Jerry Seinfield once said that, “Birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we’ve grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it’s not to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; there is no such thing as happy birthday”. Apparently, he is a comedian who hasn’t found a reason and joy to celebrate and have closed the door to a better self.As I type, the earliest and probably the only memory I remember celebrating my birthday is when I was in my third grade. My mom or my aunt Eling made some mayonnaise sandwich, prepared four liters of “palamig” juice and brought it to my classroom during our recess. I was embarrassed because of a reason I can’t remember, but I appreciate it much now, for I knew how my parents really cared for me. I think that I had more celebrations though I am unable to dig anything more for now.
When I was in College, I used to celebrate my birthdays with friends at Pancit eateries outside the school where during ordinary days, we would be contented with the 10 pesos pancit and on special days, we would risk for the 30 pesos special pancit at Gretchen’s in Tuguegarao city. Thankful, I still receive greetings from my parents who couldn’t do anything more to their son who is away from home. Sometimes, I had regrets when I was a kid for being born in a month that covers the school season. It would’ve been better I thought, if my birthday would’ve been between March and June during the summer. At least, even if there would be no celebrations, I won’t be hearing taunts and teases from my classmates.
I grew up not experiencing so much birthday celebrations or maybe I just can’t remember. And because I’m not used to, it must have been the reason why I feel uncomfortable now that I am older, whenever I become the reason for celebrations. Christmas parties however were the only special occasions I could clearly remember. There would be lot of church activities and prayer times, visitations to and from other families and gift giving everywhere. Who could forget Christmas? As years passed, it would’ve taken me awhile to think about my age when asked, if I hadn’t been to Palawan. Since 2007, my Cornerstone Community (Our church) family has continuously been gracious each year with their unanticipated birthday surprises. One of the most unforgettable surprises was last August. After church at 6PM, I and my wife were invited by our pastor for a dinner birthday treat from him. I didn’t refuse for we actually don’t have any special plan for that day. But as I waited for our pastor’s text to call us to the agreed place, my wife made some excuses that I thought were not intentional. However, she was buying time for her good accomplices to set up the surprise dinner near the bay. Unfortunately, it started to rain hard and we’re stuck in a gas station. Unknown to me, my wife and her troop were arranging for a change of the venue through text messages. I decided anyway to go to our church’s office to wait for our pastor’s text. But when we reached the office, the rest of the surprise team was there and I was greeted by everyone in a dimly lit room with smiles and laughs, birthday song, cake and candle and food. During the party, some were also given a chance to say something about me and it certainly was one of my happiest moments this year. And honestly, I did try not to let tears roll. It uplifts your spirit to know that more than two people care about you. In 2010, I had another surprise in Sabang beach at the earliest hour of the morning with more than 20 candles. In 2009, I had a celebration at our house that my wife organized. She even experimented and cooked my favorite chicken ala-king. In 2007 and 2008, I had another birthday surprise at the church’s office, not at where I work. And for each time it happens, there would always be volunteers. People organize, wash the dishes, setup and clean tables, cook and buy the food.
Last September, it was my wife that they surprised. I was also surprised as well. Before evening descends, me and my wife decided to have a dinner celebration as her mom encouraged it when she sent her a monetary gift. Before we could finally leave however, one of our church’s couple’s group whispered to me and asked if we have any plans. After I told them, they asked if its ok for them to come and surprise my wife while when we’re having our dinner. An hour later, it went on as planned. My wife was clueless as each person we knew arrived. She still thought that it was just a coincidence that they were coming at the same restaurant for their Sunday family dinner. So when everyone was there, they greeted her, arranged the tables so we would be in a single long table, and then sang the birthday song silently. She was surprised, and even more when they offered to pay for our dinner. Indeed, we had a wonderful fellowship.When we got home, she got another surprise. There were cup cakes with a happy birthday swirls of chocolate and a cartolina stuck with message notes from the students in Kumilos Ka Kabataan. Apparently, while we were out, they went to our house and prepared their surprise. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to wait for us and they were gone before we arrived. Anyhow, my wife was still super surprised. It was one of the best birthday surprises that she had.
We weren’t the only ones privileged with these birthday surprises. There are others more who are blessed, by the same group of friends, with birthdays one couldn’t have had. When I was in college, I used to think that birthday parties are just for little kids to make them happy and so they could have good memories; and also for female and male teenagers who are about to turn 18 and 21 respectively – the day when they’d finally start to be considered to be of legal age. My former thoughts somehow have helped me to pass through aging without complaining or wishing. And though I can’t remember how it happened, I am happy that I passed my 21st year and thankful to God for His great grace.
Growing older sometimes may not really be an extraordinary event to be celebrated for some, but I believe it should. Birthdays are our defining moments. It is an important mark within our life’s time frame. It is when we asses our progress in our God given purpose which is the very reason why He adds years to our life. It is as well the time to remember God’s blessings and how well we used it. It is the time to appreciate and be appreciated, to give and receive, to be happy and make someone happy and to say and show our love. It is also the time, to look behind to our parents and offer them the best gratitude we can do for giving us the life we deserve. To everyone who knew me, I give my great appreciation and thanks.