On Thanks and Giving Day, FilAms gather as family and count their blessings

thanks 1By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

The past few weeks have, according to news reports and advertisements, were hailed by shoppers who have embraced “Black Friday madness.”

Although the pitch means pre-holiday bargains to induce bigger shopping sprees, it seems the frequency of holiday weekend offerings (like the forthcoming Thanksgiving Day) is ceaseless.
Restaurants, groceries and similar food markets join department stores in convincing buyers about bargain-hunting.

When the aforementioned splurges take place, doesn’t an onlooker ever wonder what Thanksgiving’s essence is all about?

Mariquit Gamboa a longtime resident of Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, has her own Thanksgiving translation.

“It is uniquely American, and is arguably the most widely-celebrated holiday in the United States. Yes, it is bigger than Christmas as Americans of all religions, ethnic and economic backgrounds get together with their own families to give thanks as the Pilgrims did a long time ago. For us, Filipino immigrants, we thank God for our many blessings and for our loved ones. It is a time to kick back, relax, and catch up with our friends and families, while enjoying a huge feast.”

The Auto Club of America (AAA) projects Year 2014 will have at least 46.3 million people travel ‘at least 50 miles’ from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, projecting a 4.2 percent increase over 2013 and the highest volume since 2007.

Since the Thanksgiving holidays, defined from Wednesday, November 26, through Sunday, November 30th were proclaimed early enough, travelers will be on the road, unlike recent years when the ‘battered economy’ was what caused folks to stay home.

Linda and Paul Leary of California’s Culver City view Thanksgiving Day not confined to one day.

She said: “For me, Thanksgiving Day is a day when I have to pause in whatever I am doing to pay homage to God for all the things He has done for me. This is the day when I celebrate life and show my gratitude too by sharing His blessings with others and doing whatever I can to help. This is also the day when I reconnect with everybody who has been important in my life.”

Paul echoes his wife’s traditional wishes. “It is always nice to give thanks to the Lord not only once a year on Thanksgiving Day, but always in our ‘waking time.’ To sum it up just for the Thanksgiving season, I would say: having experienced the joys in having a happy family, is what I offer thanks for.”

Marisse Abelgas, marketing manager of a large Filipino American bakery and café firm, underscores the role of the family on Thanksgiving.

“This year, it becomes even more special because it falls on the same day as my first grandchild’s birthday. The little one has been such a great blessing and has brought so much joy to our lives. As my family celebrates the very essence of love and togetherness on that day, we also offer our thanks to the Lord for all the blessings He has bestowed on us and ask Him to help us use His blessings wisely and well!”

The newly-installed president and board chair of a 36-year old media organization in California’s Southland, Evelyn Aviado Portugal goes back to her very early experiences as an advertising executive. She noted highlights of Thanksgiving’s celebration in America as those that precede the ‘happiest and most anticipated’ signs of Christmas.

“From the very moment when I retire as each single day concludes, to the time I open my eyes in the morning, I am reminded that each day represents life. It is most appropriate to express my gratitude for the life that is in us, in my family, among my co-workers, and all those who are in my life.”.

Tita James of Panorama City makes the family theme emphatic when she recounts her schedules. “Every time I go to sleep and wake up in the morning, I thank God for all the blessings received. I thank the Lord that I have a good son, a good daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. I also remember my daughter-in-law’s parents, ‘balae’ in using our old hometown’s term. I ask the Lord to grant me good health to enable me to further my volunteer work under the guidance of the Lions Club, to help the elderly in need of rides to go home instead of taking the bus. I am thankful that I have been able to extend help to seven nephews and nieces who finished college; in turn, they will move to help the next ones.”

Thankfully, in spite of the distance from our ancestral home, Filipinos keep the home fires burning!

The theme of ‘family’ is awe-inspiring. All voices of those requested to chime in remain inspirational. One such vehicle for them to accomplish what they are wont to doing is prayer laced with faith.

Thanksgiving might arrive annually on the scene, but for those who gave vibrancy to this piece, one is reminded that likewise, it is a time for togetherness and sharing.

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