A beau­ti­ful lake­side home in Ta­gay­tay has seen Christ­mases past of themed trees, heir­loom dishes–and a cozy fam­ily by the fire­place

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - @KatyYam By Cathy Cañares-Yam­suan

Rina Si­layan-Go re­mem­bers her Christ­mases as a young­ster, when fa­ther Henry Go would ask his chil­dren to gather be­fore the fire­place of their va­ca­tion home in Ta­gay­tay City on Christ­mas Eve to wait for the stroke of mid­night.

Only af­ter the clock struck 12 could Rina and her sib­lings open their Christ­mas presents. It was part of the fam­ily’s hol­i­day tra­di­tion where, weeks be­fore, all fam­ily mem­bers drew lots for the name of a “baby” who would get a Christ­mas gift from the picker or “par­ent.”

“My sis­ter Mag­gie al­ways prayed that Dad would pick her as baby be­cause Dad al­ways gave the most beau­ti­ful gifts,” Rina re­called.

One high­light of those hol­i­days was the Christ­mas tree that mom Aurora Si­layan-Go would put up as early as Novem­ber. “She al­ways had a theme. My fa­vorite was White Christ­mas,” Rina said.

The fash­ion de­signer-restau­ra­teur-IN­QUIRER Life­style con­trib­u­tor said Aurora and her team of am­a­teur but tal­ented dec­o­ra­tors would swoop down on the boxes of hol­i­day dé­cor and spend a whole day trans­form­ing a scrawny set of spiny stems into a sparkling and mag­i­cal Christ­mas tree decked with snowflakes, swirly trim­mings, fairy lights and shiny balls.

New York

“It wasn’t that pretty at the start,” Rina noted. When she was still in high school, the fam­ily’s Christ­mas trees show­cased the usual plaid rib­bons and red balls.

But when the chil­dren be­gan at­tend­ing col­lege in Bos­ton, Rhode Is­land and New York, Aurora would rent an apart­ment in New York for the hol­i­days and re­quire Rina and her sib­lings to watch Broad­way shows while on va­ca­tion.

The fam­ily’s Christ­mas tree waited back in Ta­gay­tay as the whole brood gath­ered on the 24th in the New York apart­ment, wait­ing for mid­night to ex­change gifts.

“But then, mom would wake up very early on Christ­mas Day. She would be gone by 6 a.m. and line up in front of Macy’s where all hol­i­day dé­cor was of­fered at 50 per­cent off. She would buy the ones on sale and up­grade the Christ­mas tree in Ta­gay­tay the fol­low­ing year,” Rina said.


Once the hol­i­day sea­son be­gan in Manila, the Gos’ Christ­mas tree would sport the theme of last Christ­mas’ Macy’s dis­play in New York. Rina, Mag­gie and broth­ers Jeff, Ken and Francis wit­nessed how the tree turned red one year, au­tumn hues the next, gold and then white.

“Mom would in­sist that each branch of the tree be fully loaded with dé­cor and the lights twined so tightly and neatly around each branch so the wires would re­main un­seen,” the de­signer said.

Af­ter her mom suf­fered a mas­sive stroke in 2007, Mag­gie con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing the hol­i­day tree. Mag­gie died five years later. Aurora re­mains bedrid­den.

Youngest brother Francis took over for a while but, af­ter their dad died in 2014, some of the sur­viv­ing sib­lings, for one rea­son or an­other, could no longer come up to Ta­gay­tay to cel­e­brate.

“In 2014, it was just my fam­ily and that of a brother’s. Last year it was just me and my two daugh­ters. That was very sad for me. It will never be the same,” Rina said wist­fully.

And so, the only sur­viv­ing daugh­ter claimed her turn to dec­o­rate the tree this year.

Out came the long-stashed boxes of hol­i­day trim. When the care­tak­ers brought them out, Rina no­ticed how lov­ingly and painstak­ingly her mom had wrapped each bauble be­fore hid­ing them away. “Main­gat siya. But there were a few pieces miss­ing and some items were bro­ken,” she said. Rina and Ricky, one of her mom’s trusted ar­bo­real hands, went shop­ping re­cently for backup hol­i­day trim.

Bone china

Rina also raided her mom’s cup­boards and dis­cov­ered an­tique flat­ware and pris­tine Nori­take bone china sets that were most likely her mom’s wed­ding gifts.

Rina in­tends to use them all along with Mag­gie’s charger plates when she sets up the hol­i­day din­ner feast in Ta­gay­tay on Christ­mas Eve this year.

A few weeks ago, Rina gave Life­style a pre­view of what awaits her broth­ers and their fam­i­lies should they de­cide to come this De­cem­ber.

She lined up ap­pe­tiz­ers such as ja­mon Ser­rano, chis­torra sausage, blue cheese, brie, honey and sliced baguette and baked boursin near the fire-

place where her broth­ers can gather on Christ­mas Eve.

The din­ner ta­ble heaved with Mag­gie’s East Coast-style turkey, chicken rel­leno, baked salmon, Cobb salad with blue cheese and ba­con, and meat lasagna.

The din­ing area’s bay win­dow set­tee served as a dessert sta­tion that fea­tured Mag­gie’s peach wal­nut torte, salted caramel cake, cho­co­late cake, car­rot cake with wal­nuts and raisins, old-fash­ioned dough­nuts, oat­meal and dou­ble cho­co­late chip cook­ies, and parme­san en­say­mada.

Rina said while she and her sib­lings lived with their par­ents in Que­zon City back in the day, their par­ents in­sisted that the whole ca­boo­dle come to Ta­gay­tay on week­ends.

The va­ca­tion home, with huge bay win­dows that frame Taal vol­cano and the lake, is “where mom in­vested all her hopes and dreams. Ev­ery­thing she wanted, dito niya ni­l­abas. All her cre­ative juices are re­flected in the plates, the fur­ni­ture, the an­tique pieces. That gar­den out­side with the ver­bena, gu­mamela, mil­flo­res and pur­ple bells…,” Rina trailed off.

“I ask my­self what dad and mom would have wanted. I also asked my broth­ers if they were com­ing. I just want things to be happy for my girls. I can’t see mom’s touch any­more so I want to re­live how mom did ev­ery­thing,” Rina said.

All food fea­tured from NIC’s. G/F, Phase 1B, UP Town Cen­ter, Katipunan Ave., Que­zon City Tel. 9585574, 3549081, 3549082, 09999933234, 09999948131, 09197002513 Visit and nics­bakeshop on Face­book. Fol­low @nic­sph on Twit­ter and In­sta­gram.

I can’t see mom’s touch any­more so I want to re­live how mom did ev­ery­thing Rina Si­layan-Go


Rina Go pre­pares the Christ­mas hol­i­day ta­ble like her mother did, with turkey, chicken “rel­leno,” baked salmon, meat lasagna.

The Christ­mas tree over­looks the din­ing area. Guests lounge on the daybed that frames a Norma Belleza paint­ing.

Floor-to-ceil­ing slid­ing doors that open out to a view of Taal Lake bor­der the liv­ing room.

Desserts—peach wal­nut torte, red vel­vet cake, dough­nuts and as­sorted cook­ies—from NIC’s will cap the “noche buena” feast.

The morn­ing sun shines through the sun­roof of the breakfast nook in the Ta­gay­tay week­end home.

Rina Si­layan-Go in the master bed­room of her fam­ily’s va­ca­tion home in Ta­gay­tay City

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