The month of September heralds the advent of autumn in Canada and for Canadians it means anticipating the onset of leaf fall. As temperature begins to drop gradually to a comfortable level and the end of everything estival and serotinal becomes impending, somewhere in Philippines, California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and even in the most unlikely place like Alaska, bags are packed, passports readied, and airline tickets confirmed. Excitement floats the air as North America Filii start to descend to their respective airports of origin to catch their flights inbound to Toronto Pearson International Airport to attend the Filii 6th biennial reunion in Canada.
This introduction is well on its way except that in every story there’s always a twist or two. The temperature has unseasonably spiked to 32 degrees Celsius when fray Mike arrived in Toronto, much to his surprise as he came prepared in anticipation of cold weather, having brought with him thermal undershirts, sweater and jacket. Another inexplicable twist, fray Joan Dinopol who flew from Texas to Newark, texted to inform me that his passport was left behind inadvertently in Texas so he could not further his travel plan to Toronto. And if the passport excuse is yet a passe, fray Albert also announced that he’s traveling alone as his wife Glo couldn’t make their trip due to delayed delivery of her passport. In the midst of all this, fray Joel was totally passport-worry-free as he was making strides driving in his relatively new white Toyota Camry from New Jersey to Niagara for a good 7 hours or so.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Brampton, Ontario (a sprawling suburb populated by 593K, 60% of which is Asian mostly composed of Indians and Pakistanis), at 3 Tovey Terrace, exactly 18 clicks away from the airport, lies our chosen home for a week. The rental home is perfect for Filii to bond, have fun, and is in the center of our planned itineraries. The house has six bedrooms and four-and-a-half washrooms, finished basement with ample space for band jamming, large kitchen and adjoining living room where we can celebrate our daily mass, and a separate formal dining area and receiving room.
Friday, September 22nd – The First Arrival
Fray Mike was the first to touch down in Toronto. As our ubiquitous founder and leader, he paved the way for others, literally and figuratively. I was supposed to pick up fray Mike on the eve of September 21st but his flight was 9 hours behind schedule. PAL was forced to fly back to Japan to drop off a passenger who had a medical emergency. Despite protracted travel hours, fray Mike was upbeat, his travel story was far from boring. As life’s drama unfolds, fray Mike volunteered to help out a dad who encountered challenges in caring for his three young kids just by himself. The dad was overwhelmed by his three kids who at times were understandably playful, hyper and unruly. Such was a story of a family where mom left her kids and husband for another man, opened up an opportunity for kindness and charity on the part of fray Mike who unflinchingly lent a hand in making sure not a single kid could venture out of sight away from the family. So fray Mike decided to babysit one of the kids while in transit at the airport, even at the cost of a laughable and awkward situation where people thought fray Mike and the dad are partners. Welcome to the LGBT world, fray Mike, where two men with small kids are conveniently deduced as a couple.
Our Brampton house was not available until Sunday afternoon, September 24th, so we offered fray Mike a humble accommodation in our home. Fray Mike came with two large suitcases full of pasalubong much to Mayette’s delight as most of the items he brought are not available in Canada. Fray Mike’s challenge now was to refill those two suitcases with Canadian goods. My mission therefore in the next couple of days was to take him to different shopping malls. On fray Mike’s first day, I took him to Sporting Life store in the high-end Sherway Garden mall where he picked up some sporting apparels. Severe jet lag hit fray Mike early. We decided to go home so he could take a snooze and get some rest. In the evening we extended fray Mike a little welcome gesture with a teppanyaki dinner with my kumpare Orlin in attendance, who afterward drove us to Diamond for an evening of cultural entertainment. We could have stayed longer in Diamond but the presentation was not at par with expectation, besides fray Mike was struggling with keeping his eyes open as the effect of jet lag was too much to bear.
