I never really talk about my father's side of the family, at least compared to my mother's. Where my mother's relatives are a bunch of violent, deviant, capricious, semi-civilized, man-eating, psychotic degenerates, my father's relatives are... organized. They've developed this highly evolved and efficient form of social control where collective neurosis is institutionalized as Family Feeling. Of course batshit crazy is still batshit crazy even if it's, you know, systematic. We have an official clan name (a Kabbalistic acronym combining the first letters of the three main family lineages) which is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. What's more, we actually have a family constitution. Eighty-five pages.
Yep. Thought so.
I think I've mentioned in a previous entry the extraordinary closeness between my father and his first cousins. The clan, like most provincial Filipino extended families, lives in a huge sprawling tract of land which had been divided neatly by my great-grandparents (both of whom were single children with considerable inheritance) among their nine sons and daughters. I'd wager that our clan owns nearly 50% of the total real estate in our barangay, and we are related to the other 50%. My father, his sister and their cousins literally grew up together. I know I talk way too much about my family, but it's sort of inevitable for me. Any description of my social activities will involve my family in one way or another. My closest friends are usually my cousins, which non-Filipino friends often find to be an odd, even an alien state of affairs. I do have a lot of other friends, people I met in school and at work (and online, of course XD) and with whom I've managed to develop significant relationships, but the network of my social interactions is still circumscribed by family ties. I would suppose it's true for my cousins as well.
The thing is, most of my father's cousins, unlike mine, have never had much chance to interact with people outside family. They rarely even venture to Manila. Some of my them, due to economic difficulties, worked overseas at one time or another, but they almost always ended up living with other relatives working or living in the same place. Even my urbane and terminally fastidious father who's spent nearly all of his professional life travelling and studying abroad reverts to what he calls his 'true self' when he comes back home to meet his cousins. It's this sort of deterministic self-identification which I can't fully sympathize with because, while I am more than aware of my duties and obligations, I've never really defined myself in relation to my family. I'm part of it, but I don't exist in it any more than it exists in me. Cos, well, that's just creepy, don't you think? My aunts and uncles would emit genteel sighs about my newfangled, unfilial, 'third-generation' sensibilities (or should we say, delusions) but I think that in matters such as this I rather prefer my maternal relatives' gleeful, unapologetic, war-mongering, fratricidal ways.