Home for the holidays

There's definitely no place like home, especially during the holidays! A rundown:

We met up with our "longest" friends in a quaint cafe in the metro to do our annual exchange of Christmas gifts and I'm so glad Virgie loved the mix-and-match combo (a black tank top she—knowing her—would wear a sweater over, a purple blouse which somehow resembled rose petals, and an adorable floral skirt I wish I owned and didn't include in the package) I gifted her as much as I enjoyed shopping for them earlier that month. It came with an unsolicited piece of best-friendly-bordering-motherly advice, "Dalaga ka na, dapat dalaga ka naman mamayo." Best Secret Santa award, yes?

Bummed that Kaye couldn't make it to our little gathering, we took matters into our own hands and "gatecrashed" her grandmother's rather formal birthday dinner in our simple jeans and shirt number just to deliver her gift. We lingered a bit longer in the mahjong-themed party that we got to savor a yummy dinner buffet, catch up some more, be support-babysitters of Kean, and take selfies and photos of the cutest cake our own mahjong legend mothers and grandmothers would also love to have.

Our doctor aunt and uncle from dad's side of the family were celebrating their silver wedding anniversary and our uncle and cousins planned the sweetest dinner surprise. With the company of dear relatives and friends, they reminisced on their twenty-five years of marriage and even looked back until their dating days through a special video montage featuring old photographs and greetings and a fun trivia game newlyweds usually play on their wedding reception. They renewed their vows and put on candy rings, personally handed to them by their ring bearer who is now in his thirties. It was the most adorable thing...next to the cake, of course! Grow Old With You, this is your cue.

Christmas Eve with Papa's side was quiet and simple, save for the boys versus girls games amongst us cousins which was inevitably rowdy on all levels. Given the circumstance, of course, us girls won fair and square. But the boys had to be charmers and convince the judges (their moms especially) to recalculate the points and we ended up with a tie. Sigh. Midnight munching, gift giving, Christmas wreath lighting, and family picture taking is our holiday tradition.

Christmas Day with Mama's side this year is a whole different story: red, black, and white with stripes and polka dots was the crazy motif nobody in the clan could perfectly pull off. But we all tried. There were party games and Santa Claus for the kiddos, red and white envelopes for us young adults, and home appliance exchange gifts for the parentals. Later we had a sing-along session through a makeshift videoke machine (an iPad playing Youtube lyrics videos) and a difficult guess that song contest (complete with song title, artist, year released, and movie it was played in!), all while our relatives in the US are shown on a huge white screen via Skype. I wonder what we'll have and where we'll be next year...

On New Year's Eve we checked in at our family's favorite Iloilo hotel to have a semi-peaceful turn-of-the-year and stay away from the smoke from all the fireworks. It's been a while since we've been there so it's literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air. Our staycation brought back a lot of fond memories too. And as it turns out, our grandparents and another family from our bunch decided to join us in our little suite life. We lounged by and swam in the pool, found a way to share the limited hotel internet with each other, watched countless of fireworks display from our balcony, and had a yummy breakfast buffet to welcome the new year. A great time with the people I love the most, indeed.

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