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A mahjong weekend with the family

A mahjong weekend with the family

My first weekend out-of-town with my kids began last Friday. My sister Penny’s in-laws have a beautiful rest house in Silang, Cavite and she invited me, my kids, my mom and brother to spend the weekend there with her family. We invitees even got ourselves tested for COVID (antigen) just for good measure.

I left the office early on Jan. 15 to avoid the weekend rush, and was surprised that it took me under two hours to get to Tagaytay. I used the Skyway and the SLEX, then exited to Mamplasan. I then took the CALEX, which brought me straight to the road leading up the zigzag to Tagaytay.

After we were all settled at around 7 p.m., we gathered in the lanai to eat. Penny cooked a sumptuous, mouth-watering dinner that consisted of Japanese fried rice, chicken karaage, fresh green salad and grilled steak.

After dinner, my kids Gabbie (19) and Paolo (15), together with my niece Maya (15), asked the grownups to teach them mahjong. My mom, their lola, obliged with the help of Penny, who is a seasoned mahjong player. Penny is my youngest sibling and is the only one who can make “salat.” That is, she can tell what the mahjong tile she’s holding by feeling its surface with her fingertips. Thanks to my mom and Penny, the kids had gotten the hang of the game before the night was over.

Our whole family knows how to play the game, inheriting our love for it from both sides of the family. My two grandmothers, Lola Angeles Daza and Lola Lolita Yap, played mahjong regularly when they were alive and well.

My Lola Angeles played every Friday, leaving the house at 1 p.m. holding a giant jar of Pond’s filled with coins, and returning at 9 p.m. On many of those nights, I would wait for her to come home just to ask her if she had won. Many times, lola would proudly announce that she won two pesos after playing for more than six hours! I’m sure, though, that the game was just an excuse to play and chat with her sisters, who were her mahjong mates.

My Lola Lolita, on the other hand, taught her neighbors in Calgary, Canada how to play just to keep themselves busy during the cold, winter months when she lived there.

It was when my siblings and I were in our teens that my parents taught us how to play. We played the Chinese version of the game in deference to my mom, who is pure Chinese. After learning how to play, we also taught our cousins so it would always be easy to create a quorum. The mahjong sessions were fun because of the stories, gossip and jokes that went around and the snacks in between, all of which made us lose track of time until we realized that we’d been playing for hours! Of course, playing was even more intense when there was money at stake.

It was so refreshing to see the kids immerse themselves face-to-face in a game that we adults loved and grew up with, one that didn’t involve gadgets and video screens. It was also somewhat surprising to see the competitive side of the kids as well. They even urged me to buy a mahjong table for the house so we could play whenever they were free.

Though we spent most of the weekend at Silang indoors because of the COVID threat, we still had a wonderful time passing down our beloved mahjong tradition to a new generation. Gabbie, Paolo and Maya loved the game so much that we’re already planning our next mahjong night!