There’s much to say about our family – the Nemenzo-dela Victoria clan. For one, over the years we have certainly kept most of our great lolos’ and lolas’ traditions. At least I can say that most members of our family are typically religious. We are what most people would call “cerrado catolico”.
One of the most important customs in the family is our annual novena for St. Joseph or what we commonly call pangadyi (a Cebuano word for prayer). It’s a practice passed on from my great grandparents to their children and to their children’s children – something that we ardently keep alive until today. This is done, as my lola says, as thanksgiving for all the graces and blessings that our family have received in the previous year through the intercession of the patron saint. Likewise it is also a chance to gather the clan for nine meaningful nights. Each day we recite the gozos (which are basically verses narrating important events in the life of St. Joseph) and each family is given their torno (Cebuano word for turn) to serve food and drinks after the novena.
Over the years, we have been blessed by a lot of gifts from the Lord through the intercession of San Jose. From the writings of my Lola’s brother I learned how their mother (my great grandmother) during the time of World War II saw a man pass by their house who told her to evacuate her family urgently because the Japanese might be coming to get them. She zealously believed that it was St. Joseph who acted as the medium for them to escape the ravage of the invaders.
Likewise, Mommy Libeth (my Lola’s sister-in-law) was miraculously healed from cancer after she has been diagnosed with it. I could still remember those nights when, during the novena, my lola (acting as manalabtan) together with my aunts and uncles, would cry whenever the most important family intentions for Mommy Libeth’s healing would be mentioned. Another grandma, Mama Da was also cured from breast cancer. All of us believed that it was God’s way of telling us that we deserve His miracles through the intercession of San Jose.
“Walang ganyan sa States” (“There’s nothing like that in the United States”), so goes a line from a famous TV ad for a fast-food chain. And that is the same words that perfectly describe our family’s best kept and unique tradition. I would, from a personal perspective, like to add that “Walang ganyan sa States at sa ibang pamilya dito sa Pilipinas” (“There’s nothing like that in the US and in other families in the Philippines). Yes, we maintain a very exceptional practice, one that is admired by others.
But just as the noble anonymous had said, change is constant. Like all the other traditions that our nation is losing, I would say that ours is also slowly fading, losing its importance in the minds of the young generation who are suppose to be the heirs of this custom.
As a child I grew up looking forward towards those moments when we see our cousins again – complete and all smiles as we play our favorite games. We used to play around a gasoline station located near Papa Roty’s house where we hold the novenas. Every night is always a good time for tag or hide and seek. When we had drained up all energy and had to take a rest we hang around Papa Mul’s century-old car (though I’m not exactly sure about the “century” part). My Mama tells me how they also had their fun back then. More conventional in a way but equally enjoyable. Mama and her cousins (now my Titas and Titos) used to hold mini programs and everybody participated in it. The dancing and singing didn’t stop for nine evenings and they are usually given a reward after that. It is sad that nowadays, you wouldn’t see the younger ones do it just as we did it years before. Apparently the internet and playstation offers more entertainment for them.
Similarly, nothing makes it more heartbreaking than seeing conflict within the clan. In particular some refuse to attend the novena because of disagreements with other members of the family. It’s ironic how for 90 years we have maintained that fervent devotion to San Jose but we couldn’t even keep the family ties tight. Isn’t it that the life of San Jose portrays him as a humble man who was always had a regard to his family?
In the coming years, when most of the elderly will pass away ahead of us, how will we be able to keep this tradition alive? As I contemplate on the fact that time is indeed racing with us swiftly, I can only hope and pray that this meaningful custom will be continued for another 100 years. Personally, I can’t even think of somebody who would be the next manalabtan (prayer leader). I eagerly wish that my children can still get the feeling of reciting the gozos, of singing the Visayan and Latin songs, or of playing around the gasoline station after the novena. And when my name enters the list of family members who had passed away, I hope that my children would still be able to hear that… and remember San Jose and the many times he had blessed our family.
St. Joseph, pray for us.