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Making family meals meaningful

/ 06:25 PM February 18, 2013

(Second of two parts)

For the book “Famealy Matters,” compiled by motivational speaker Francis Kong, more than 50 contributors from politics, show business, education, business discussed the importance of making family meals a habit.  How can family meals be made even more meaningful?


Minimize distractions

Movie star Sharon Cuneta says: “Because family meals take place in a casual setting, there is no pressure—guards are down.  Children open up to you in a more relaxed manner … slowly, you find out what’s going on in their lives.  ’Yun pala there are important issues being brought up and you are … given a chance to offer your support.


“It’s not enough to ask them how they are.  You have to be detalyado.  You try to dig deep, probe, talk about things that interest them … Today, there are just too many distractions … but you have to deal with that … and set rules at home.  For us, it’s no TV during weekdays— only a couple of hours on iPods.  At magkasama kaming lahat!”

Basketball player Chris Tiu says:  “We do not have a TV set in the dining area because my parents believe that it’s best to give each other 100-percent attention.  Cell phones are also discouraged, unless one urgently needs to make or take a call.  No one is allowed to leave the table, too, unless there’s a valid reason.  This is one rule that I’d happily follow because it is at the dining table where we share personal stories, talk about various issues, and just have a fun time together!”

Children’s advocate Cathy Babao says, “Never come to the dining table angry or upset.  Stress and animosity must never have a place at the table so that food and mealtimes will always be associated with good memories.  The few times in my life I sat at the table upset over something … always gave me a bad stomach afterwards.  This is why I have always taught my children to dump the negativity … in a creative or productive manner, before coming to the table because the gut absorbs everything, both the happy and the sad.”

Connect with children

PLDT senior vice president Butch Jimenez says:  “Aside from eating with your kids, take time to eat with your children’s friends! … It makes your kids accept you more as one of them and it gives you a chance to understand the world your kids live in … The world is changing or, I must say, has changed.  As one author puts it, ‘Parents have become immigrants of this generation, kids are now the natives.’  With the proliferation of social media, the Internet, smartphones and digital interactivity, parents seem to have been boxed out of the norm.  So, if you’re trying to understand what is going on, if you’re trying to connect with the digital generation, food is still your most potent weapon.”

ABS-CBN Publishing chief executive officer Ernie Lopez says:  “One tradition that we are trying to establish is for my children to say at least two nice things about each other at mealtime.  This is because I noticed that my kids had a tendency to tattletale on and constantly whine about each other.  I took the cue from a teacher in Assumption who had eight children.  She would tell her children to catch each other doing something good so that they could report about it during mealtimes.

“This practice has caused a shift in their attitude—from complaining about each other to complimenting each other.  The same habit also gives me the opportunity to bless them and offer something positive about their behavior instead of reprimanding them for their shortcomings.”


Vice President Jejomar  Binay never eats alone.   Eating together is a family tradition among his children and their spouses and 13 grandkids, who share the Binay house in Makati City.  “I find listening to stories from my grandchildren time well spent.  While they may compete for my attention sometimes, I always make sure I give [them] all … equal time.  I have nicknames for all of them, and they call me Tatay.  I always remind them to say grace before meals and to finish their food.  The older ones bring their plates to the kitchen sink, something they learned from me.”

Keep mealtimes sacred

TV host Boy Abunda says: “Parents and children benefit from spending much time together—not just quality time, but quantity time.  Life is not just about quality.  You won’t always have quality moments, but you can make as much time as possible to spend with your family, be it a simple stroll in the park or a meal together.  The family must likewise stay together—even have meals together—during the good times and the bad.  Just being there is enough.  This practice prepares parents and children for managing even the trying moments they may have in the future.”

Honorary Consul of Malta Paul Aquino recalls that, when he was growing up, his family always ate together. During martial law, family gatherings were limited to Wednesdays, when the family could visit brother Ninoy in jail.  At present, family meals are held on Sundays, complete with discussion and prayer.

“Our family get-togethers are big on fun and the more common topics of discussion are the goings-on in local and global politics.  The debates can get heated but never rancorous.  On the contrary, it’s the candid and continuous exchange of ideas that has strengthened our bond as a family.  My advice to my kids now that they have their own families is that they should designate a date and place where they can meet regularly and share a meal … they should stick to it and hold it sacred.”

Coca-Cola vice president Adel Tamano says:  “Sometimes when we are forced to be away from our family because of work, we think, well, this is for them anyway.  Our job supports our family.  While that may be true, we should also consider that our family, particularly our small children, will benefit much more from our time and attention than from our overtime pay.  Our economic goals shouldn’t rule over our family’s spiritual and developmental needs … Great families aren’t effortless affairs where everyone gets along perfectly;  great families make a commitment to spend time and engage with one another.”

Kabayanihan Foundation founder Alex Lacson says:  “Family meals and prayers are the two most sacred activities in our family.  No one is excused.  No one must be late or is allowed to leave early.  Each one is always expected to share stories … The family meal is like a battery charger.  We get so much love, encouragement and support from one another around the dining table.  And when we get up after each meal, we feel wonderfully recharged for the day—and wonderfully connected to the people we love.”

“Famealy Matters” (compiled by Francis Kong) is available in National Book Store.

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

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