Filipino guy in Los Angeles, talking about his daily blah, reality tv, world events... a little bit of everything

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Birthday Story

Most of my childhood birthdays were often big events, almost extravagant (as compared to my recent birthdays). Of course I dont remember most of them since my brain can pretty much only recall major events post-1986. The birthdays before '86 were also very cool...well according to my mom's stories and what I've seen in some old pictures of mine. In one picture, you see me in an awful looking swim trunks, with a big old smile...probably my 2nd birthday at the beach. Another picture you see me about to blow my first birthday candle ( surrounded by a bunch of kids who probably were not my friends but just showed up for the cake. Perhaps the birthday party that really stood out (both in pictures and in my memory) is that of my 7th birthday.

The only time in my life where you'll see me wear that outfit.

Somehow, a child's 7th birthday is a big deal in the Philippines...or at least a big deal in my family. It could've been because it's on the very same day as my last day in 1st grade (a.k.a. recognition day). Its 2 for 1 celebration. Lots of food, games for the kids, tons of balloons. Since I was also getting an award that day (a gold medal that is most likely made from some cheap metal gilded or even better spray painted) I was all dressed up, complete with a bow tie ( although a clip-on I still looked like I was going to an opera). Who knew that at such a young age I had a flare for fashion (quite possibly the earliest evidence of my fabulous gay self).

First evidence of gayness on my 7th birthday.

All the rest of my childhood birthdays were great but they all kind of blend together in my memory. I remember that one time I had all of my friends take part in a scavenger hunt around our backyard (early signs of why I'm addicted to The Amazing Race) which I set up. I guess they didn't really get the concept or maybe the cryptic clues that I gave them were too complicated for them. I had to do the whole thing while they follow me along. One this is the same with all of these birthdays; my mother was always in charge, planning and making sure everything is perfect. She was like Martha Stewart except on a much lower budget.

She was the best host, always making sure that the food tasted great and that everyone is having fun. It's not just party planning but she's like that on a daily basis. She was always busy, helping out everyone. Not only did she have to take care of three kids, she also managed all of our rental apartments. On top of that she somehow managed to be always involved in any of our school programs and community volunteer work. When the school needed someone to run the PTA she does it. When the local health clinic needed someone to help feed poor kids living in the shanty towns, she was there. When the local community center needed someone to teach unemployed women (at that time in my city theres lots of prostitutes) to sew or cook, she's right there (and I tag along most of the time). Come to think of it, she's better than Martha Stewart. She's more like Mother Theresa. I was such a big fan of my mom, I aspired to be like her.

On my 14th birthday, the yearly tradition of my mom planning out the day did not happen. Less than a month before that day, my mom passed away. A celebration was the last thing in my mind. It was too early, in fact so early that I was in denial that she was gone. I told myself that she was on vacation. Somehow a small gathering was planned by my aunt. My friends came, my favorite food was prepared and I pretended that I was having a great time. Deep inside, I knew I didnt want to be there. I just wanted to be left alone.

The next few years I tried to ignore my birthday, especially when we moved to California. Maybe its the whole teenage angst thing but I just didn't want to celebrate it. I hated all the kids in high school who walked around the hallways holding their balloons and flowers given to them for their special day. I would always say "Why do they have to announce it to everyone?" College was more of the same. One thing that helped me in avoiding my birthday was because of school. UCLA is on the quarter system so my birthday would always fall on winter finals week. Instead of having fun I was always cramming for my exams. Except this one time when my friends surprised me when I was still living in the dorms. We celebrated in the hallway, we had small cake and some ice cream. It was a nice surprise but it only lasted for a few minutes since we all had to go back and study.

After my 21st birthday, I mostly just celebrated with the typical dinner and driking ( often at home in our apartment getting pissed drunk on cheap vodka and tequila). It wasn't till my 24th birthday two years ago when I started changing my attitude about my own birthday. I'm not really sure what triggered this shift. Maybe its because I've reached that point in my life where I can step back and really examine myself. Maybe because I'm such a horrible graduate student so instead of studying and working on my research I ended up writing a journal and thinking about touchy-feely stuff that in my younger years, didn't care about.

What ever the reason for this epiphany I'm glad I had it. I forgot the very reason why people celebrate their day. I forgot that that day is "my time". My time to look back at everything that had happened to me that previous year. Its my time to appreciate what I have and where I am in life and my time to hope that next year is even better. I'm sure my mother wants me to continue celebrating my life. I'm here because of her, and to celebrate the day would be like honoring her.

Hiking in Cinque Terra for my 24th.

So on my 24th birthday, I wanted to do something for me, something I'd wanted to do. I also wanted to have some time to really think about myself (I know it sounds selfish but once in a while its necessary). Impulsively, I decided to go to Italy and spend my birthday by myself. I know it sounds like I was sorry looking fellow having dinner by myself on my very birthday but really, it was great. I went hiking in the beautiful Cinque Terra, and had dinner in a restaurant on a cliff while the sun set. I know its a bit dramatic but I had fun. Its then that I told myself that I will do something special every year. That I will celebrate and have fun. Thats what my mother would want me to do. Its a promise that I kept last year. Some might say I'm crazy but I decided to go bungee jumping off a bridge last year. No my life did not flash before me... it just made me feel alive. What I'm going to do this year? Still not sure but I'll update next week.

On my way down the bridge, 25th birthday.


Blogger joelmcvie said...

That's so cool! As I grew older I realized that, for me, birthdays are "for-me" celebrations. For the past few years I made sure that, on my birthday, I did things that I wanted to do, that I chose to do. Even if it meant doing stuff on my own. Or with just chosen people. It has made celebrating the day so much more relevant to me. :-)

4:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude u made me cry! yeah! i kinda remember bout my b-day w/her when i was lil! but since den i never wanted to celebrated my b-day! since she past-aways specialy da day before my b-day! but now like u said! i should celebrate my b-day cuz knowing she will happy if i do!
Happy B-day big Bro!

Lil sis

12:48 PM

Blogger Edward said...

Your article about birthday is very nice and I think it is just right to celebrate each year for your birthday. Drop your notes in my blog. Thanks.

8:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awww.. hope you had a great bday Ernie!


10:37 AM


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