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?


  1. Gay Pascua says

    whenever we talked about grandparents, i can’t hold myself to be teary eyed, i’m always a proud grandchild, because i got the best grand parents, my mamang is 83, my papang is 86, they just celebrated their 63rd anniversary…i also have my lolo on my mother side he’s 87,my lola pass away already…we’ll thank God for the their longlife…i can see in their eyes their unexplainable happiness whenever i visit them, i even tell stories though they hardly hear me…for me lolos and lolas appreciate the time you spend with them, sit down and hug them, rather than give them gifts or take them anywhere…i agree with you ms.connie, grandparent’s day is just an advertisement, what is important is the love and TIME we give to them….it was really a heartbreaking for me to leave my grannies in the philippines, they are so dear to me, that i even pray to God to give them more more years…love you mamang, papang and lolo!!! mwah!

  2. says

    It seems to me that almost everything that the Philippines does “reeks of colonial mentality” (your words). Sad, but true.

    I don’t like commercialized hype like this Grandparents’ Day celebration you wrote about. The ones who really gain a lot from this activity are the merchants.


    My grandparents are all dead now. Never had a chance to be really close to them since my paternal grandparents migrated to the US when I was a four (I was Lola’s pet, though, I was told), and my maternal grandma who passed away in 2000 — my grandpa died in the Second World War while serving as a US Army surgeon — lived far away from us. But we did visit her every now and then, and I listened earnestly to her insight-laden war stories during merienda breaks.

    It’s nice to still have a complete set of grandparents on both sides when you are already in your thirties or forties. That’s what I miss sometimes. I miss my Lola, who endlessly inquired about my health for many years, while living in the US. I really cried when she passed away; I was 11.

  3. says

    Is there anything unique that media/mass Filipinos do? I’m honestly asking a question cause I don’t know. The choreographed “in” dances may be the only ones. Sad.

  4. says

    Gay, sometimes I think that people only remember when there is an association with gifts and celebrations. Sobrang materialistic.

    Jayred and Pinayhekmi, o, di ba there is this pechant for things “of the Philippines” like Eddie Mesa was the “Elvis Presley of the Philippines” and Erap is the “Bush of the Philippines”. Drawing those parallelisms, as though America is the standard to be followed, is colonial mentality.

  5. Trosp says

    I have my early retirement from my last employer. But before that, I’m already a GRANDFATHER of five kids (from my two married daughters) whom the oldest is three years older than my youngest eleven year old kid. LOL, I can’t believe it myself.


  6. Miguk says

    You can add Valentine’s Day to that list! Another manufactured excuse to extract money from me. It was nice to get a call from my granddaughter though.
    Colonial mentality again? This is becoming a staple here. I wish the Philippines whould adopt Thanksgiving also — what a great holiday, at least food-wise :-)

  7. says

    Trosp, hehehe how time flies ba?

    Geri, o see, not all countries automatically adopt American practices.

    Miguk, you might be surprised — following examples set by hotels, restaurants have started offering Thanksgiving dinners. In a few years, it might become a tradition already HAHAHAHA

    Re colonial mentality again: What can I say? It’s deeply entrenched in the Filipino psyche.

  8. says

    Eh, Grandparents day ain’t a big holiday here in the US. Hell, it’s not even listed on the calender I have hanging on my wall.

    Funny how that article says that the holiday is celebrated by millions of Americans. I would say, a few million but not everyone.

    I don’t have any living grandparents anymore (the last died 4 years ago) and even when I did, I didn’t really observe the holiday. To me, it’s no big deal. I could call/send card/whatever my grandparent any day of the year.

    But I can understand why some filipinos would embrace grandparents day, especially with the way the elder are regarded in filipino society.

  9. says

    “I could call/send card/whatever my grandparent any day of the year.”

    The surprise makes it even more special. When one receives something unexpected, it is more memorable.

    I think, Nikita, that Filipinos just have a thing about celebrations. Fiesta mentality.

  10. Miguk says

    I think every former colony has it to an extent. In the U.S. anything English is held as more suave, more urbane, and more sophisticated than anything the redneck, provincial Americans have or could produce. A truck driver from London could get free dinners for a year in the U.S. just because there his accent alone puts him automatically two or three steps up from his actual socioeconomic class.

  11. says

    Miguk, when the demand grows expect enterprising businessmen to start raising turkeys. There are already ostrich raisers in the country. Perhaps, turkey will be next.

    Re “I think every former colony has it to an extent.”

    I agree. But it still hurts doesn’t it? Like glorifying people who were not exactly kind to you.

  12. Miguk says

    re ‘Like glorifying people who were not exactly kind to you.’
    That’s why I can’t understand the obsession here with everyone having a Spanish ancestor (even though there was never more than 4000 of them here at one time). The way the Spanish raped and pillaged this country, I would deny any connection at all!

  13. says

    Everyday should be Grandparents’ and Parents’ day. That’s how I feel. If not for them I won’t be here on earth. I think of them through my daily prayers

  14. says

    I think that we should make each day special for ourselves and not wait for others to make us feel special. :) I really don’t like the idea that my happiness or sense of significance depends on someone else.

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