The next day (Saturday, September 23rd), I drove fray Mike to Bass Pro outdoor store in Vaughan as he wanted to buy some trekking, camping and winter items. Fray Mike is a prolific shopper and knows exactly what to get. It didn’t take him long to fill his shopping cart to the brim. From Vaughan we drove to Handaan, a Pilipino restaurant in Mississauga, for lunch as fray Mike was craving for sinigang. Fray Mike’s shopping mission was accomplished in less than two days. In the evening we took fray Mike to Mississauga’s Port Credit where we had dinner with my sister-in-law, Nally Magallanes, at the Crooked Cue resto, after which we strolled by the river and marina to let ingested food digest away.
On Sunday afternoon, September 24th, we moved to our venue in Brampton. It took me three trips to transport supplies, musical equipment, extra mattresses, etc., with the help of fray Mike and my son. By night time the Filii home was ready for occupation. Cooking items laid on top of granite counter, groceries good for a week filled kitchen shelves and cupboards.
Mayette conceded the kitchen to fray Mike as the latter insisted on cooking his own menu. Fray Mike did not disappoint as he served us with three delightful dishes, his very own private concoctions where ingredients and cooking procedure are guarded by his strict code of secrecy. We just ate indulgently, and eat we did to our hearts content.
We set up the basement with band equipment as band members eventually came around 6:00 pm to gel and rehearse. For the first time, I was introduced to one of our local filii brother, fray Apol John Reyes (batchmate of Fr. JS Besa, OP), who live in Guelph, Ontario. Many times in our lives we attribute to an idiomatic expression “small world” when we discover a person having a common connection. Such was the case for fray Apol as he actually is an active member of a band of which my former bandmate and kumpadre, Dennis Camacho also belongs as lead guitarist. What a small world indeed. Fray Apol is a versatile and seasoned musician who can sing, play keyboard, acoustic guitar and bass. His professional background as a musician includes playing in Indonesia and Hongkong where he performed either in the band or solo with his acoustic guitar.
The house was getting readied. In the living room, Videoke system was installed and audio calibrated. In the kitchen area, a big bottle of Tanduay Gold rum imported from Philippines loomed large side by side with bottles of Jackson Triggs’ shiraz and cabernet sauvignons. Newly washed wine glasses lined neatly up in the overhead glass shelf ready to be used. Vertical retractable welcome sign and banner prominently positioned at the entrance of the house. Welcome packages duly labeled with Filii’s names containing shirts (courtesy of fray Mike who have them printed in the Philippines), sweatshirts and car decals neatly stacked, the house is indeed ready for the arrivals of Filii.
Monday, September 25th – Niagara Falls Rendezvous
Fray Mike, Mayette and I left Brampton in the morning after breakfast, headed to Niagara Falls where we planned to meet up with fray Joel Gabriel who at that time stayed at one of the hotels in Buffalo, just a river cross away from the Canada side of Niagara Falls. Monday was the only time for fray Mike to see the wonders of the Niagara Falls as he will be leaving Canada on Thursday evening. We eventually met with fray Joel at the entrance of the popular Fallsview Casino. From there we took a lift down to the Niagara Falls Welcome Center and tourist area where plenty of shots were captured and souvenir items bought. Buffet lunch followed at the Fallsview Grand Buffet overseeing the falls. As we convoyed on our way back to Brampton, we drove by the tourist area of Niagara-on-the-Lake to sightsee the vast vineyards along the way. Niagara-on- the-lake is home to many wine estates and known as the winery center in Ontario.
Tuesday, September 26th – More Filii Arriving
Arrival of Fr. Rey (Philippines), Fray Alex and Fati (Long Beach, California), Fray Albert (Rosemead, California) and Fray Ruben (Alaska). This means I got my work cut out for me as I will be busy fetching each one of them as they show up through the arrival door one after another at different times in different airport terminals. Fray Ruben was the last one to arrive at 7:30 pm. I had not seen fray Ruben since 1975 and the image I had recollected of him was blurry so I asked fray Albert to come with me to the airport to identify fray Ruben as they are cousins. Tuesday night was the first night to record 11 filii attendees including fray Noe Castanos, one of our local Filii hailed originally from Calinog, Iloilo and currently living in Thornhill, Toronto, and fray Celso who dropped by for a couple of hours and returned to the hotel where he stayed on business assignment during his first two days in Toronto. I can now sense a strong brotherhood in the air as the house is finally full of Filii.
