Family reunions are happy-sad occasions
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Let me tell you my Gonzalez family story. My father, Vladimir, was killed by the Japanese at the end of World War II, when I was six months old. He was only 24 years old. Growing up, all I knew was I had a bunch of aunts my mother and I would visit in a place with nuns. They were my father’s sisters. Then, we more frequently visited my Lolo Bindo and Lola Conching in their house in Pasay. We would have lunch with them and my Tito Nol would always measure my height against a post to see how much taller I had gotten since my last visit.

Much later my mother told me their story. My grandfather, Javier, was a lawyer and one of, I think, 11 brothers. He married my grandmother, Josefa Mercado, who lived across the river. My grandma lived in Apalit, grandpa lived in Sulipan in Pampanga. Javier was the brother next to Lolo Bindo, Bienvenido Gonzalez, once a UP president. At that time Lolo Bindo was the dean of the College of Animal Husbandry in UP Los Baños.

 One day my Lolo Javier visited Lolo Bindo, who took him on a tour of Animal Husbandry. Neither one of them knew that anthrax had afflicted some of the animals there. Lolo Javier had an open pimple that had burst on the nape of his neck. That’s where the anthrax entered. When he came back to Manila, his wife was having their youngest daughter, Javiera, and he was in the same hospital as she. Sadly, he died. He was only 35. My Lola took to her bed after he died and only got up to go to visit him at the cemetery. One day at the cemetery, her long skirt caught at something. She panicked, had a heart attack when she got home, and also died. Both of them were in their middle 30s.

 They left nine children — Ardalion, Aristedes, Florencia, Benjamin, Vladimir, Horacio, Teresita, Josefina and Javiera. I don’t know where their names came from but have to admit, some of them were far out. The oldest, Ardalion, was 16 when they died. The three youngest were girls, the ones Mommy and I would occasionally visit at the orphanage run by nuns. 

 When my grandmother died, my grandfather’s brothers divided the nine children among them. My father, Vladimir, and his older brother, Ben, went to Lolo Bindo. The three youngest girls, I was told, were always crying. Their aunts decided to put them in an orphanage.

 When I wrote my book How Do You Know Your Pearls Are Real?, on single parenthood, I had to do a lot of research. I found out from my readings that children who are orphaned young tend to marry many times because they are always in search of the parent who died. That explains our lives. In our family only Tito Ardy, the oldest, and Tita Jo, one of the youngest sisters, had one mate. Two of my aunts married three and four times. I began to understand what happened to our family better.

 Maybe that’s why we hardly know each other. Our core family was torn apart by tragedy. Today many of my first cousins are in the US. A few of them are here but we don’t see each other unless somebody dies. Then we meet at the wake and the burial. I remember the first time I met most of my first cousins I already had three children. It was when my Tito Dids (Aristedes) died. That was the first time we all got to know each other.

 So today, I would like to invite all the descendants of Javier and Josefa to a Gonzalez family reunion on Saturday, Nov. 9. Registration is at 4:30 p.m., followed by a Mass at 5 p.m. and dinner afterwards. This reunion will be hosted by some members of the family. This is not just a reunion of the Javier family, it is a reunion of the entire Doble Zeta clan: the relatives we meet only occasionally, when one of us dies. 

You know what makes family reunions so sad for me? The members of the Javier clan don’t even know each other intimately. These are my first cousins. This group includes the celebrity Ryan Agoncillo, who is my nephew. He is the son of one of my first cousins, Nina Gonzalez Agoncillo. I only met him once. The larger family does not know him personally. They have only seen him on the screen or on TV.

 As we grow older, family becomes more and more important to us. We need to know each other, to appreciate each other, to be there for each other. Please, if you are one of my first cousins, text me at 0998-9912287 for details. The family of Javier is required to wear orange. Okay? We have to know each other and care about each other. I hope to see you there!

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Please text your comments to 0998-9912287.

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