The Money Jar (Dissecting a Tradition)


January 1, 2015 by AJ Briones

This is an image of my Father's 2014-2015 jar.

This is an image of my Father’s 2014-2015 jar. It isn’t as elaborate as it used to be. I shared a picture of it so you guys know what I’m talking about and not just imagine about it.

This would actually serve as my New Year write-up and obviously my 1st for 2015. I thought of it just now (January 1, 2015, 1:52AM) and so I decided to open up my Evernote and start writing.

Every year my dad has this tradition he made up on his own that we until the present time see him doing. At multiple times, that tradition of his has become a source of disagreements, confusions, disappointments, and at times caused us to sleep thru the New Year. Nobody wants to work on it. What is this tradition you may ask? Well, it’s about a jar that I’d like to tag as “THE MONEY JAR.”

Well, when I say money jar, I am not referring to a literal jar filled with paper money or coins. I am actually referring to a used jar of nata de coco that my dad would fill up spoons of dishes prepared for the celebration with rice, salt, sugar, water, matches, all those goodies you could think of, tooth paste, mouth wash, cola, coins, cotton, and many more. He would drop those in the jar. After the jar gets filled, he would put a lid on it, seal it for no leaks and then put the concluded year’s number on it as a label. It was a yearly thing he did and it transcended tradition for him and became as Filipinos would refer to as a pamahiin. He equated not fulfilling his tradition to a year of bad luck as his other tradition of not eating chicken during the New Year (Wrote something about it a few years ago but I can’t find it online anymore. I may have written it on an old blog of mine). Though he has explained his reasons for making it before, I never really understood why he had to go thru so much effort of making the jar. In doing so, another thing that caused me to wonder was that he made for himself a binding tradition that he himself created as a curse for himself, his family and generations to come (probably).

In spite of being a man who believed in generational curses, I kind of discredited my father’s thoughts on his self-imagined curse. I never really gave much thought to it or believed it thinking that it was foolish; senseless to be more exact. It was a waste of time for me to even bother to think about. For years I have just ignored the yearly “ritual” of preparing the thing, though I kind of felt bad for my younger brother who was usually tasked by my dad to prepare the bottle that would serve as a jar.

After the years ends met, just before I was going to sleep, I saw my dad enter our house finishing up his jar. For some sort of reason, I decided to ask my dad a question that I knew the answer to. I ask, “Papa, gaano mo na katagal ginagawa yung jar mo? (how long have you been making those bottles?)” He answered that he had been making those bottles since he has married my mother. I followed the question up by another, “Papa, nakatago pa ba mga ginawa mo na yan kada taon? (Are the previous jars you made still kept somewhere?)” He said yes and so I gave my final question, “Papa, bakit ka gumagawa ng ganyan? (Why do you make jars like that?)” His answer was as I expected. He told me that he would place portions of everything we needed for a year in the bottle and viewed the bottle as a charm for a plentiful year to come. A gush of thoughts came rushing through my mind, I found meaning in it all and it brought me to write this as my 1st write-up for this year.

Well, here are my thoughts concerning what he said:

  1. In spite of the foolish stuff the jar/bottle meant for me, I saw nobility in it. Yes, it was purely a fantasy to make but it showed a picture of a man who wanted well for his family. It was his heart and desire for a better future for his family. It was something I can never hold against him. He was a man who was never selfish for his family. In fact, I admired that about him. I never heard my father clamour for anything in exchange for what he has done for us other than the word respect which was evidently, something the we are all obligated by existence to do;
  2. Hope. The jar as I could see it meant hope – a belief that someday things would get better. The year was beautiful and may have had a few twists and turns but it can never get into a dead end of getting better. Things are going to get better and was should never lose sight of that;
  3. Legacy, Family and Inheritance. As I’ve said, he would usually ask my younger brother to prepare the bottle. I mentioned earlier that I felt bad for my younger brother who was forced to prepare the bottle to avoid conflicts with my dad but I also failed the mention that I also felt bad for my dad when I see his disappointments when anybody of our family members would resent doing the jar. I guess me sharing this would be unfair since among his children, I was the only one he never asked to prepare the bottle maybe because he knew I was black and white when it came to stuff like that. I felt bad for him growing older seeing his children becoming so distant from his joy of making the bottle with us. Thinking about it makes me teary-eyed since I remember my sibling and I putting something in the jar with my dad. It was like an inheritance of the joy working on something with our father regardless of how senseless it may seem; and
  4. Memories and Meaning. Each jar accomplished had memories in them. Imaging looking at each jar and seeing the years he has spent with his wife and children. Years that had meaning. Years that had so many stories of peace, love, opportunity, kids getting married, achievements, failures, victories, and the colors of life packed in one jar. My dad is a humble man, he never liked anything else for himself because he was contented of the work he has done to give us a future.

Writing this unexpectedly made me appreciate my father more. He’s not perfect guy and most likely, the 4 stuff I wrote on this post may not have even the slightest bit crossed his mind. But upon looking at things within this perspective makes me feel so ashamed. Here I am promoting #ContagiousHope under my blog #ajplus and at same time mock that which I promote in times I clamour for rest from the world. It kind of smacked hard on my face that in one way or another, I have lost hope not for the world or for others but for myself. I keep on saying to others, do hard things to grow and to never forget the purpose of which you want to succeed but then I realize that I myself have lost sight of why I want to motivate myself to move forward or why I choose to place myself in difficult situations to expand my comfort zone (surely, it isn’t just because Christine Ha or the Harris brothers said so). The truth stings.

I’m no new year’s resolution guy but maybe this time I can make an exemption; and that would be to NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT IS AHEAD AGAIN.

Would I work on something like that in the future? Would I assist him the next New Year celebrations when he would work on one? Call me a hypocrite but most likely, no. But I think for myself I would work on something like that; probably not as elaborate as my dad does it and certainly not as a pamahiin. I may work on a yearly collage of the things that had happen in the passing year and frame it on the wall. Something like that. Doing it yearly or not would most likely not matter but it would be a nice thing to have yearly. One thing I know is that I’ll do it with my wife to be, KC and my future kids. I’m going to share them its story and meaning. NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT’S AHEAD.

NOTE: To be clear, I am not condoning misleading traditions, pamahiins or cursing of any sort. What’s wrong is wrong and it’s up to you my dear readers to acknowledge what those things are. The point of this write-up is to extend hope and meaning to its readers. Extend life back into people. NEVER LOSE HOPE. MOVE FORWARD.

I hope you guys got something from this read. Happy New Year! A blessed 2015 to everyone!


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