Our Philippine Airlines flight got us into Brisbane 40 minutes ahead of schedule. It was mid-morning in Queensland. The weather was perfect; blue skies, warm brilliant sunshine and nippy breezes in the shade.
You can feel the cordial welcome of Australia as soon as you land. “Welcome to Brisbane, luv,” one woman called out from the bridge.
There are, however, no baggage porters in the airport. I asked why. The lady pushing my wheelchair explained, “Because in Australia, wages are high and our government cannot afford to pay the big salaries.” Is that good or bad news?
When she collected our luggage from the carousel, she would not take a tip. “No luv, that is not necessary!”
It is that way here Down Under? I had forgotten.
I travelled with my third born. She is very good company, has a fantastic sense of humor and lots of patience. We laughed a lot.
The trip takes almost eight hours, and ours was an overnight flight. We watched a couple of Pinoy movies and I was thrilled to see her name in the credits, under music. She napped off and on and I did my puzzles.
And as I stormed heaven for traveling mercies, I suddenly realized how blessed I am to still be able to take these jaunts halfway across the world. I am immensely grateful.
Just a number
Early evening of Oct. 5 was a bit wet. But no one seemed to care. Nothing could dampen our spirits.
It was my cousin’s 90th birthday. In her case, age is truly just a number.
Mily Razon Toda is as spry as a 30-year-old—healthy, sharp, agile and totally in touch with everything and everyone around her. Widowed two years ago, she lives alone in a ranch-type house on golf property in Robina. Her eldest son lives a street away. Her home is always impeccably clean and tidy, as if she were expecting company.
Mily was one of the first graduates of the once famous culinary school of Doña Mameng Cuyugan. She cooks like no one else I know.
For her 90th, her children hosted a banquet-style lauriat dinner at the elegant Jasmin Room in Southport. There were 22 of us seated around two huge round tables each set up with fine China, crisp linen and a beautiful centerpiece of spring flowers. The party souvenirs were handmade candles in musk, lime, coconut, patchouli and pear fragrances.
What is a lauriat all about? In Chinese, it describes a meal for special celebrations. It is derived from the Chinese word lau diat, which means a special occasion.
Certainly this birthday was more than just special. It was significant, momentous and deserved all the frills and fanfare.
There was an endless parade of delectable dishes, starting with succulent Peking duck, served two ways. I could have quit right after the diced duck meat wrapped in lettuce was served. But no! I stayed all the way to the grand finale, noodles for long life.
At both tables the Lazy Susans spun nonstop, laden with platters of incredibly delicious entrées. Wine flowed. Diets were ignored. The birthday cake had nine candles, one for every decade of her life.
It was a wonderful reunion. Her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews came in from Manila and Sydney, and a sister-in-law flew in from Denver, Colorado to celebrate.
Before dinner was served, Mily’s first grandson gave a truly touching welcome speech.
Rafa, 29, took time to pay tribute to his “gammy.” He enumerated her loving and affectionate ways, her patience and her constant, selfless encouragement. All true. I have seen how she dotes on her five grandchildren, hangs on their every word and makes sure she is up to date in all they do at school and in their work places.
But it was particularly moving to hear him describe her as a “no-nonsense grandmother,” meaning she calls it as she sees it. It warmed my heart that he spoke about it almost in awe, with affection and genuine respect.
It speaks highly of the younger generation when boundaries are recognized and appreciated. It normally takes a lifetime for this to happen at all. Young people instinctively resist and resent our old-school opinions and advice. Too often our best intentions are misconstrued. As a result, many of us withhold the wisdom of our years, just to keep the peace. Not Mily!
The party’s over
They say there is a certain magic that happens when kindred souls get together, a special kind of “high.” What a privilege it was to have felt it once again.
I recently read a lovely piece about reunions. I don’t know who wrote it. I wish I had. It touches at the very heart of why we drop everything just to be with family.
“A reunion is a chance to share our history, a reason to celebrate our past, a time to remember, a time to laugh, to celebrate, to share old stories and make new memories. It is a time to see each other in the faces all around us, and find reflections of ourselves in hearts both young and old. A reunion is a coming together that strengthens the bond of family and reminds us of the gift of belonging.”