Modern Filipino family.  Complete with siblings and a dozen other first cousins and their families, titos and titas who've married into the family, and of course, can't forget the lolas and lolos who hosted family gatherings some thirty plus years ago the way second generation-ers are now.  

The summer season's always a busy one what with christenings, anniversaries and birthdays. Milestone ones like N.'s sweet 16. N. is the oldest child on A.'s side of the family and his beloved niece, his brother's oldest daughter.  Instead of a good ol' Filipino American glam debut, N. chose to have a family barbecue.  My brother-in-law, E., purchased a smoker grill for the occasion.  And grill master A. now looks forward to finding any family occasion to celebrate with E. and family.  (Next month, E.'s 42nd birthday.  Only if E.'s agreeable, of course!)

While my side of the extended family boasts around 130 first cousins (my Mom is one of twelve, and my Dad was the youngest of seven), they are spread throughout the globe -- up and down the West Coast stateside, a few of us on the East Coast, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, East Asia and the Philippines.  Other than trips to the homeland, my experience of big family occasions is on A.'s side.  

Usually I'm overly anxious immediately before a family event, though I've gotten better through the years as I've become more familiar with the varying personalities across A.'s immediate and extended families.  No modern Filipino American family is without its polite small talk and drama, some of it serious, some of it unaddressed, and some of it you just can't make your own.  Whatever communication challenges, I've learned to welcome every family event as an invitation to practice authenticity.  

A couple of supersized, colorful party cups of homemade sangria doesn't hurt either.

halik halik 
(kiss kiss)
paano ka?
(how are you?)
kaya kaibig-ibig upang makita ang sa iyo!
(so lovely to see you!)
kumain ng kumain
(eat eat) 
lahat sa!
(all in!) 
tulad ay ang modernong kamag-anak
(such is kin today)