Keeping Them Close: 6 Valuable Principles (Part 2)

To continue the blog post I began last week,  I’ve asked my own siblings about fostering closeness among one another, and let me share with you some valuable experiences and lessons which we believed were instrumental in forming lasting bonds with one another.

1)  Have a whole lot of shared experiences –  Despite the tough logistics and financial considerations, we did a whole lot of things as we grew up.   Whether it be eating in a restaurant or going to the beach or Baguio, a lot of emphasis was placed on being together and  doing things together like swimming, mahjong, board games, bowling, billiards, cards.   We loved going to Mamonluk, Kimpura, Hongning, Everybody’s in Pampanga and Zamboanga and Pinausukan restaurants.

Notice the 3 babies squeezed among the 3 older sisters. That’s how we rolled.

We were each others’ playmates.  So our Mom created a giant playroom attached to a library of floor to ceiling shelves of books. She sourced 2nd hand books and toys from garage sales.  We did not need  to hang around in someone else’s house. Our house was everybody’s hangout place. We even had disco lights and mirror balls in the late 1970s for the dance parties.

My brother John, 2 years older than me

We never travelled as a complete family out of the country since we could not afford it. The farthest we’ve been to were Cebu and Bohol.

My brother John may not like me in posting this photo. Taken in front of a courage in Batulao Country Club in Nasugbu, Batangas.My fondest, out of town trips were here and the White Sand Beach. They said I look like Ernie from Sesame Street. They always kid me about having no neck !

2) Creating opportunities to share, support and  help one another – My parents  set up situations that we would have to look out for each other.  Though I may have no distinct memory, I can imagine being passed on as a baby and toddler from one “ate” or “kuya” as each one helped to take care of the smaller children.  Since I had the chubbiest cheeks, all I remember was my cheeks being pinched or my mouth being  forcibly closed like a fish and being asked to say “Milo” because the “ates” and “kuyas” thought it  was too cute to behold.

Here with my tres Marias ! L-R: Ate Nenette, Ate Angeli and Ate Yeyel

When my parents would have a chance to bring home imported chocolates like  M&Ms or Nestles Crunch, these would be cut and equally divided at first to all 9 and the extra portions would be given to the older ones.  I can vividly recall, in some soldier like fashion how we would bring up 9 cups to pass each piece of M & Ms as if you were playing “sungka”.   The younger ones would of course devour their share as quick as the sungka ends and wait and hope that the older ones whose share is waiting in the refrigerator would give up their share. If the older ones are in a generous mood or maybe now that I think about it if they were dieting, then another round of “sungka”( dropping one M& M bit at time in the cups of those who were around to avail of the bonus bits) is set.

Our parents also instilled the value of “supporting each other all out”.  I remember attending most of  the graduations, watching every  dramatic play,  Kundirana concert,  every  spiritual retreat “last day” welcome from families, Music and Magic gig/concert or sports events of all my older siblings.  It’s like you needed a very good excuse to miss any of these.  We just had to be there for each other.


In full force in support for our brother Kiko ran senator as an independent.
The whole clan comes to support!

When I was about grade 2 or 3, my older siblings were assigned a vehicle to share and they were in charge of fetching my older sister and me from school .  My “ates” loved that. Little did my Dad know that, they were leaving the car parked somewhere and would fetch me with their boyfriends using his car!  I felt so “grand” being fetched by different cars and even going to fancy restaurants! I think my Dad didn’t know about those “special arrangements”. If our older sister came with their boyfriends, our older brothers were a bit more daring by just asking their good friends to fetch us if they were caught up ( maybe with their girlfriends!). “Hello, Donna. Sorry your brother asked me to fetch you and your sister.”  Ok, it was sort of grand too especially if their super cute friends would fetch us.  Hahaha.  Of course, that was probably not proper and my Dad would have freaked out had he known, but it somehow taught the older ones to look after the young ones.

