One Year Anniversary

The reason my mom and her sisters planned this trip to the Philippines was to go back home for the one year anniversary of their father's death. My grandpa, Luis, passed away on July 3, 2011. It's common in the Filipino culture to have a mass or prayers to reflect on the deaths of our loved ones. To remember them. Then afterwards, food is usually the center of the celebration.

Our first week in the Philippines was spent hosting daily prayers at my grandpa's house, serving lunch after the prayer, and then preparing for the big mass/luncheon at the end of the week.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: If you don't eat meat, are just an animal lover, or easily squeamish, some photos in the middle of this post may be too graphic. Feel free to just scroll right through those!

Aside from the market, Auntie Jessica's house, and the beach, a majority of our time was spent at my grandpa's house. Relatives and family friends attended the daily prayer, then lunch would be served.

In the middle of all of this, though, I hit a little bump in the road...I got sick to the point where it was difficult to move, I had a very high temperature, and I had no appetite whatsoever. After a couple of days, fortunately, I was finally able to eat some crackers, bread, and water. My mom also invited a family friend to do some traditional Filipino "healing". She simply took some crushed up leaves and massaged them on my head, back, and stomach. I also had to drink this hot "tea"...Very interesting experience...but at least I was ready to go by the weekend! And it was back to prepping for the anniversary party...


In order to prepare the massive amount of food needed for the Saturday lunch, my mom and her sisters ordered whole pigs that needed to be butchered the day before. They also picked up large cuts of beef and whole chickens. All of the meat was cut down in batches, according to the specific recipe it would be used for.

There was so much food to cook that some of it had to be split between the kitchen and large wood-fires outside. I was so excited to see all of the "behind-the-scenes" stuff and to see how everything came together!

The long driveway of my grandpa's house was eventually transformed for the formal mass and for all of the dining tables. Everyone was dressed and ready for a big party. A party may seem odd for a death anniversary, but for Filipino families, this is what we do. We come together, we celebrate, and we appreciate this time that we have together.

I was still recovering/not exactly 100%, so I didn't get to snap any closeups of the food. The size of the crowd, combined with the heat and humidity, was a little overwhelming, so I ended up going inside to rest. :(

As soon as the mass ended, though, my aunts excused the guests table by table to get their food. Servers were there to help out...And soon, the afternoon just turned into a blend of eating, laughing, and story-telling. There's really nothing else quite like it.

After the big gathering, we made sure to visit my grandpa and grandma's graves later that weekend. We brought them sampaguita, a fragrant Jasmine flower and the national flower of the Philippines. It had been a tough couple of days. I was sick, my mom stayed with me so she couldn't help with the party preparations as much as she wanted to, and afterall, these sisters were still missing their dad so much. But in the end, he was remembered and honored beautifully. It's times like these, with love and family, that can only help you heal.

RIP Luis & Lucrecia Aquino