Frays Alex, Mike and Mayette contributed to preparing our dinner as other filii congregate around the kitchen area to share many stories of individual accounts pertaining their personal journey both inside and outside the Dominican convent. Fray Ruben’s personal stories predominate the conversation as he single-handedly depleted the content of the imported Tanduay Gold Rum. He did this intentionally to rub off a tease onto fray Joan in his absence as it was him who requested fray Mike to bring a bottle of Tanduay rum. As the evening progresses, another bottle of cabernet-sauvignon joined the Tanduay bottle in the garbage bin, thoroughly empty, their spirit consumed and fueled an enlivened conversation interspersed with videoke singing and intermittent outburst of laughter. As the night deepens, the filii said their goodnights as they quietly retreated to their rooms for an evening respite from the rigor of intercontinental and coast-to-coast travel and jet lag.
Wednesday, September 27th – Tour of Downtown Toronto
We started the day with the morning mass officiated by Fr. Adalid. Fray Joel, North America’s official musician, provided the lineup of liturgical songs and musical accompaniment using his own keyboard which he brought all the way from New Jersey. Fray Albert took an enviable assignment as sacristan and as Fr. Adalid’s principal caretaker. It was a very tight and solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist, as we surrounded the altar interactively. The picture was somewhat reminiscent of our time when we were still postulants under the care of Fr. Adalid, relatively back in 1973 and later years. A group shot was taken right after the mass, everyone wearing our white reunion t-shirts, Fr. Adalid in the center of filii formation, a sight symbolic of a big close-knit family and a manifestation of unwavering Dominican spirit ingrained in each one. “Lahing Dominiko, laging Dominiko.” Breakfast ensued thereafter then a trip to the Downtown Toronto where everybody hopped in a 12-seater van driven by myself. The van did not change gear until after the prayer of safety had been invoked by Fr. Adalid. All aboard and accounted for, our first group trip commenced in earnest, anticipation, and excitement.
In Toronto by the lake, I dropped everyone off the famous Queens Quay esplanade, where I later joined them after securing a parking spot. Group photoshoots were the focal point as we take turns shooting with our cellphones and DSLR. The fresh water of the Ontario lake, wooden boardwalk, pirate adorned yachts, cruise ships and the looming presence of the famous CN Tower provided backdrops for all our group and individual shots. The sun’s glare was biting down as the weather forecast still recorded an unseasonably high temperature which registered in the neighborhood of 30 to 31 degrees Celsius. The group decided to take shelter in one of bar restaurants by the lake, where we were all seated at one big table to enjoy a variety of orders for lunch. Energized and rested, we then returned to our van to take a quick tour of the core downtown Toronto, after which we headed back to the Mississauga area where we stopped at Walmart and Costco stores to buy more grocery items to supplement our food provision for a week.
Back in the house, fray Alex, fray Celso and Mayette take turns in prepping and cooking for our dinner, while others are also involved in the tidying up of the house, dishwashing and garbage collection. Like a cog in a wheel, each one does a specific role that embodies teamwork as it is key to the success of our reunion. Soon dinner was announced, everybody flocks to the dining area and assumes his seating spot. Just as plates are filled with ambrosial food, so did our wine glasses with either Shiraz or cabernet-sauvignons, except for Fr. Adalid as he preferred to sip Morgan David’s Concorde red wine. Great conversations picked up again, everybody shared his own stories, jokes, and many interesting experiences without reservation as the frays are emboldened, soothed by the spirit of cabernet sauvignon. It wouldn’t be a true spirit of brotherhood and sharing if what proverbially happened in Vegas stays there forever. In our case, nothing has been spared, everything that came to mind was discreetly and sacredly shared. Those who missed the occasion are always subject of filii’s conversation in good faith, and fray Joan was no exception.
