My grandmother Venturada, who we called “Nanay,” which means “mother” in Tagalog, celebrates her 93rd birthday on Saturday, October 31, 2015 in Somerset.

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In 1996, I immigrated from Olongapo, Philippines to Franklin Park, New Jersey with my mother, father and brother. We lived with my uncle’s family and, later, my grandmother and aunts and uncles. I remember sharing space and comforters on the floors of one-bedroom apartments, and chirping in Tagalog during family parties. As I grew older, I forgot how to speak my first language, and the divide between my family’s cultural values and my own ambitions created a painful tension, which took many years to leave behind. Now, as I live and work thousands of miles away from my family, I often think about them and our history and our love. 


This is my family.  

My mom, Lolita, stops to pose for a photograph shortly before I board an NJ Transit train to Philadelphia Airport, en route to my apartment in Seattle. September 2014

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My sister Kathryn after a family party.

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Tita Felie fixes her hair while Facetiming with my Ninang Rose back in the Philippines. “Tita” means “aunt” and “ninang” means “godmother.”

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My family rings in 2014 with our annual coin grab. As the clock strikes midnight on the New Year, we throw coins on the floor and fight to grab the most money.

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Ringing in 2016 at Nanay's house with 12 grapes, jumping and a coin grab.

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Good morning from Kathryn.

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Nanay leans in to talk with my siblings in her living room. Somerset, NJ.

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My mom, Lolita, drives me home from the train station.

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Kathryn waits for our family to finish shopping at IKEA in New Jersey.  2011

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My parents lead Nanay into my aunt’s home for our Christmas Eve celebration, December 2015.
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My brother, Joshua, outside our townhouse in Dayton, NJ

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My dad, Joven, at our neighborhood playground.

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Kathryn poses for a portrait.

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My parents walk out of St. Matthias Church in Somerset, NJ.

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Nanay walks in to the den while Tita Jenny watches The Filipino Channel. September 2014

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Nanay after a doctor's appointment. June 2015

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Kathryn during a walk around our development. March 2015.

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Tito Emil mows his backyard during a family party in Somerset, NJ.

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Tita Jenny at Newark International Airport before her trip to the Philippines.

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