Family is and will always be love

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Family is and will always be love
We fondly call ourselves ‘Apat na Sikat’: Risa Nepomuceno, Nina Puyat, yours truly and Cory Vidanes with ‘saling pusa’ Dondi Baltazar.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Daza Christmas reunions were cancelled in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Fortunately, in 2023, we determined that it was safe to resume our family tradition of getting together on Christmas Day. However, we moved the reunion date to Dec. 26 in the hope that our cousin Mariles Daza — who lives in San Francisco — could join us. Sadly, Mariles was unable to get on a plane as planned because flights were full. But we pushed through with the reunion, which was a lunch graciously hosted by our cousin Dondi Baltazar in his spacious home in Makati. 

When I arrived with my kids Gabbie and Paolo, Dondi’s living room was already teeming with my good-looking nephews and nieces, many of whom have grown taller since I last saw them. Cousin Sandy Daza was there with his kids Franco, Turs, Ali, and Dani. Franco was with wife Van Yu (who is three months on the way), Turs (who recently got back from New York) came with his girlfriend Patricia Medina, while Ali was with her boyfriend Bingo Manahan. Sandy’s sister Nina Puyat was with husband Louie and their sons Joseph and Mario, while Nina’s daughter Billie came with husband Vince Murga and their daughter Charlie.

Sandy Daza with his kids Franco and his wife Van Yu, Turs with girlfriend Patricia Medina, Ali and Danielle.

Tony Daza came solo to represent the branch of our late uncle David Daza, my father Tito’s older brother. Cousin Cory Valenzuela Vidanes arrived with kids Ara and Kobi, and sisters Rona and Lia Valenzuela. Next to arrive was cousin Risa Baltazar Nepomuceno with kids Sam and Bela, who sported a leg cast after she underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. Last to arrive was Ava Daza, youngest daughter of my late cousin Bong and Gloria Diaz who came with her husband Luch Zanirato and super adorable baby boy Leo.

As the adults gathered around the long table in the dining room, Dondi’s wife Cai was busy in the kitchen preparing the dishes to be served. We all thanked our magnanimous foodie cousin Yappi Baltazar for bringing most of the food to the potluck lunch. Though she ordered paella valenciana and fresh lumpia, she personally prepared grilled wagyu steaks, inihaw na baboy, talong sa gata, bacalao and Russian salad (the last three dishes were recipes of our lola Angeles Daza). Nina brought steamed pompano with soy sauce and green onions, while Sandy contributed pancit malabon from Nanay’s. I brought the “pièce de résistance”… chickenjoy from Jollibee! 

Fourth generation Dazas: Mateo Baltazar, Kobi Vidanes, Paolo Planas, Ara Vidanes and Gabbie Planas.

While we were feasting, it was hard to keep track of all the simultaneous conversations. But when the topic shifted to showbiz gossip, we all listened intently as Cory shared what she could. As this was going on, my tita Tessie Baltazar — the only surviving sibling of the children of lolo Gabriel and lola Angeles Daza — enjoyed herself just listening to the animated chatting while seated next to her youngest son, Bindoy.

After the hearty lunch came the desserts, which included chocolate cake, sylvanas, cookies, ice cream and chocolates. If Sandy hadn’t reminded us about the game of “white elephant” we said we would play, we would have just lingered in the dining room for more catch-up stories.

“White elephant” is a game we have been playing for many years. It starts with each player bringing a gift he/she received but does not like or need, the so-called “white elephant.” The gifts are placed on a table, and players then take turns throwing the dice. The first player throws the dice. If it is an even number, he/she gets the gift he/she wants from the table; if it’s an odd number, his/her turn is skipped. The next player who throws an even number has the option to get a gift that is still on the table or to grab a gift that has already been picked. The game has an agreed-upon time limit (in our case it was three minutes), and when time is up you keep the gift you have on hand. This year, the “worst” gift was from Sandy, who brought a can of butter cookies. Ever the joker, he deliberately did this to annoy us, and as expected, his cookies were the last gift chosen. The “best” gift was the red envelope from Dondi containing P5,000, and my son Paolo was its lucky winner! I was also very happy with my white elephant, which was an electric toothbrush from Nina. What a coincidence because I had planned to buy a new one during my next mall visit. 

When we were done playing, it was time to take photos. Though it was challenging to gather everyone and make them sit or stand still for a minute or two, the effort was well worth it because the pictures beautifully captured moments that are fleeting and priceless. Watching everyone gather together made me thankful for the gift of my family. Our family is far from perfect, and we may have some misunderstandings along the way but at the end of the day, family is and will always be love.

Here’s to a joyous New Year filled with love, peace, hope, and good health for all. And may we all be gifted with the grace of at least one festive, noisy family reunion in 2024! 

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