May 24, 2024

It has often been observed that unplanned family reunions happen in times of grief like when they come together to say their last goodbyes to a deceased loved one. But on happy occasions like a birthday, a wedding, a baptism or a graduation, family members must exert some effort to attend especially when the family members no longer reside in the same city or country or continent.
But with the family of the late Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Executive Director Oscar Hamada and his wife, retired nurse Emilia, they made a pact to have an annual reunion and get-together from wherever they reside ever since manong Oscar passed on in 2008.
They are my in-laws, as my daughter Carla is married to their youngest son, Derrick, and settled in California.
Manang Emy, my abalayan, resides in Baguio City. Eldest daughter Anna resides in Japan with son, Lucas; the other son Jong lives in New Jersey with wife Cherry and daughter Sophia; the second daughter Melo lives in Singapore; youngest daughter Tessa lives in Makati with husband Tonypet and son Ian.
Their favorite reunion venue is Hawaii. But this year, they decided to have their annual reunion in Spain, particularly in Barcelona, perhaps in deference to Derrick who, together with Carla, were asked to be godparents to our daughter Chantal’s and husband Rich’s daughter Amaia, our new granddaughter.
Amaia was born in Geneva, where Chantal and Rich reside. But Chantal decided to have Amaia baptized in Barcelona, in the same city where son Andoni was also baptized. Note that the names Andoni and Amaia are of Basque origin. My wife, Nena, is half-Basque, her father being from Amorebieta, a municipality in the so-called Basque country, an autonomous community in northern Spain. Nena’s only brother Iggy has been a resident of Barcelona ever since the late 90’s.
The baptism of Amaia was, therefore, a reason for our family to get together, being also away from each other, by way of residence – our daughter Carla, Derrick and sons Sebastian and Sean reside in Lincoln City, California; Chantal, son Andoni, and Rich reside in Geneva, Switzerland; and Nena and I in Barcelona, Spain which is conveniently just an hour and a half flight to Geneva.
We also make it a point to spend a couple of months with Carla and family in California, which is also an opportunity to meet up with my siblings who all live in United States. Our eldest sister manang Chol and our brother Jun (Pedro, Jr.) both live in California while our manang Josie lives in Texas.
We also make it a point to meet whenever they know that Nena and I are in California. Manang Josie and husband Eli, my kayong, would fly to California for the reunion and it is also their opportunity to see their children and their families who all live in California.
When the relatives of Nena from Amorebieta learned about our family reunion in Barcelona, Nena’s cousin Encarnacion messaged Nena that perhaps a reunion of the Larrucea family will be a great time and she would try to ask relatives living in the U.S., in Bilbao and in Amorebieta if they are okay with the idea. Many responded positively, including Nena’s uncle Pedro from Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Autonomous Community.
Alvaro and Maite, the cousins of Nena, who are living in the U.S., also agreed they will attend the planned get-together. So did Gabby and about 10 other cousins and uncles and aunts of Nena who reside in Bilbao. By the way, Nena’s aunt Maria Teresa Larrucea was the wife of F.B. Harrison, the governor general of the Philippines during the Commonwealth who was responsible for paving the way for Philippine independence from U.S.
He was granted Filipino citizenship and was buried in Manila. A house in Amorebieta, where he lived with wife Maria Teresa, was converted into a hotel bearing his family name – Hotel Harrison. Nena’s cousin, Alvaro, whom we mentioned earlier, is the grandson of F.B. Harrison.
Amaia was baptized at the San Agustin Church (Parroquia de Sant Agusti) in Barcelona. The said church is the parish of Filipinos living in Barcelona since 1999 and has been our countrymen’s spiritual refuge. It is the Filipinos’ parish for the Immaculate Concepcion (coincidentally my parish in Aurora Hill, Baguio City which my parents helped in its establishment in the ‘060s) and San Lorenzo Ruiz. The parish priest, Father Francis, is a Filipino and masses are held variously in Filipino, English, and Spanish.
The Hamada clan, together with friends from Barcelona and Rich’s mom and relatives from the United Kingdom and some guests from Geneva, all joined us in the baptismal rites of Amaia. After the baptism, the families and guests had lunch in the Spanish tradition at the former Philippine Consulate Office which was turned into a “by reservations only” restaurant called the Philippines Club at Plaza Real.
There were great exchanges of pleasantries and stories among the families from different countries, butof coursethe star was Amaia. She just turned five months old last Aug. 2.
Before and after the baptism, the families scheduled activities to experience the Spanish arts and culture, various cuisine, the beautiful sights, sounds and night life and of course, swimming on the beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.
The two-week reunion of the Hamada clan melted quickly with the hot summer sun but Derrick, Carla, Basti, and Sean had to stay behind with us because of the Larrucea family reunion in Amorebieta, which was confirmed by Maite who arrived from U.S. for the get-together. She and Gabby, another cousin of Nena, arranged the venue and everything was set.
From Barcelona we all flew in to Bilbao – all 10 of us, including Amaia, plus two pets, Toby, a Yorkshire; and Ginger the Jetsetter cat. The following day, we took a train to Amorebieta for the Larrucea family reunion at Cojo Restaurant owned by a friend of Andoni Larrucea, an international jai alai champion who brought honor to Amorebieta and for which reason the jai alai fronton was named after him. Amorebieta pelotaris were known all over the world including the Philippines where Nena’s father, Iñakim was a top player along with his cousin Tomas. It was a long afternoon of catching up among the family members and on our part, we came to know more about the Larrucea family history in the town where it was born.
So, three family reunions were brought about because of Amaia’s baptism. They were happy and joyful events, unlike some sad and tearful goodbyes of family members paying their last tribute to a member on his last journey from this world. It is not too late to plan family reunions. After all, life is all about family, so rejoice with your family in this beautiful land of life.