Two things irk me most during the holidays: waiting for my first-semester grades and attending the family reunions. One thing we are most excited about in reunions is the abundant food. As a college dormer, I don’t get to eat home-cooked food much, and the reunion is a rare time for me to be able to eat my favorite crispy pata. The fascination with this dish is a family thing, and is probably why most of us are hypertensive.
But apart from the unhealthy food, something else that drives a shy teenager like me to go “high blood” is when my relatives’ eyes turn to me and suddenly I become the center of attention in the gathering.
Just when I think I would have a respite from all the school exams, another set of difficult questions is directed at me, and asked by people that are as much a “terror” as my college professors — my uncles and aunts. As much as I want to hide from them, I can’t afford to do so because the pamasko (Christmas gift) I badly want is in their hands.
The family reunion is where I hear questions I am unprepared to answer. Such as: “When will you graduate?” As much as I want to claim that I will do so next year, an inner voice reminds me that the future is uncertain, and it is safest for me to include a “hopefully” disclaimer in my answer. But I should feel thankful that at least I don’t get to be asked questions like “Are you in a relationship?” or “When will you get married?” Yet.
The TV set in the living room is usually turned on during the family reunion because some background noise is needed to ease the awkwardness in the atmosphere. But the TV also serves as a good conversation starter among the family. With a news program airing while everyone is enjoying the meal, there will be someone sharing his or her unsolicited opinion on an event, followed by the question “And you? What is your say on this?” directed at me in a semicondescending manner.
Yes, the reunion is the annual debate cup of the family, where the winner gets to enjoy bragging rights and the loser has to endure being an inside joke for the next gathering.
It is also during the family reunion that I get to explain why I shared anti-(insert politician’s name here) posts on Facebook. My likely response: First of all, you don’t tell me what to do on my social media accounts.
While I may not be obliged to explain what I post, I guess it is a good opportunity to engage my uncles and aunts in a discussion where I can assert my principles. It is perhaps the perfect time to embrace my perceived identity as the kid with too many causes—ang batang masyadong maraming ipinaglalaban. It’s tempting to tell my relatives that their stance against human rights is just unacceptable even if they are way older than me, but how will it end? It’s either I emerge victorious in bringing them to the enlightened side, or I go home a sore loser after getting reprimanded by my parents.
“You’re too young, you don’t know that much” is the worst thing one can hear in a heated argument. Cringe-worthy as it was, my face turned red and I got fuming mad when I first heard it. I came to realize that having progressive ideas in a highly conservative family is no joke. But the challenge lies in trying to share your ideas, even if it may cost your allowance, or your pamasko.
It’s difficult to be patient in trying situations like this, and one lesson that took me quite a while to learn is that compassion matters over condescension. Disagreement may arise in a family reunion, but it is the perfect platform to educate one another. And for me, the best gift I can give the people I love this Christmas is to enlighten them on my causes.
Argument, disagreement and conflict may take place due to our differences in principle and opinion on certain issues, but still there are things that bind us—our love for one another and, of course, the family hypertension.
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Japheth G. Tobias, 18, is a student activist at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
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