by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan
My husband and I love taking pictures of our family wherever we go. We make sure that we capture precious moments so our children can always look back at them. Sometimes, when I look at our family pictures, there’s a tug at my heartstrings.
I wish I had pictures of our complete family: my mama and papa, and my three siblings. But as far as I remember, we didn’t have a complete family picture when I was young.
Or maybe we had, but most, if not all of our pictures have been damaged because of the moist weather in Baguio City, my hometown in the Philippines.
We didn’t own a film camera and camera phones weren’t available back then to take pictures anytime and anywhere. When I see pictures of family reunions online, my face smiles but my heart breaks. Having a family portrait with my parents and my siblings has become a dream.
When I was 17 and my mother left for the United States. My family wasn’t just physically distanced, it has become broken. My parents separated. The hope of becoming complete and whole vanished.
Eventually, my siblings and I lived our own lives and built our own families. My eldest sister settled in Australia. My youngest brother now lives in Canada with his family. My younger brother still lives in Baguio City, raising four children. And here I am in South Korea with my husband and two children.
For the past decades, we had several pictures taken but there never was a complete family photo, not even at our weddings. My mother would fly from the U.S. to be there, but there’s always one sibling who will be absent.
Early this year, we decided we would go to the Philippines to have a reunion and celebrate our mother’s 68th birthday.
From different parts of the world, we all flew to Manila. We stayed in Pangasinan where my mother built her home whenever she visits the Philippines.
We also traveled to Baguio City where my father resides and my younger brother lives with his family.
My siblings and I were so happy to see each other but what made us even more joyful was to see our parents together again, even if their relationship has turned from marriage to only friends.
They are not in speaking terms so we made sure that we will have some days our whole family will have a get together in a house that we rented (because our family house is so small, we don’t fit anymore).
We succeeded! Oh, it was a glorious time!
We all went to the tourist spots we used to visit when we were young, showing them to our children and letting them experience our childhood–horseback riding, biking in Burnham Park, having a picnic in Camp John Hay, and so much more.
We had meals together, shared stories, and laughed our hearts out as we share funny moments. We sang karaoke (which we loved doing as a family) and just enjoyed our time with each other, not minding the barriers that divide us.
On our few days together, we felt we were a complete and whole family again. We ended our time together in prayer, praising God for the opportunity to be together again.
There was a lot of laughter and a lot of tears shed as our hearts were filled with joy but at the same time broken because we knew those precious moments were just temporary. If only we could freeze time, but sadly we couldn’t.
But at least we all went home bringing with us so many precious memories and of course, hundreds of family pictures.
Finally, after 21 years, we have a family portrait. What made it even more precious and memorable, our family of six has grown. Included in the pictures were our spouses and our children.
It will take a long time again before we can get together. We don’t even know if we will have another chance.
But one thing is for sure, our hearts are forever grateful. A prayer has been answered, a dream has come true- a complete family portrait.
by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan