Grandparents' Day

(Today’s column)

I hate to burst your rosy bubble but the way that the Philippines celebrates Grandparents’ Day reeks of colonial mentality. It’s not a bad idea to pay our respects to the elderly but to do it on the day marked by the United States Congress adds another dimension to the meaning of neo-colonialism. It’s like, “If America says so, we do so.” Is the Philippines still an American colony or what?

From Grandparents-Day.Com:

In 1970, a West Virginia housewife, Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, initiated a campaign to set aside a special day just for grandparents. Through concerted efforts on the part of civic, business, church, and political leaders, this campaign expanded statewide. Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) was especially instrumental in the project. The first Grandparents Day was proclaimed in 1973 in West Virginia by Gov. Arch Moore. Also in 1973, Senator Randolph introduced a Grandparents Day resolution in the United States Senate. The resolution languished in committee.

Mrs. McQuade and her team turned to the media to garner support. They also began contacting governors, senators, congressmen in every state. And they sent letters to churches, businesses, and numerous national organizations interested in senior citizens. In 1978, five years after its West Virginia inception, the United States Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. The proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter. (September was chosen for the holiday, to signify the “autumn years” of life.)

Today this event, begun by only a few, is observed by millions throughout the United States.

The above quote also appeared in another column, attributed as a “clipping” sent by Batangas Gov. Tony Leviste. But I play fair. If I use material that isn’t mine, I cite the source. I don’t think media people nor government officials are exempt from making attribution to the original writer or writers. Quotation marks just aren’t enough. One has to cite the source.

Anyway, the practice reached the Philippines years ago. I don’t think the Filipinos decided en masse that they would celebrate Grandparents’ Day as well and on the same date marked by the US Congress too. My guess is that the practice crossed the ocean when second and third generation Filipinos in the US started sending cards and gifts to their grandparents in the Philippines. The grandchildren in the Philippines followed suit. Then, some enterprising businessmen caught on, decided it would be profitable to hype it up so that there would be another reason for mass shopping, gift-giving and eating out in the tradition of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day.

I hope you did not celebrate Grandparents’ Day that way–with the token gift, the cursory visit, the hurried meal in some impersonal restaurant where flowers, banners and music announce in full commercial glory that we ought not to scrimp in remembering the elderly members of the family. In short, I hope you did not celebrate Grandparents’ Day the way most middle and upper class Metro Manilans celebrate Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day.

I’m bitching? No, I’m not. I’m just being frank. Okay, brutally frank. If you’re huffing and puffing and turning blue with anger by this time, it means I hit some raw nerve. You’re probably one of those people who like to project the image of a loving child or grandchild because you remember to buy gifts and make restaurant reservations on Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day and Grandparents’ Day then forget about your parents and grandparents for the rest of the year. Oh, okay, perhaps you also buy gifts and make restaurant reservations on their birthdays and on Christmas Day. That makes you remember them three or four times a year. Congratulations.

Oh, I know. We’re all living our lives and we can’t play handmaidens to the elderly in the family. I understand totally. I am not one who believes that children and grandchildren should be raised as investments and nurtured to serve as insurance in old age. But there has to be a more meaningful way of remembering, paying respects and showing love in lieu of those unimaginative gifts (that your secretary picked out) and expensive dinners where half the courses can’t even be enjoyed by people who, in their old age, are most probably nursing heart and blood pressure issues.

Does one really have to wait for publicly proclaimed dates to remember loved ones? Because if you don’t care about your parents and grandparents except during so-called special days, then you’re just riding along with the bandwagon and not really internalizing and understanding why they are an important part of your life.

So, how did you celebrate Grandparents’ Day? Are you still reading this?