Every November, or even last week of October, it’s a Filipino tradition that All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) are spent in cemeteries to honor our departed loved ones. Somehow, these events are also family reunions.
I remember during these visits to the cemetery, my Uncle Aciong would tell me stories about the Villamors of Abra. He would tell me how we are related to Supreme Court Justice Julio Villamor, and the World War II hero Col. Jesus Villamor, among others. Having famous relatives – living or dead – and having met some of them in the flesh during those family gatherings or reunions gave me a sense of pride.
My first brush with genealogy was in my second year in high school (equivalent to Grade 8). We were asked to present our family tree in our Social Studies class. But that was it. Never did I imagine myself delving deeper into my genealogy.
I also remember the grand family reunion in 1980 at Justice Julio Villamor’s residence. It was a big gathering, a whole-day event that started with a Holy Mass at their chapel (Yes, their house had a chapel where neighbors can hear mass every Sunday. That’s how big their house used to be.). I remember playing with my cousins at the playground and being called to join the picture-taking. There were three groups of picture-taking, which I didn’t understand back then.
Later in life, in the mid-90s, relatives on my maternal side planned a family reunion. That was also the time I saw the document which outlines the genealogy of Blas Villamor and Maria Del Rosario Bersamin. then came the series of meetings of relatives attempting to update the document. I was there, too. I realized that each picture-taking during that grand reunion in 1980 represented the three branches or living descendants of Blas Villamor and Maria Del Rosario Bersamin (Eulalio, Mariano, and Florencio). I came from the Mariano branch.
Of course, there was this family outing held in the beach house of the late Tita Vencing (Venecia Barreras) at Kalatagan, Batangas. It was attended by mostly balikbayan relatives — Tita Naty and her children, Tita Cristina and her children, my Tito Julio, and my cousin John, son of Tita Flora. Everybody bonded over food and drinks. And other trips, lunches, or dinners in someone’s house followed until these balikbayans went back to the U.S. Tito Julio even asked me to write a few articles for a newsletter he planned to publish but wasn’t able to do so.
Because most of us went our separate ways and lived our own lives, connecting with relatives became less frequent especially when I had a “tragic” experience that made me stay away from relatives I thought were family.
“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, and the other, wings.”— Hodding S. Carter
The Document and What’s Next?
More than twenty years later, I found this document outline in my files. I thought of creating a blog about it. And here it is.
However, while creating this blog, I asked myself why am I doing this. Or to better rephrase it, “why do I write genealogy?” Writing about genealogy serves multiple purposes, and people engage in this activity for various reasons.
Connection to Ancestry and Preservation of Family History
To answer the question why I write genealogy, the first answer that comes to mind is “Because I want to know my ancestors.” This answer is could be too generic. However, writing genealogy allows us to document the family’s history, making sure that the stories, traditions, and experiences of past generations are not forgotten. By documenting our family genealogy, we create a lasting legacy for future generations. This work can be passed down, providing a meaningful gift to descendants. At the same time, it helps us feel a stronger connection to our ancestors, providing a sense of identity, belonging, and an understanding of our historical roots.
Understanding Heritage in a Social and Historical Context
Family history research helps us learn more about our cultural and ethnic heritage. It can shed light on the history and social conditions in which our ancestors lived. It contributes to a broader knowledge by providing insights into how events, migrations, and social changes during those times affected their lives. These stories can add depth to our understanding of larger historical events.
Educational and Research Opportunities
Genealogy involves research skills, critical thinking, and historical investigation. It can be a valuable educational endeavor for me. It can also be a tool for teaching history and research methods for others. Because of this, genealogy often involves connecting with a wider community of genealogists and historians. How exciting and fulfilling it could be if I meet genealogists and historians here in the Philippines and abroad.
Researching and writing the lives of our ancestors can be a deeply personal journey. It helps us understand our predecessors better and gain insight into their own values and beliefs. Some people, on the other hand, delve into genealogy to trace hereditary health conditions or discover genetic traits using genetic testing kits available today. Results and other provided information can be valuable for understanding potential health risks. For some people, genealogy can be a form of healing. It allows individuals to address family mysteries, reconcile with the past, and find closure in cases of estrangement or unresolved issues.
Now that I have the document and this blog, what’s next?
Signs Of The Times?
The world became much smaller because of the Internet and social media. It’s easier to reconnect with relatives. Last July, my cousins on my maternal side contacted me via Facebook Messenger to discuss our house in Cubao. A few weeks ago, a cousin on my paternal side created a group chat on Messenger among us first-degree cousins. I guess this is the Universe’s way of telling me to continue with what I’m doing.
However, not all relatives are our friends on Facebook, or followers on X (formerly Twitter) or Instagram. Also, not all family members and relatives would be interested in genealogy. Although some may be interested in some degree, these relatives would be a handful and would only be interested in one branch or family.
At this point, I still don’t have an idea of my final product. Will it be an autobiography, a memoir, or a history book? I’ll just stick to this blog for now.
I hope that those of you who created a family tree of your own would be willing to collaborate with me for updates, especially if you can link your ancestry to the Villamor, Valera, Nasis, or Uycoco clans. I believe that there are reasons deeper than just knowing who our ancestors were. Knowing the lineage is just the tip of the iceberg.