Tito (Uncle) Bob is the remaining living brother of my father, the last relative of the older generation who share the same last name as me. On one of our dinners during the Philippines trip in 2018, he made a comment that is a play on words, and something he said with pride.
“So, our family is known to be gener-ous, because we are the Gener-als! Get it?!”
I kind of rolled my eyes at the pun, but I felt really good about this nice conversation about traits that seemed to be common in our family.
There are obvious traits that each family unit is known for, whether these are described by my actual relatives, or observed by other people who spent time with us. It can be one’s immediate family, one’s first-degree relatives, or even the entire clan.
From my experience, warm and heartfelt conversations are a rarity amongst my mother’s side relatives, because we are known for being relentless workaholics. Known to be organized, multitaskers, hustlers, persevering and practical, these traits certainly contribute to successfully launching businesses, or migrating to other countries and thriving. Since I grew up with them majority of the time, both in the Philippines and Canada, these are part of my own personal traits as well.
For my husband, 2018 was his second visit to the Philippines. He is trying to seek out opportunities to get to know more both myself and my brother. As kids, after our parents passed away, my bother and I were separated many times and cared for by different sets of relatives for practicality purposes. As we visit each side of the family for various gatherings, my husband tried hard to listen and observe. Then, when we are able to talk again in private, he would share to me his observations, saying something like “Oh I see where you get this attitude from, and this is where you brother learned that perspective from”.
During dinner, Tito Bob continued on, saying that the father’s side family is well known to act like a united front. “Together we stand, throughout life’s challenges” and “we may be poor, but we know we will be okay as long as we are there for each other”. I look back the annual trips that my brother and I do to visit those relatives and celebrate New Year’s Day with them. There were lots of large, loud dinners, children going from one home to another to hang out and play. Work or business transactions are hardly discussed.
I think back on my tendency to pursue extra-curricular activities, and as an adult, continuing to extend myself through volunteering when I could. I was not really encouraged to do that by the elders I lived with – the mother’s side. It was more a neutral or indifferent acknowledgement. But I kept on and found satisfaction in doing all of these. I wonder if that is something that I have picked up, an inherited tendency perhaps, that doing things I don’t get paid for but helps the community is worthwhile.
My brother has a more skeptical and practical perspective on things, bordering towards cynical sometimes. That line of thinking is something I recognize more with my maternal grandmother, and from the perspective of self-preservation, I genuinely understand.
A challenge I’ve brought to myself is how to combine the best of both and allowing any weird personality traits that are uniquely me to shine through. It is important for me as well to put things into context and accept that certain ways of thinking just does not work anymore, and that’s okay. I think in a strange way, I appreciate my full name as it is, with just a singular first name, so there is space for both my middle name (my mother’s last name) and my family name (my father’s last name) in my Canadian IDs. It’s an easy visual reminder that I am from both families and can take the best parts of each and improve on them.