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Keeping traditions alive

Getting back to the swing of things is always difficult. It has been a long time since you last heard from me in this column. But life went on with its ups and downs; the many day to day challenges one has to deal with; the many choices one has to make; the many people, young and old and all walks of life you meet; loved ones that have come and gone; the many places you visit and discover… all these make for a very interesting, never boring life. And so, as I come back, you’ll find me sharing lessons I learned in life, which I hope you’ll take with a grain of salt.

Christmas always brings back fond memories of family, friends and community while growing up. Having come from the Philippines and having spent my childhood and early teens in a small town in the northern part of the Philippines, things we did were clear, simple and quite pronounced. We were grounded on strong values and practices that serve us well as we grew up and conquered the big wide world, way beyond our small community, venturing to the big city of Manila and later on to The Netherlands and now here in Canada.

The family is one that is in the core of our lives wherever we are. Our family does not include only nanay, tatay, kuya, ate and other siblings but also our lolo, lola, tiya, tiyo, tita, tito and all our ninongs and ninangs. The family is very important to us so where we do not have family members in our midst (like here in Canada), we find friends who will fill these very important roles of family in our lives. I remember the time I was in The Netherlands and my group composed of 65 young ladies then was just settling in. In no time did they assign a role to each one: a mommy, a daddy, an ate, ditse, bunso, etc. And as soon as they met Dutch people from the community, they came home with an oma (grandmother) and an opa (grandfather) and tante (aunt). Often times, friends would ask how I am related to a lot of kids who call me Tita and to them I say, they are all my nieces and nephews since I do embrace them as their Tita

So at Christmas time, we celebrate the gift of family – the family that nurtures us, loves and cares for us, and will always be a source of support at all times. The family is a gift that we need to appreciate and preserve because it is priceless. It is true that the family unit faces insurmountable challenges due to all the changes that are rapidly happening around us. However, if we cherish all our loved ones and those precious moments we shared, we know we will be ok. This is the one secret we have that provides us with the strength and resiliency as we are making a home away from home.

The most important gift of all is the coming of our Baby Jesus bringing the message of hope, peace, love and joy. Simbang gabi, misa de gallo, families going to church together and coming home to noche buena. In my travels, I always made it a point to visit a church. Almost always (and this brings a smile in my heart), there are Filipinos who are actively engaged in the various ministries in church and you look around the congregation and you see kababayans. In my mind, I know that faith and spirituality are very significant values that give us the strong resolve and ability to overcome anything that come our way.

Our biggest challenge is how to keep our beautiful traditions of family and faith and spirituality alive and well for our children.

I wish you all: A Christmas full of love, joy and peace and a New Year full of blessings!

Perla Javate is the President of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba. Fondly referred to by many kababayans in the community as Tita Pearl, she is the Filipino Community Liaison Officer of Winnipeg School Division. E-mail her at