Fray Celso finally gave up his company sponsored hotel accommodation and moved in with us for the rest of the week. The group has been waiting to hear a predominantly tenor voice range, only which fray Celso can demonstrate as he flips through pages of videoke songbook and sings with utmost confidence. As the night progresses, the music selection has mellowed down to a nightclub and ballad genre, melody and vocal perfectly executed as each song fades out to a rousing applause. At wee hours in the morning, the house finally quieted down as the Filii switched off the Videoke system and retired back to their rooms.
Thursday, September 28th – Apple Picking
In the morning, mass was celebrated as usual, misa cantada style as everybody getting a good hang of all liturgical songs under the leadership of fray Joel. Breakfast ensued, courtesy of fray Celso who assumed the cooking just as much as he assumed most of the singing the night before. My task book reminder had fray Earl arriving from Houston at 11:30 am. As I was getting ready to leave, fray Earl called to advise that his flight was delayed by four hours and he won’t be arriving until late in the afternoon. Fray Earl’s delayed flight prompted us to change our apple picking timing and moved it earlier to 10:00 am. It is noteworthy that the weather was beginning to correct and reflect the average temperature for the month. Just as fray Mike was beginning to enjoy the weather comfortably with his filii sweatshirt on, he is definitely leaving in the evening at 10:30 pm back to Pinas, so we decided to take a group shot with him with our Filii banner taken right in front of the house and van.
Fifteen minutes away was Downey’s Apple Market and Farm and we got there in no time around mid-afternoon. The farm is a popular playground for kids and school trip destination where pumpkins in varying sizes and in vast number adorned the place and covered the ground rendering a wide orange background that attracts a throng of people for a photoshoot, a telling sign that Halloween is just around the corner. We drove to the apple farm where we encountered grade school kids on apple picking trips just like ours. Like small kids, we stormed the farm in excitement, understandably so as such experience was first ever for some of us. We picked a burrow that was sandwiched between two different flavors, red Mcintosh, and golden apple.
Everybody went into a frenzy, jumping up to reach bigger and matured apples, and biting off pieces to taste and sample what suits the best kind to pick. Some took the ladder to gain a height advantage and got to the best ones beyond the reach of average pickers. It didn’t take long to fill up three bags for which we paid a measly $66 which also includes entrance fees for all of us. Our harvest of golden apples outnumbered red ones far more than we could count. The apple picking photos, of which many we took, unveiled the inner kid within us as we let loose ourselves enjoying nature and the sheer fun of being in the company of one another right in the thicket of an apple farm. The experience was awesome but more than just apple picking we showed how tight we are as we flanked Fr. Adalid for several photo shoots, choreographed by Mayette, our designated event planner. The apples are plenty and so are the memories we take with us and will treasure immensely as we leave the farm.
Airport Terminal 1 was my next assignment as time was closing in on Fray Earl’s arrival. Hungry and tired, fray Earl finally came out of the arrival door. It didn’t take me long to whisk him away from the airport and drive him back to the Filii house where everybody was waiting. The last Filii scheduled to arrive at 9:10 pm from Orlando, Florida was fray Peter. We decided to hold a Filii meeting before fray Peter arrives as fray Mike was departing around the same time that fray Peter was arriving. This slight time overlap makes my chauffeuring job easier as I and fray Earl who insisted to come with me to see fray Mike off the airport, didn’t have to leave the airport after dropping, assisting and seeing fray Mike off the departure gate. From Terminal 3 we drove to Terminal 1 parking area where fray Peter was supposed to come through. Fray Pete’s flight schedule was 10 minutes early so we expected him to show up by the door anytime soon.
