East Meets East with Yousef

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Friday, January 10, 2014

WHEN Yousef Hassan was born into this world nine months ago, he unwittingly wove into the fabric of his already culturally diverse family his own Arabic bloodline. At his thanksgiving party at Planta Centro Bacolod Hotel & Residences last January 5, the faces that I saw were Filipino, Chinese, Indian, and Spanish with Yousef providing the only Arabic presence that late afternoon; his Middle Eastern father was still in Kuwait where the Hassans reside.

Yousef’s mother is Kristy Marie Tan whose father is well-known businessman Vic Tan, a Filipino of pure Chinese descent, and whose mother Pushpa Menghnani has Filipino, Spanish, and Indian blood running through her veins. Thirty-three-year-old Kristy was a Kuwait Airlines flight and eventually ground stewardess who met her Kuwaiti husband at work. Muhammad Hassan is a Kuwait Airlines officer who was smitten with this Filipina of Chinese, Indian and Spanish lineage, and became a brother-in-law to the Tan siblings Sunel, Sheila Marie, Dr. Ann Marie, and Vincent. In effect, the Menghnani and Tan “dynasty” is an interesting blend of cultures that actually echoes Philippine culture in general.

Only Dr. Ann who was on duty at a Manila hospital was absent from this important family gathering. Sunel’s brood came in full force all the way from Sydney where he works as a chef and where wife Maritess de la Rama works as a nurse at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Sons Miggy, Anton, and JP took time to see their cousin Yousef for the first time. The excited grandmother acted as a very willing babysitter to free up daughter Kristy in order for her to supervise the event. Pushpa carried Yousef in her arms and showed him off to an adoring coterie of friends who cooed at him. The proud grandfather who refused to be called “Lolo” was really beside himself. Vic Tan took an active role in the event and seemed to be on top of everything. He even knew how much the jauntily decorated cupcakes cost!


It was obvious in the midst of admiring glances that Yousef was really the star of the show. And such a well-behaved handsome star at that. He was sweetly smiling most of the time and never showed even a grimace to the delight of everyone. His Middle Eastern features caused many to remark, “Ay, wala na ang Tan” which meant that nary a trace of his Oriental heritage could be seen on his face. I’m sure his doting Lolo doesn’t mind at all. And nor did the mélange of guests of very young children, grandparents, and those of ages in between who all had a blast. Tita Teray, the perky and efficient host ran the show so well that Yousef’s clan was worry-free. Chef BJ Uy was on hand to supervise the buffet tables and I congratulated him on the brazo de Gitano and the cilantro-flecked potato pancakes. There were buffet tables for the kids and buffet tables for the adults. Everyone was satiated, in good spirits, and very happy.

To Yousef (Arabic for “Joseph”), may Allah’s hand be with you always and I pray that you will be a good son to Muhammad and Kristy, be a never-ending source of joy to Vic and Pushpa, a strong and responsible Manong to your younger siblings, and the pride of your patchwork quilt of cultures wherever Fate will bring you in this world. Maktub.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 10, 2014.


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