We are all familiar with family reunions… dozens of long lost (or so it seems) relatives gathering together to renew friendships, swap stories, show off new grandkids, and compare waistlines. With updates on genealogy and grandma and grandpa as the centerpiece, uncles, aunts and cousins, brothers and sisters and parents joyfully share news about their children’s achievements, and introduce new fiancés and soon-to-be brides.

Meanwhile the kids are off making “new” friends, playing ball, hunting for coins in the “Dime Dig”, or cooling themselves off on the giant slip ‘n slide.  Then there are the tables of food, prepared or potluck, with Aunt Betty and Aunt Melynda showing off new recipes.  Fried chicken and potato chips galore, watermelon, all kinds of cookies, brownies, and cake.  Ice water, and soda pop, and Uncle Bob’s homemade root beer. And of course Jell-O in the colors of the rainbow!  

At the end of the day, after seeing a billion photographs needing to be identified, and the awards and recognitions are handed out to those cousins who came from furthest away (another state or half way across the country), everyone climbs back into their cars and begins the trek home, to talk of how this was the best reunion ever, and about the next one a couple of years from now.  Won’t it be grand!

Yes, we know what a grand reunion is, but do you know what a GRAND REUNION is? In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family reunions are part and parcel of the culture in this life, and doctrinally beyond the veil.  We hold living ones in preparation for those to come in the next life.  For some day, when our Savior Jesus Christ returns to reign upon the Earth, all of Heavenly Father’s children, living and dead, will be brought together to rejoice as one Eternal Family.  That reunion will be The Grand Reunion, wherein loved ones who have been separated for millennia, will stand and report to their loving Father, and to Jesus Christ.

“The Philippines Grand Reunion” – Knitting Hearts Together

Recently, at a fast and testimony meeting in Downey, California, we were privileged to hear the testimony of Sister Kathleya Canlas Galvan of the Philippines, relating her love of family, and how this hope for the Grand Reunion is manifested in the lives and reunions of Filipino Saints from across the world.  She shared with us her 2010 Canlas and Merdegia family reunions and how they are preparing today for that joyous day to come. We can all benefit from the experiences of this Filipino family as they have worked together to have no empty chairs at the Grand Reunion.  Read…, learn…, feel her special testimony.
 “In the Philippines we have reunions, family gatherings at Christmas, Easter, and on Philippines Independence Day, but a Grand Reunion is a very special gathering where family members may wait twenty or more years to attend. It is held to celebrate our accomplishments as a family and to be together in love once again.  This special Filipino family gathering is called ‘Engrandeng Pagtitipon’, or Grand Reunion.

“2010 was the year of “Engrandeng Pagtitipon” for my Canlas and Merdegia Clans.  They were special days that will never be forgotten…when hearts were knitted together in greater love and brighter perspective. Here is the story I would love my future generations to know…to learn…to cherish.

My Roots in the Gospel

“I grew up in a very religious Mormon family, both my father’s and mother’s sides.  We have that natural bond of making sure that we get together as a family for reunions during Christmas, New Year, Holy Week, Birthdays and being able to meet all my aunts, uncles and cousins.  And sometimes our more distant relatives will join us as well.  Growing up, it didn’t really matter to me.  It looked like more of a routine to me rather than an opportunity.  Then I never felt that it was something that I would long to experience again.

“My grandparents were the first to join the Church many years ago. We were taught the principles of the Gospel including self reliance, education, and love for family.  In Filipino terms self-reliance means: To be able to support yourself without the aid of others.  To be able to provide for your family no matter how hard your situation may be…it shows you are a responsible individual.  Education means: To be able to finish your schooling from preschool through college and better, with a MBA and a PhD.

  Doing so, you must be able to get A grades as well and medals to give honor to your family.  This will give your parents an opportunity to go up on stage and be recognized by your fellow classmates with their parents as well. Love for Family is to do for them now and for the future.

“My grandmother Maria (whom we call “Nanay”) and Grandpa Cesar Canlas lived in a very simple house while their kids were growing up.  They did not have the money for a more beautiful house.  They only had enough money to buy their one meal for each day.  However, their kids were all motivated to finish their schooling, no matter their situation.  Everybody looked for a way how they could afford schooling.  My dad, like Grandpa Cesar, would sell slippers in the market after school, and catch fish in the mud just to have something to eat for dinner.  They were taught that after many tribulations, come the blessings.

