My favorite Thanksgiving Day joke is about the Pinay mother-in-law who cheerfully announced to her Anglo son-in-law and the entire (hungry) family:
“I cooked tinolang manok with that big hen in the fridge. But it was so big, I also made chicken adobo!”
Situations like this (which, by the way, really happened) give cynics reason to insist that Thanksgiving Day is as irrelevant to the Philippines as, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”
Indeed, no amount of imitation snow can make that Christmas dream come true for Pinoys in Sampaloc or Tondo. On the other hand, those who go to the US could experience the nightmare of freezing in blizzards, surviving road hazards and shoveling driveways piled high with the white stuff. Believe me, those aren’t things to be thankful for.
But Thanksgiving is something that many of us have reasons for doing, like giving thanks to God, to our country, to our families and friends for the blessings we have and the tragedies and misfortunes that we have been spared.
While the last Thursday of November is officially designated for commemorating the good fortune of the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, marking the settlement in earnest of what was to become the USA, a lot of us should probably regard every single day, every sunrise and sunset, as Thanksgiving Day.
The average life span of the Filipino male is supposed to be 71.73 years, while the American male is 78.79 years. As a Fil-Am, I’m already enjoying a “bonus” of sorts at 82. I may not be in perfect health (my medicine kit is a virtual pharmacy) but I’m grateful to the Lord, for every day that He adds to my life, allows me to write sensibly and lets me keep my sense of humor.
As one ages, one finds a reason for mirth in every little thing.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I both literally had one eye covered with a patch. She had a cataract surgery on her right eye and I had a problem with the cornea in my left eye.
I somehow found our situation amusing. And so, I began to sing:
“We have two eyes, her left and my right;
Open them wide, so clear and bright,
Wink them cutely – one, two three –
Two healthy eyes are glad to see.”
After almost 58 years of marriage, Gigi has learned to tolerate my crude sense of humor.
And speaking of singing, my speech has deteriorated into slurring and stuttering, and my voice is down to almost a whisper. But for some reason, I’m able to sing sotto voce and enunciate when singing along with the digital devices in the US and in the Philippines, Alexa and Google.
So my eldest child, Ringo, bought a new sing-along system (“for papa,” he says, but it also gives him an opportunity to practice his pretty good singing voice, over drinks). Me? I can still give Belafonte…well…at any rate I don’t stutter and my singing voice is way louder than a whisper.
Surely Ringo is reason for thanksgiving. And so are our three other children – Christina, Jojo and Jinky – who are all equally caring, along with their life partners, Rosan, Jack, Anne and Kathy and our six grandchildren, Derick Vegas, Max, Sophia, Cerise and Lawson. And most of all, so is my wife.
How lucky can a man get? And why shouldn’t I be grateful?
I have often said that, as a dual citizen (of the USA and the Philippines) I am twice-blessed, but I also said I was twice-accursed for having the wrong presidents in both countries. Thankfully, we survived one and we will, doubtless, survive the other. Surely those are reasons for thanksgiving.
But didn’t I describe the 2022 presidential election as a likely SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked-Up)? Yes, I did – but the Philippines has had similar elections in the past, yet our country has not become the land of the Taliban or the Khmer Rouge. God willing, it won’t happen next year. We Pinoys aren’t like them. That should be a reason for thanksgiving.
What other reasons do I have for giving thanks? Friends, of course! Many friends, most of them for over half a century.
And relatives. Sure, you don’t choose your relatives. But the Lord apparently hand-picked the good ones for me and my family. Nobody rich, some famous, but all good folks, especially the ones who can carry both a drink and a tune, those who can tell a good joke, and those who can laugh when the joke’s on them.
Admittedly, life has at times been like a roller coaster ride, with some wild tracks plunging down but often lurching upwards at the last moment.
Sometimes hitting bottom and crashing. Thank God my family and I have always managed to survive.
But when things go bad for a stretch and I begin to pity myself, I remind myself of a wise saying that I learned in Cursillo to give my morale a boost:
“I complained because I had no shoes – until I saw a man who had no feet!”