I. J. Castillo, Mississauga, Ontario
Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937, and in the same year Krispy Kreme*, an international chain of doughnut stores, was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina…. and 75 years ago, Lolita was born on the fourth of July, in Cavinti, Laguna to Santiago and Loreto Gahite.
When Lolita Gahite-Mirasol (Lolit for short) proudly turned 75 on July 4th, she did not want a milestone birthday party like most adults do when they celebrate the passage of time. In lieu of a big gathering, she merely had an intimate dinner with her family: hubby Winnie Mirasol, sons Eugene and wife Tasnim with baby boy Xavier (Lolit’s new and first grandson), and newlyweds Jonathan and Jessica.
However, Eugene and Jonathan had other plan instead. They would not let this momentous event pass up without a bash.
Unbeknownst to Lolit (and even to Winnie for that matter), her two sons and daughters-in-law have planned an elaborate surprise birthday party for her, with cousins Liezle Mesina-Trinidad and Jasmin Mesina-Black, together with their parents Jimmy and Miner, helping out in the “covert operations”.
Invitations with a bold “Sshhhhh… it’s a Surprise Birthday Party..” were sent out to Lolit’s families and relatives, former co-workers from her old workplace at Toronto’s St. Michael Hospital, the Cavinti Paluwagan Group, Cavinti Paluwagan Kids, and her colleagues and friends in Toronto who have been important parts of her life since coming to Canada in 1968.
Under the pretense of posing for a family portrait in a formal setting (which they were allegedly unable to do at Eugene and Tasnim’s wedding then), Jonathan convinced his parents to come with him and Jessica to meet Eugene and Tasnim for a photo shoot in Mississauga. It would also be a perfect timing to celebrate the homecoming of Jonathan and Jessica, as another compelling alibi. The couple, it may be noted, just moved back to Toronto from the Island of Bermuda. Jonathan had until recently worked as an architectural designer-technologist with the Bermuda government and a private architectural office for a total of for 5 years.
Therefore, on Sunday July 8th, four days after Lolit’s actual birthday, the modus operandi was put into gear. Guests started arriving at the Lion’s Golf & Country Club as early as specified on the invitation. With almost GPS precision, Eugene followed through with Jonathan his Mom’s entourage’s current location mile per mile on the highway, which in turn Eugene relayed to the anxiously waiting well wishers.
In the meantime, while awaiting the arrival of the celebrant and trying to contain the mounting suspense, the guests milled around the country club’s Terrace enjoying the refreshing sceneries of evergreen trees, golf greens, and fairways under the cloudless summer sky.
Precisely as planned at 1:00 pm Lolit, Winnie, Jonathan and Jessica pulled over the parking lot and headed straight to the Lion’s Head Club House Terrace. Lolit instantly felt the world stood still when a chorus of “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you ….” and enthusiastic chants of “Surprise!” greeted her at the door.
Pleasantly shocked, and utterly astonished by the biggest surprise of her life ever, Lolit tearfully hugged and thanked everyone in the crowd exclaiming, “I’m so happy, I love you all”.
In their tributes to their Mom Eugene and Jonathan echoed each other in thanking her for the “unconditional love, cares and support that she has been providing them”; and both quoted Lolit’s oft repeated mantra: “Do unto others what you would want others do unto you”, which obviously both sons faithfully abide by.
Liezle who emceed the brief program narrated a chronology of her Ninang Tita Lolit’s milestones: from her studying midwifery in St. Catharine’s in Manila to her immigrating to Canada in 1968 and working two jobs as a nursing assistant (all the while sending money home to help her family), and eventually sponsoring her widowed father and three siblings to Canada. In 1974, Lolit met and married Winnie Mirasol who was also from Cavinti. Their eldest son, Eugene was born shortly in 1975, followed by Jonathan (Jon-Jon) in 1977.
Summing up, Liezle illustrated Lolit’s life as a paragon of “struggles, dedication, determination, strength, and commitments towards the ones she loves”.
*The Disney and Krispy Kreme correlation to Lolit’s birthday is an excerpt from Eugene’s Tribute to his Mom