Tomorrow (Monday) is my birthday. (It’s number 62 for readers with enquiring minds.)
Every few years since the mid-90’s, I’ve celebrated my birthday with some fairly large bashes even though I’m not much of a party animal. That’s because the weekend closest to my birthday coincides with Columbus Day, which has become the preferred date for reunions of my Manila high school group.
Most of these reunions have been in Vegas but San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have also been locales. There have been at least two Bahamas cruises too.
Any birthday bash and reunion must have the “three B’s” to warrant the pre and post celebratory buzz: beer, buffet and “barkada.”
Let’s start with the beer. When Manila alums get together, there’s only one beer that is acceptable: gen-you-wine “export quality” Manila-brewed San Miguel (which is actually slightly weaker than that for consumption in the Philippines.) Any other beer is heresy.
Fortunately, Vegas has a large Filipino community and so San Miguel is not hard to find. (I always picked up a six-pack at Albertsons when we visited Vegas without a reunion.) And there’s a large Filipino grocery with just about all Filipino foods one could want despite it’s name of “Seafood City”… if you don’t mind the “import” price.
One year, we were fortunate that one of our alums was VP of the “hotel” side of MGM Grand, which included the food operations. He arranged with the hotel’s beer supplier for us to get the “wholesale” price on a dozen cases of San Miguel. Delivered to our site for free! (Unfortunately, he soon took a job as the first manager of what then was the debut of China’s largest hotel and so we had to pay “retail” prices at future reunions.)
And it wasn’t just beer that we got a deal on. Our MGM connection was also able to get us a token rate on a two bedroom suite at the reunion hotel (Stratosphere). This suite became the “hospitality center” for the reunion. I don’t think the luxury of that hospitality center has been surpassed.
What’s a birthday bash / reunion without food? And what better than a buffet of all the favorite Filipino foods which many of us (including me) cannot find in our hometowns? I’m talking lechon (whole, spit-roasted pig), pancit (thin rice noodles with veggies and meat), and lumpia (Filipino eggroll).
Of course the best part of any meal is dessert! That means all sorts of sweet rice cakes. And turon… (on the round elevated platter).
Susie doesn’t care for these rice cakes. She likes a dessert called halo-halo, another Filipino favorite. It is shaved ice mixed with various fruits, special beans and ice cream (or at least milk). At one reunion, there was the largest “make your own” halo-halo table I’ve ever seen. Susie was in heaven!
The Vegas reunions are always “casual.” But the non-Vegas reunions typically have a casual Friday buffet followed by a Saturday “formal” sit down catered dinner followed by dancing. Many alums wear American formal attire to that but those of us who lived in the Philippines a long time (and I was there from birth until I was 18) wear “Filipino formal.”
For men, that’s a “Barong Tagalog” and women have a similar outfit. I suspect many more alums would go “Filipino formal” if they could fit into their old attire or find new ones but the Philippines doesn’t have American “paunch” sizes… 😉
Finally, there’s “barkada.” That’s a Tagalog word equivalent to “my buddies.” In the context of our reunions, anyone who attended the school is part of the “barkada.” That’s because any alum can talk with any other alum and have an instant connection which cannot be fathomed by anyone who did not live in the Philippines and attend the school.
This weekend there was a reunion in DC. I wasn’t able to make for a variety of reasons. Sayang… (That’s Tagalog for “what a pity.”)
At least I can always indulge in a ritual of almost every reunion: the viewing of a performance by one of the top Filipino-American comedians – Rex Navarette. Probably his most loved routine is an “interview” where he use a Filipino accent for a very risqué effect. It’s called “SBC Packers” and because it’s my birthday I’m sharing it with you, my blog “barkada.” And I opened one of six bottles of San Miguel that I have for special occasions like this.