3. Timeless Traditions – the most memorable were:

  • Family Councils –  Every New Year’s Eve,  our Dad got us together to just open up to one another regarding strengths and weaknesses.  It may seem daunting, but it was done in bold love and in a peaceful manner.  Each one gets a chance to be praised and also to be gently enlightened regarding areas of improvement. Some called it our “family bull session” but  it didn’t seem negative as the term connotes. I guess, it was our family’s version of setting our New Year’s Resolution. Those yearly discussions, I believe, trained us that in order for us to grow and mature we needed to learn how to give encouragement and accept  criticism.  We needed to know that LOVE was the bedrock of this kind of engagement.
  • Having gifts for one another every Christmas – We didn’t just look forward to our parents’ gifts but  also to the ones from our siblings.  As early as grade 2, I remember being given a few hundreds to budget and give to my parents, my 8 siblings and the helpers. So all 9 of us were given a set budget to give each other specifically chosen, bought and wrapped gifts for one another.  This exercise really helped us consider and  know one another more as we searched for gifts.
  • Weekend trips to our Farm house in Antipolo, Summer trips to Baguio or Batulao.

4. Physically sharing a room/sharing a car/sharing clothes – We always shared rooms because we couldn’t live in houses with 9 rooms for the children. Usually we had to share. For a long time, the groupings were :  2 youngest girls, 4 boys  and the 3 older sisters. Then we eventually paired up with each other with our eldest having her own room when we moved.  If it wasn’t a room, it could be car, or shoes or clothes. We had to share period . This “forced” physical closeness fostered a deeper closeness indeed.

5. All of the experiences in numbers 1-4 promoted constant communication among us. My sister Felichi says, “Communication was promoted when Dad led us through the yearly affirming and confrontation on New Year’s Eve. Communication is key in all relationships.”

6.   We are ONE – Somewhere around the mid 1980s, one by one my siblings caught the passion to read/study the Bible and get to know Jesus more intimately.   We all eventually  learned from one another and shared a common faith  having Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. From being  blood related, we became spiritually bound:) That we believe made the biggest difference and impact as we relate to another as each one started leaving and pursuing their own lives with their families and as we reconnect to continue caring for parents, the businesses that closed and other family matters and keeping the bonds strong among siblings and cousins. Empowered by His Spirit, we can seek to love, confront, correct, apologize, forgive, understand,  and to love again.

The last decade or so has been the toughest for us as a family dealing with the realities of aging elderly parents,  the role reversal of sorts and the costs of caring for them as we look after own families and endeavors.  But there is strength in numbers.  We rally and battle together.  We have each other  as we face the unknown for our parents. But above all, we have our Creator, the author of our lives and our family.  The toughest seasons bring out the best (and sometimes)the  worst in each other and I am honored to say that I am blessed to share the one life that God has given me with these amazing siblings.

I celebrated my birthday recently and had this on my FB wall:

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May our experiences help you foster closeness among your children and may our good Lord always fill your homes with love. Jesus’ Words says in John 17:20-22, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  We collectively and individually seek to witness for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We argue, we disagree and have a lot of misunderstandings but we seek to honor Jesus in our relationships and we seek to go towards love, humility, forgiveness and peace.

So in summary, what will keep siblings close, what will keep our children close? Yes we shared some tips  from own our family but intertwined  in all of that is LOVE.   What will keep our children close?   Love will. Love will always find a way………………… because God is love!

1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Keeping Them Close: Tales from the Youngest of 9 Children (Part 1)

I remember, around 20 years ago, a young mother of several children approached me to ask about my closeness with my sister. I was in college then and my sister was a young professional.  I vividly remember how she wanted to know how we “got to that point.” What were your growing years like? What did your parents do?   Do you have suggestions on how to make siblings become close to one another?

A few days ago, I just spent 5 hours which went by so fast  with the same sister . We pretty much just chatted and shared much of what was in our hearts and minds. Come to think of it, I can do that with all my sisters and perhaps even  my brothers (but they may get bored!)  and their wives as well.