As we anxiously train our eyes at every arriving passenger, fray Peter called asking where we were as he was already out of the arrival door. We just inexplicably missed him entirely. As fray Peter was describing over the phone where he was exactly standing, we could actually overhear him as he was only about 3 meters away from us. Whatever it was that made us miss fray Peter did not matter a tad as we were so pleased to see him. I finally got to see a friend and schoolmate since 1969, whom I have not seen since 1973, a good 44 long years. They certainly would not call this a reunion for nothing.
(Above pictures) Fray Earl from Houston, Texas and Fray Peter from Florida
Back in the house at around 10:00 pm, everybody was finally accounted for. No more airport pickup in the next couple of days. I could now focus on how best we can collaborate and enjoy each other and every activity left for us to do. A Joyous celebration followed as everybody hovered around father Adalid in the kitchen area, each one clasping a glass of red wine. There were plenty of pulutan on the table, matched only by the abundance of stories and anecdotes for all to share. As the stories get slowly depleted, Videoke singing began to heat up, lasting through the morning hours. Emboldened by the spirit of red wine and camaraderie, every filii alternately rose from his seat, seized his moment and opportunity to perform and entertain as he moved towards the mic to sing. As usual, fray Celso topped the number of songs played and sang as his voice range covers a wider gamut.
Friday, September 29th – Niagara Falls and Music Night
Everybody got up unusually early today as we prepared to leave for Niagara Falls. The gang skipped the homemade breakfast to avoid unnecessary delay. The objective was to get to Niagara Falls as early as possible and leave as soon as we can to allow us sufficient time to prepare for the evening fete where band members and other guests are coming for a musical entertainment.
We made headway as we left the house, fray Pete recited a prayer invoking divine aid for a safe trip before we inch away in full capacity aboard a filii van. We stopped at Tim Horton’s first to have an eat-and-go style breakfast where everybody ordered a back bacon and egg either on a croissant or English muffin. Coffee served in a big carton container, we took turns filling up our coffee mugs. Tim Hortons’ famous coffee is still the choice of many in Canada and we fully understand why.
The weather was overcast when we left Brampton and light rain scattered down as we cruise westbound to Niagara along the QEW highway but excitement prevailed nonetheless. The filii were greeted by the natural wonder of Niagara Falls as we scampered to secure the best spot for our group shot ahead of other spectators. Several shutters were clicked as we change poses from formal to wacky ones, video recording the thundering sound of powerful descent of water at 168,000 cubic meters flowing through the falls every minute.
Fr. Adalid has finally crossed one of the items out his bucket list as he announced earlier that Niagara Falls topped the list of the remaining places he wanted to visit while he is still physically able to do so. His wish granted, authenticated by many colorful imageries where he conspicuously and stylishly posed in the foreground of every frame behind the backdrop of one of the eight wonders of the world. And this holds true for others as well as each one took many momentous images of the magnificent Niagara Falls. The weather has dramatically improved as the sun came out of the clouds to provide us the warmth we needed to combat the cold mist and fine splashes blown from the falls. Fleetingly I thought about fray Joan and sister Glo and grudgingly begrudged at the missed opportunity they could have enjoyed with us.
It was around noon when we decided to congregate at the falls’ welcome center & gift shop. The many memento offerings in the form of t-shirts, caps, key chains, postcards, confections, maple syrups, etc. attracted some purchases from those who wanted to keep souvenirs for himself and as give-away to others. Content but hungry, we took the escalator to the 2nd floor where we booked seats for our lunch at the Elements restaurant overlooking the falls. After the waitress took all the orders, fray Peter excitedly announced that he would pay for everyone as he received a text message from Alice, his lovely wife, on expense approval. Thank you, fray Pete for your generosity. We enjoyed the food tremendously and what better way to consume our lunch than doing it while enjoying each other’s company complemented no less by the panoramic view of the Niagara Falls.
