I'm sitting in my father's study up in Susi Manor (the one just a few flights above the SusiCave). Downstairs, a small horde of Filipino relations are belting out kapampangan versions of Christmas carols, heavily accented with Ilucano and Courvoisier. They brought a tambourine.
These holidays are never a simple proposition for me. There are far too many obligations to be juggled, too many conflicting interests to be navigated, between the one family that is relatively privileged, and the other that is not; and there are old, old disputes that still haven't been resolved within and between them for however many decades now.
Much as I love my families, I can't begin to say how often I think of disappearing from them. At best I keep a tenuous connection to them, having been raised almost entirely outside of their circles, ignorant of the languages and the cultures and the stories. But, as the first of my generation born in the States, and as the son of the current patriarch of the clan, even some of the uncles defer to me in matters that I scarcely know what to make of. Tonight I was supposed to be leading a Rosary prayer in memory of my Grandpa, but, thankfully, my Grandma's zealous friends chose to lead their own prayers in the dialect.
This night I remember what it was like to hold my Grandpa's hand as he died, and to carry my little cousins through the concourses of Aquino International Airport, and how lonely these experiences were, and still are. My uncles and I hover around the dinner table, little cousins scampering around everyone's legs, and put on brave faces around Grandma and the Aunts.