I am the youngest of nine children and 14 years come between our eldest and me.   My mom was pregnant every  1-2 years and had undergone 2 miscarriages. We should have been 11. I should have been number 11,  our number 4 and 6 didn’t reach to full term :(. Looking forward to finally meeting them in heaven one day.

That’s me being held by Mommy Emma. Sister Nenette is taking care of brother John, Maricel is beside Mom then thats Joseph, Francis “Kiko” , then Angeli. With Dad are Felichi and Anthony.


L-R Nenette (Agnes) , Angeli (Anna) , Chel (Maricel, Rita) , Mommy Emma and Daddy Dony, Kiko with Buggy, Anthony, then Joseph with Chopper, In front : John, Me (not looking) and Felichi. Who cut my bangs? Daddy.

Maybe earlier, the age gap mattered a whole lot in fostering closeness and meaningful engagement. But then I started noticing myself, as I grew older, having different bonds with each one.


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Can you name my 8 siblings?

One only needs to sit within one of our frequent shared meals to know how much “engagement’ occurs. Many times, the crisscrossing of conversations, the butting in and quick  changing of  the subject, and all that comes in between drive my German brother in law crazy. I guess for as long he has his wine or beer,  I think love prevails over-all! We’re hopefully learning to lessen the craziness sometimes.

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I guess, to describe this closeness, I often say, that on  a weekly basis, we kinda know what each one is generally going through and add to that, since many travel, where everyone is.  We use our social media threads to share the most hilarious jokes, memories or experiences to  serious concerns and ardent prayer requests! Sometimes, it only takes a few hours away from your phone to miss 100 messages on our threads!


So the nine eventually ballooned to  18 children and  28 grandchildren with 2 additional in laws! And I am quite encouraged to see the a level of closeness developing among the cousins for similar ages which span from 3 to 32!



We all know that  all  parents yearn for  their children to grow in friendship through brotherhood/sisterhood. Every parent desires to have children who genuinely love being together and love each other .

My siblings and I can sometimes be too close,  or maybe too enmeshed maybe. It’s kinda like the ‘TMI” saying. You know, too much information. We can be  too engaged with one another, and we’ve had to learn to adjust and re-adjust as each one became part of another family, and raising own our children.     Though we enjoy talking and spending time together, we have different personalities, passions, jobs, hobbies, habits, preferences. So when different people connect often, disagreements and conflicts are bound to happen.  And I have witnessed a whole lot of it through the years.

However, I am thankful that we all seek to be committed followers of Jesus who are  called to love like Him. Love unconditionally, through thick and thin.  That then becomes the secret to overcoming the conflicts. In the end, Jesus’  call to love one another prevails.

We are also blessed with parents who taught and modeled to  us the value of honoring one another through love, support, sacrifice and forgiveness through the different storms and seasons in our lives.

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One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling  for our own family of 4 children is having our children have their own siblings as their first friends and classmates. I guess they have no choice but to really like each other genuinely because they’re the only ones they’ve got for some time.  With the older boys in regular high schools, they share a room during summers and weekends. I love their non-stop talking and  how they have found a common love for basketball (3 boys), Lego and Star Wars (all 4 , yes!) . Homeschooling, through daily interaction and joint experiences of fun and learning,  seem to have created a good ground for closeness to bloom and I am hoping and praying this carries on to adulthood and unto to their own families/ children as well.

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My sister in law in my husband’s side observed the closeness among our children and asked me what Gilbert and I did to foster that.  It’s not as if “closeness”  became a goal,  I guess, you just naturally related with one another and treated each other in the setting  of warmth,  positivity, love and yes, with lots of fun in loads of quantity of time ( something HomesCool provides).  That comment made me think for some time. I  eventually asked my own siblings what they believe were instrumental in keeping the bonds close as we grew up. I shall share them to you in another post very soon. Keep checking the blog for Part 2 then!


Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.