds my uncle's furniture making shop, another section is a barbecue pit where they roast overflow lechons during peak season. The rest of the garden used to be a large piece of land that was basically where anything could grow, did. Today various tropical trees abound, including banana trees and apple mango hybrids.
Recently, my dad had it cleared and a cement gazebo structure was erected. Open air with a large, high, peaked roof and a cement floor, it’s an ideal place to host parties and other social gatherings. Which is what we did for our family party. It was part family, part family friends, part former high school kids from my dad’s old high school. He does a lot to support his old school, does fundraising for scholarships for the kids, to buy computer equipment, supplies and so on and he keeps in touch with many of the former students, including inviting some of them to the gathering.
Ready to hold the lechon
Flower centerpiece for each table
The party was scheduled to be a luncheon at noon so that morning, we (me, my sister, my nieces, my mom and dad and a few cousins and helpers from the compound) gathered to help set up. We had rented tables, chairs, seat covers and tablecloths from a local business; they dropped them off and we set them up. My mom had brought some Christmas-themed decorations and my nieces showed a flair for the artsy in setting them up. My sister commissioned our temporary maid to seek out flower centerpieces for each of the tables and she came up with great ones that provided a nice splash of color against each white tablecloth.

Another one of my cousins, Ate Susan (“Ate” – pronounced “ah-teh” - is a term of respect for an older sister or an older female cousin), who’s known as one of the good cooks in the family, did the heavy lifting of doing most of the cooking for the party. We were expecting around 70 people and in Filipino culture, that means you make enough food for at least 100. Remember, be generous with food and food will be generous with you. 
Balut (duck eggs)
Pancit Malabon
Another shot of the Pancit Malabon
My dad bought the biggest lechon available (it helps to have connections in the family business) and Ate Susan made Manok sa Pina (Chicken in Pineapple), lumpiang sariwa (the vegetable filling for fresh veggie lumpia, not to be confused with fried lumpia filled with pork), Beef Mercado (beef stew in a tomato-based sauce), Pancit Malabon (my favorite Filipino noodle dish) and another beef dish. Our family friend, Beckang, made batchoy. Uh, that would be classified as “deep Filipino food”, not quite for my Americanized taste buds even if I wasn’t such a picky eater. But everyone else loved it. We also had balut or duck eggs, something our hometown of Pateros is famous for. Desserts were leche flan, also courtesy of Ate Susan as that’s her specialty and a side business for her and her son (Swannie’s Jars) and Buko Pandan, a traditional Filipino dessert made of young coconut or "buko" and pandan leaves. Plus rice. Must always have rice at a Filipino luncheon.

Manok sa Pina (Chicken in Pineapple)

Vegetable filling normally for Vegetable Lumpia
Leche Flan
Buko Pandan
The family theme was red and white. Per my sister’s instructions for picture-taking purposes, the girls wore red and the males wore white. Or some semblance of it. When you have as many family members as we do, 80-90% compliance is pretty good. At our major family reunions, we always try to take group pictures. It’s something to document and cherish as the years go by, children grow up, other family members pass, and the rest of us just….grow older.
All in all, a fun day with the family. The gazebo proved to be a boon and a great way to christen the launch of a new branch of the family business – providing a location for others to hire for their parties and events.

Just a fraction of our family


  1. Family parties are always fun and especially if we all are on trip!! You really did amazing arrangements dear. Pancit Malabon looks so yummy, and even everything seems delicious. Well, I am hiring catering services for my next party at LA venues. Can you suggest how should I find them?

    1. Are you looking for Filipino food for your party? I'd suggest either going to your favorite Filipino restaurant and see if they cater or offer party trays (many of them do) or seeing the highest rated ones on yelp to start with.