My grandmother on my father's side whom we fondly call "Mama" celebrated a major milestone as she turned 90 last Sunday. Tito Erwin, Tita Maritie, and their family led the preparations for a surprise party for Mama, which was held in Betty's near Sto. Domingo. I think Mama was expecting to see a few people but not everyone so when she stepped into venue and everyone started singing "Happy birthday" as all the lights were turned on, she was overcome with emotion. It was such a wonderful moment.
It was a very memorable evening for me on so many levels. First, Mama turned 90. Very few people reach that age so it's great to see Mama still in good health even with 90 years behind her. Also, most of the family was there. This included Tita Susan who hasn't been home in three years and my cousin Father John who flew in from Italy. He even brought with him a very special blessing for Mama from Pope Francis! Tita Maritie had also asked me to invite my grandmother on my mother's side, Nanay, who was a bit hesitant to go because she thought that she might end up being out of place. However, once she was there, she fit right in and everyone there, including Mama, was really happy to see her.
I also enjoyed the videos that were projected on screen right before dinner. The slideshow of photos celebrating Mama's 90 years was nostalgic, especially when we saw pictures of Papa who passed away a while back and of our old house where we got to spend a lot of time during our youth and bond with the extended family. Afterwards we got to see and hear birthday greetings from Mama's brother and relatives in the US. There was even a video of Mama's brother playing the piano and then later on singing Nat King Cole's "For all we know".
Of course you can't have a 90th birthday celebration without speeches from the family. All of Mama's children shared some wonderful, heartfelt words followed by Fr. John and Mama's first grandchild, my cousin Carina. Naturally, we invited Mama to speak in front of everyone and share her own thoughts to us. To officially end the program, we lit the candle on the cake as everyone sang another "Happy birthday" before Mama made her wish and blew out the candle. As people started having their photos taken with Mama, the party music started and as is always the tradition in our family, the dancing started.
Tita Maritie asked me a couple of weeks before Mama's birthday whether I could act as emcee and of course I agreed. I think I did okay for the most part although my main miss was I forgot that Fr. John was supposed to lead everyone in grace before meals and I instructed everyone to head over to the buffet spread. Yikes! I guess I must have been really hungry at that point that I forgot hehe. Thankfully, no one held it against me and Fr. John just led us all in a grace AFTER meals. :)
It was an evening full of fun, surprises, nostalgia, and love. Hopefully Mama still have several years here with us. Maybe we'll even get to the centennial celebration! But the important thing for the family to remember is that we all need to spend as much time as we can with Mama while she is still here.