We departed Niagara Falls around 2:00 pm and headed back eastbound to Mississauga. It was unusually quiet in the van as everybody was digesting their food while falling asleep. In the first fifteen minutes, I struggled mightily to keep my eyes open. Father Adalid who sat in front beside me, who for the most part kept me alert with his stories, went totally silent. He was dozing off too. Thankfully, we arrived safely at Mississauga’s Ocean grocery store where we took trays of take-out food for tonight’s event. Back in the house at around 5:30, Mayette arranged the dining table with an array of food and some potluck dish and home-made food brought in by guests. Fray Celso also complemented the assortment of food with his pork pulutan dish.
By eight pm the house was full as band members and other guests have arrived. As guitars begin to weep and drum beats start to harmonize, everybody descends to the basement to interact with musicians and listen to them as they play their lineup. Fray Celso sang “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” while Fati belted out a few OPMs by Sampaguita’s Bonggahan and Aegis Basang Basa sa Ulan, among others. But fray Peter, with a guitar strapped around his shoulder, stole the highlight of the night with his live imitation of KISS Paul Stanley’s famous tongue wagging, while striking many original rock & roll stances. I wonder how much cabernet-sauvignons have influenced fray Peter as he let loose of himself in the thick of the moment, less faux pas as he carried himself admirably well.
Fray Peter deserved a standing ovation for a de rigueur performance that everybody loved but no one dared to challenge. I personally bow in admiration as he exhibited his dance moves further, partnering with Mayette as they hit the dance floor to the beat of a swing. Aside from singing, fray Celso also demonstrated his many talents, not the least of which was his ball-room dance skill where he unleashed a series of steps and schooled the audience with his cha-cha rendition. Musical performance, singing, and dancing are forms of public entertainment that Filii are not gun-shy about. And this has been proven many times in many past events the Filii had, both in Philippines and abroad, even without the influence of a beverage.
The Filii reunion is also instrumental in rounding up my former bandmates and friends whom I have not seen for a while. I thought about the idea of a band jamming as an added dimension that may contribute to the success of our reunion. I know for sure that a band setup would appeal to filii as music is integral to our formation and part of our daily routine while in the convent. Personally, it turned out to be a double reunion for me as I got the chance to reunite with my former bandmates and friends and fellow filii brothers in the same roof. Sincere thanks go to pareng Orlin Anupol, pareng Dennis Camacho, pareng Jong Quilatan, pareng Joseph Anupol, Alan Garcia, Erwin Aro, Jun Elopre, and Harold Gutierrez. I am blessed with friends who come readily to share their talents and hard work and demonstrate their solidarity and friendship.
Food in large variety was plentiful, as always. Everyone was treated to a buffet style dinner immediately after we decided to stop the band performance as the night was getting late. Beverages are also plentiful. I’ve added another bottle of whiskey and brandy to our selection of red wines to offer more choices for hard-liquor drinkers.
The party spilled over to the main living room where videoke became the principal source of entertainment. This time other guests have joined in and participated in taking turns with the mic. Videoke singing is always fun. More than singing it reveals other elements in a person and defines one’s character. There are an aggressive singer, confident singer, cocky singer, shy singer, etc. But overall everybody was having fun as they showed propensity and courage to accept their own individual vulnerability and weakness when it comes to singing, and that was all that matters in the end. Towards one’ish, I left the crowd surreptitiously to get some sleep. Fray Albert is departing back to California early in the morning so I needed to get up early to drive him off to the airport.
Saturday, September 30th – The 35th Wedding Anniversary
In anticipation, today is special for me and Mayette as our afternoon mass will also celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Fray Joel has suggested and prepared an appropriate song for our anniversary entitled, “You and I.” Fr. Adalid also picked a prayer that we are going to recite together during the renewal of our marriage vows.
In mid-afternoon, I drove the gang to Dixie Outlet Mall and we stayed there for about an hour hunting for some deals. Only a handful of us ended up with plastic bags in their hands so decisively we left. We returned to the house around 4:00 pm and started sprucing up the place for our much-anticipated celebration which will start around 5ish.
