It was a feast by all accounts.
The Pancit Malabon and the home-made spaghetti laid side by side across the large wooden table. Sticks of grilled pork flanked the two pasta dishes. A plate of roasted chicken was being passed around. Not even its bones did escape the hungry mouths of the youthful revelers. A batch of fried spring rolls was set aside on the food strainer, its coat of vegetable oil still dripping on the warm pot. There were a lot more where it came from. The macaroni salad in the fridge remained untouched, and so were the cakes, brought by friends who arrived expectedly, even in the absence of invitations. Finally, the Lechon was delivered, paid for by the celebrant's other half who was also celebrating his birthday on that auspicious weekend. I don't recall it getting to the table with its crispy skin still intact.
Later that evening, when the family members have all left, those who stayed behind took turns singing at the karaoke. I remember Kuya Roque, the eldest of the celebrant's students crooned to classic tunes from Frank Sinatra to Procol Harum. It is as if, he had memorized all the celebrant's favorite songs and performed it with much feel. Meanwhile, cases of beer kept the live chatter late into the night, spilling into the driveway, where some of the guests had already begun swooning on their monobloc chairs. Unable to handle the alcohol that had already numbed the senses, some of the female guests were told to stay overnight. It wasn't safe to travel home. I wonder if they still remember that event from years back when they felt so euphoric, they woke up the next morning having a taste of what a wasted adult felt like.
I do, even when I was a mere spectator.
Because in the years after that feast, no longer would the celebrant throw a celebration as grand as the vignette I have written, and instead, simply waited for people to remember (and hopefully show up with food that we can all share). The students who were intoxicated now have their own lives. Rarely do they keep in touch. Kuya Roque, the crooner, has passed away after he didn't wake up one morning, and only the celebrant's friends from her old neighborhood (aside from relatives) never fail to show up, to have a modest birthday party to welcome another year.
But that will change.
She had a difficult time sleeping that night when the idea had finally sunk in. She was even worried that she might have a heart attack after failing to contain all that excitement. For after 15 years, she will have a feast, and she has the liberty to gather all the people who mattered without having to worry about the food or the venue because someone will throw her a party. It will be her 70th birthday, and no matter what the cost, all I yearn for is for her to have an unforgettable evening.
With the downpayment for the food, the cake, and the venue already paid, I still have 40 days to convince special guests to show up, make a video presentation of my mother's colorful life with the help of the Weatherman, convince myself to hire a host, and pray, for the third nephew to stay a little longer inside my sister's womb.
May the universe grant this favor.