The first picture above is a 1989 photo (please click to see bigger version) which was scaled down from a larger size so its quality is somewhat reduced. The other one was taken seven years later on New Year's Day, 1997 - just 20 days before my mother's death. Because I've gone home two months earlier that time, I thought that I wouldn't be able to go home for Christmas and New Year. My mother said that she wished I would because she wanted a family picture taken of us then.
Though I spent Christmas in Manila, I went home to Masbate before New Year. If I hadn't, I would have felt guilty all my life.
Ma was actually upbeat during the few days I was there (reason: she met somebody with cancer whose case and treatment were practically similar to hers and the lady was still strong seven years since her ailment was diagnosed). She looked content and happy and we didn't worry much about her. During a lull in our noisy and happy exchanges at the dining table during the 1997 New Year, she remarked "Just look at us. We're not rich but we're fortunate that we are all together here having fun this New Year while a lot of affluent families are probably not as happily blessed as we are. We really should be thankful for our blessings."
At the front with my parents in the 1997 picture are my sisters Rose (to my father's right) and Jane (beside my mother). At the back are me, Raynel the youngest, and Darwin.
Jane, a licensed nurse and midwife, is now living in Chicago, USA with her husband and 3 kids. Rose, on the other hand, moved to Finland in 1999. (Rose's pictures in Finland).
We are a family of "jokesters" that we are always laughing when we sit together during meal times. All of us, with the exception of my mother and Darwin who just enjoy listening to us, can be really funny. Some relatives who are more reserved sometimes find our dining table reparteé a bit too informal.
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