Mahal’s birthday handa reminds everyone of home

Mahal with part of her handa.  Poor babe ;)

Mahal with part of her handa. Poor babe 😉

I KNOW I have no right to complain, I did the least work actually.

All around me, for 36 hours people were cooking, preparing yummies and presenting the same buffet style, chilling drinks and readying ingredients for food that had to be cooked just before the guests arrived.  Earlier, a colleague came in and set up a very professional-looking gazebo, which unfortunately was ruined by gale-force winds.

Even the guests got into the act, a lot of whom brought either their own specialties, desserts and of course cakes for the celebrant.

By now you’ve probably guessed that the event of which I speak is an impromptu birthday party of Mahal, impromptu because it was recently canceled and brought back to life, because we (actually she) also wanted to celebrate another year in NZ for both of us, her way of thanking everyone who made our life here a little easier, and who made us forget that we were away from the homeland, away from previous lives, and away from family.

It was a mini-reunion for me, because when I first arrived in Wellington I nearly forgot that I had three cousins and their families waiting to welcome me.  Each of them had gotten an early foot in the migration door and had already obtained permanent resident status, and thus had high hopes for Mahal and me, despite the fact that our credentials under the Skilled Migrant Policy streams had yet to pass muster so far.

There were also colleagues from Mahal’s workplace, the sushi bar, a few provincemates that she discovered at the mall (as you know, Filipinos are very regionalistic) and a few people who helped us in our unexpected journey of migration.

And as anyone will tell you, the DNA strands of a Pinoy gathering are dual : the unique food, and where available, the karaoke / videoke singing, which fortunately for us, thanks to the visitors were plentiful and enjoyable.

just one of the many dishes served. Mahal and her little helpers were both lucky and great in planning!

just one of the many dishes served. Mahal and her little helpers were both lucky and great in planning!

Sisig from a Kapampangan caterer who was also a friend, lechon de leche from a specialist Chinese Pinoy, lumpiang shanghai from our workhorse flatmates, dinuguan from our Johnsonville kinsmen, and many other dishes that not only reminded everybody of home but coaxed us to revisit the old country soon.

During and after the gastronomic olympics, we never ran out of wannabe Pinoy Idol and X-Factor candidates, singing everything from OPM favorites to Seventies, Eighties and Nineties classics.  Too many great songs, too many videoke superstars to mention, but it’s safe to say that nearly one out of two guests held the mike at least once.

The party and the gathering was for Mahal, who was definitely overwhelmed, but it seemed we were celebrating everything Filipino, thanking God in our best Pinoy way for a safe, blessed and illuminating 2012, and bonding among the people who mattered : fellow migrants with whom we shared culture, history and hopes for a better Philippines in 2013.

Mahal with well-wishers, including H.E. Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez

Mahal with well-wishers, including H.E. Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez

***               ***               ***               ***                ***

This blog wouldn’t be complete without a special mention about a guest who very graciously accepted our invitation, and true to her word made it to our munting dampa.  It wasn’t so much honoring our little gathering that made everyone present feel special, but the fact that her very presence made it crystal clear that she was never too busy or occupied not to accept a kabayan’s invitation.  She carried herself like any other guest, bringing a cake for the celebrant, taking the time to get to know everyone present, and even obliging a request by singing Wonderful Tonight on the videoke.  She blended in, and yet by being herself, distinguished herself as the special person that she truly is.

Thank you for attending Mahal’s birthday party, Ambassador Benavidez.  You did a great job making her feel special, and in doing so you honored every one of us.  New Zealand’s Pinoy community is grateful and you do our country proud !

Thanks for reading !

PS. Thank you so much Romy Loverez for the gazebo, Tom and Ining Agustin for the dinuguan, pictures, and macaroons, Cliff and Marj Magno for the pictures and banana cake and salads, Rey and Malou Manahan for the lumpiang shanghai, Ricky and Maya Montenegro for the baked macaroni, Jess and Nena Pelayo for the latik/biko, Ramil and Marie Garcia for the chicken empanada, please remind us if we have omitted anyone !

12 thoughts on “Mahal’s birthday handa reminds everyone of home

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  3. Family, friends, good food, a home. After that, not much you need that you cannot do without. Happy birthday to your wife.

    • you speak truly brod Larry. I hope you are protected by Divine Providence against the current forest fires in your areas. Will relay your kind birthday wishes, regards to your beautiful wife too!

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