Another local filii, fray Vic Palmaira who is hailed from Calinog, Iloilo but currently working and living in Toronto, joined us in the afternoon. Fray Vic was too kind to bring along plenty of decorative household items, display fixtures and decors, all Umbra branded. He expressed his intention to give everything away to be shared among filii brothers as his gift. What a gesture of brotherly love and an embodiment of Dominican community spirit where everything is shared equally among brothers, at least in theory.
Altar and chairs were readied, candles lit, copies of liturgical songs distributed on top of empty folding chairs. Fray Ruben assumed the sacristan role as fray Albert has gone back home in the morning. Fray Joel and I rehearsed “You and I” for the last time to ensure pitch and timing are bang on. Our family and friends began to arrive around 5:00 pm and onwards. It was about 6:00 pm when the place was filled to capacity. My son Thomas and daughter Alysa occupied the left wing of chairs in the front row while Mayette and I took the other wing. Everybody assumed their seats as Fr. Adalid started to dress up, wearing chasuble on top of his Dominican habit with the help of fray Ruben.
The Holy Mass began in earnest as fray Joel intoned the entrance song. I read the first reading, my wife followed with the responsorial psalms and my son completed the 2nd reading, a total family contribution. All along, fray Alex was busy moving side by side and in front to ensure every ensuing moment is captured in his videocam. Proudly Mayette and I recited in unison our prayer and invocation for the renewal of our vows, punctuated by Fr. Adalid’s blessings. Everybody came forward and took a turn to receive the Holy Communion and sparingly take a sip of the consecrated wine.
Shortly before the mass was ended and as fray Joel played the intro, Mayette and I stood up facing the congregation and began singing “You and I.” Somewhere in the middle of our singing, Mayette cried uncontrollably, overcome with emotion, almost dragging me with her as my voice started to break a bit. But I held on, tears dripping on my cheeks as I wrapped my arms around Mayette to console her and finish “You and I.” It was indeed a very emotional moment, although the whole liturgical celebration touched our hearts with mystical and spiritual impact.
Everybody rose to a concluding applause after father Adalid declared the end of the mass and fray Joel cued in our proprietary recessional hymn “Amang Santo Domingo” in marching beat. “The mass is ended, go in peace…”, continuously ring in my ear. The spiritual significance of the Holy Mass, simultaneous with the celebration of our 35th year anniversary, will ripple through endlessly in our lives. For how special was it that we were given such unique opportunity to be part of Filii covenant which led us closer to fulfilling our individual calling as a married couple.
The celebration continued on to the table full of food as everybody circled around to scoop up anything and everything that pleases their appetite and suits their taste buds. The atmosphere was truly festive and buoyant. Guests and filii alike engaged one another in seemingly endless conversation as they enjoyed their food and drinks at conveniently pleasurable pace. Beverages are flowing, not at the force recorded by Niagara falls, but forceful enough to manifest glee and cheer on drinkers’ faces.
Sincere thanks to frays Celso and Peter who, on behalf of filii, creatively deadpanned an excuse when they bought a cake and card past me. Likewise to the Anupol, Zalamea, Zamora and Magallanes families for dropping everything they were supposed to do so they could be at our anniversary.
It wouldn’t be a perfect evening without the usual videoke singing segment. Guests and filii trooped to the family room, picked their song numbers and alternately grab the mic as they sing their own repertoire. I called the night off with many great memories cascading through my head. There may be more celebration of holy masses and wedding anniversaries in the future, but today we celebrated the one that will enshrine dearly in our hearts for as long as we live.
