If you are a Pinoy parent like myself or have observed Pinoy parents at social gatherings, you are probably familiar with these phrases — “Bless, Tito” or “Kiss, Tita.” In Bisaya we say, “Pag-amen kang Tito” or “Halok kang Tita.” It does not matter whether the child is 8 or 38 years old! If you’ve never noticed this common practice, come join us at our next family, high school or college reunion and you will see what I mean. Kidding aside, I know this very well from experience.
At some stage of our arrival at a dinner or party, I would glance over towards my children and ask them, “Have you blessed all your titos and titas?” (Yes, I have become THAT parent!) They usually answer in the affirmative. I am often busy exchanging pleasantries with those around me at a gathering and I do not notice that my children have already done their dutiful round of “mano po” and besos. I often can’t help myself from reminding them. I have done this ever since they were little. However, the current novel coronavirus health concern has swiftly changed all that.
In an intimate dinner gathering this weekend, I was the first to say hello with a smile and matching wave of my hand. The adults in the room all agreed that this was the sensible way to proceed these days as we all take precautionary measures for the sake of everyone’s health. Besides, a few of the children gathered had mild cough or colds.
As in any other weekend, my family and I went to Mass. I was happy to see a high school friend and instinct had us exchanging besos right away. As if on cue, we both took a quick step back and then laughed as we reminded each other that we should really be avoiding such type of greetings at this time. It turns out that we were going to the same Mass and we could not help but giggle when we greeted each other with a wave during the exchanging of the “peace sign” with fellow Mass goers.
Manos, besos and handshakes have always been our normal way of greeting each other. But the current unprecedented circumstances prod us to take a moratoria on these much-admired ways of showing respect.
As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I guess we will just have to practice doing our most loving and heartfelt smile and wave. How to do the former while donning a face mask? Well, that will be the challenge! But this is our new normal — to greet with a wave, smile or nod of one’s head. It’s different and yet it does not mean we respect or love each other any less. On the contrary, it’s precisely because we care that we must impose a temporary stop to these treasured practices.