Sunday, October 1st – The Final Day
After coffee and breakfast, everybody surrounded the kitchen table to proceed with the raffling off of gift items donated by fray Vic. I came up with the idea of choosing an item, then draw a name from the pool of paper rolls containing names of participating filii from the plastic container. The person picked will own the item that was for grab at that very moment. This process will prevent conflict from individuals wanting the same item as some items looked more attractive than others. Everybody sent the place in total bedlam as the person picked hardly desired the item currently on grab prompting him to negotiate a swapping deal with the owner of the item he desired, almost always resulted in futility.
The day has arrived when bidding farewells are impending. Majority of Filiis are returning to their respective homes, to their wives and kids and significant others. The airport cycle will complete today, from airport thou art to airport thou shall return — the cycle of my personal service, that is. The first departing batch comprised of Orlando bound passengers, fray Celso and fray Peter, leaving at different times and terminals. I had a moment with fray Peter before I left him in a waiting area where he would hang out until his flight in the afternoon comes up. Meeting of the minds occurred as fray Pete and I discussed the feasibility of a future project, details of which will be confirmed later in collaboration with fray Joel.
The remaining Filii, frays Alex and Earl are not leaving until later in the afternoon, while fray Ruben and Fr. Adalid have a couple of days between them before their scheduled flights on October 2 and 3 respectively. Fray Ruben and Fr. Adalid will move to our Mississauga home until they depart back to Philippines. Fray Alex’s relatives in Brampton, Jun and Vilma, have extended a lunch invitation to all remaining filiis to a dim sum eatery in Brampton.
Everybody enjoyed what seemed to be endless varieties of small servings. Cart after cart of different dishes being pushed to our table until we eventually declined. Content and full, we asked the waiter for more tea to replenish our pots as we digest the food while enjoying congenially shared conversations. After lunch, fray Ruben and Fr. Adalid were picked up for a house blessing gig in Mississauga by Fr. Adalid’s friends. I finally dropped fray Alex, Fati and fray Earl off at the airport’s terminal 1 where they all catch their flights back to LA and Houston, respectively.
Before we bid goodbye to one another, we leave our personal imprints scribbled on vinyl welcome signage. The signage signifies the beginning and the end of our one-week reunion, where it begins with a welcome and ends with goodbye messages.
While a week of fun is good for the spirit, there were undeniably lots of work that drained my energy. I definitely look forward to a much-needed hiatus from all the airport back and forths, long driving trips, and general physical tasks. My wife, Mayette, also deserves a pat on the back for her significant contribution to the overall success of the event, at times assuming the role of event planner and photo choreographer which made us all look good. For the moment I hold my breath as I remain to be of further service to ensure Fray Ruben and Fr. Adalid have a pleasant extended vacation in Mississauga.
In musing, I would summarize our total experience as one to remember and cherish for always. The filii brotherhood is strong, empowering and uplifting. It is up to the individual member, quasi or active, to profess his own personal involvement to FSDPI to perpetuate filii brotherhood. Our connection to Filii came on many levels. The number of years we spent in the Dominican convent is not the only barometer that gauges our individual connectedness as filii brothers. The commonality of spiritual and religious teachings we derived from the Dominican Order came in varying degrees and each one has received it in his own unique and peculiar way. Whether we left as postulant, novice, professed, deacon or ordained priest, there is one common denominator that unites and holds us together as one and in the level where everybody shares a comfortable niche in the spirit of St. Dominic.
Our mantra of brotherhood, “Lahing Dominiko, laging Dominiko”, delineates the many things we shared and experienced during our time in the Dominican Order. And no better explanation can be had to elucidate this than just be yourself as a filii, faithful to the teachings of the Church and living our Christian values, strengthened and inspired by our father St. Dominic.
As postscript to my memoir, my parting thoughts are many. But I just want to encapsulate them in a few words. On behalf of my wife and son, without whose help I would not have done the reunion the way it turned out to be, I thank you all for trusting me as your host and prior. Your presence meant a lot to me and I look forward to seeing everyone in our 7th biennial reunion in Houston in June 2019. Keep well. I love you all! From Canada, au revoir!