The Blessings of Education, Self Reliance and Love

“My dad finished his MBA at a prestigious school and the rest of my aunts and uncles graduated as Engineers, Teachers and Businessmen.  Then, they went abroad to look for greater opportunity.  Now they are all over the world…Philippines, Saudi Arabia, America, Australia, and Canada. Tito (Uncle) Vio and Tita (Aunt) Guy and Tita Evelyn went to Australia and Tito Elson and Tito Cesar went to America.  As soon as they became well-off, they sent money to their mom…, and had her house fixed and renovated.  After Grandpa Cesar passed away the kids chipped in to buy the house for my grandma.  That is how she got the beautiful house she lives in now. And they still continue to send her money so that she is able to grow her business and help other people who are in need as well.


“Nanay has a mango tree that was planted back when the kids were very young.  She is a business-minded person and so she knew it would someday help her, and it has.  It can produce many baskets of the biggest and juiciest and tastiest mangoes ever, and they sell for a high price.  This helps her circulate money for her rice business and a little sari-sari store (meaning a variety store).  My grandma is a source of help for her neighbors.  She has never asked help from her neighbors.  And sometimes, when her children are short in money, they can turn to her and she always will help them with loving, open arms.  That is the self-reliance my grandma has showed us all; that is why we try to emulate her examples of love.

Back into Nanay’s Arms – Holding a Canlas Grand Reunion


“In 2008 my aunt from my father’s side, Gloria Fajardo, initiated the idea of our Canlas Family Grand Reunion.  While most of us still lived in the Philippines, many had spread across the globe.  It was her idea of having us all together again….in the humble Philippine home of my “Nanay”.  Everybody cooperated.  My grandmother was very excited at the idea of having all her children back in her arms again as they used to be.  She had ten children; and now she has us, twenty-five grandchildren and many great grandchildren.

“Great anticipation arose for that day to come.  Everybody was saving up. Unfortunately, not everybody could make it.  Some were just financially strained, and two of her sons (Danilo and Mario) died just before the reunion and an uncle (Michael) died as well.  But the rest were able to make it to the reunion held in Mexico, Pampanga.  It was first scheduled for December of 2009.  However, due to the economic crisis, the clan decided to postpone the Grand Reunion and re-scheduled it for February of 2010.

An Unforgettable Moment

“The day came, February 20, 2010.  My family over in the Philippines prepared everything for the Grand Reunion: commemorative t-shirts, accommodations and the program itself which would make it an even more meaningful experience, and of course the food and special dinner. The t-shirts were made in red with a heart to add emphasis and confidence in our unity and love as a family. Uncle Cesar ordered the red shirts.  When the order came, they were all small size! Most Filipinos are small size, but not THAT SMALL!  We just tried to fit into those shirts for the family picture, and then removed them right away for the fun, food and activities of the Grand Reunion.





“We followed how a family home evening program goes, like there’s an opening song, opening prayer, special messages from family members, family talent presentation, games, closing messages and closing prayer followed by our special dinner.  Typical Filipino foods were prepared like lechon, afritada, asado, adobo, rice, vegetables, halo-halo, sampelot (dessert) and kalamay (my grandmother’s expert cuisine). We usually cook lechon, a roasted pig, for very special events like weddings, anniversaries and Grand Reunions.  It’s the most expert cuisine (delicious food) that you will ever taste in a Philippines special occasion!

“For the program, we sang favorite family songs (“Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “Lean on Me”) and shared family messages, talents and accomplishments as a family in front of everyone in the living room.  The highlight of the evening was honoring my Nanay.  Each family made special presentations for her.  These were gifts given to Grandma Marie for being a beacon of light to all of us.  She was a noble example of a perfect and enduring mother. Then we had Nanay stand up and we presented a trophy for her as the “MOTHER OF THE YEAR” with all of us, the grandchildren, offering prepared personal messages as well.  Then we all clapped our hands!  A lot of tears were shed!  A lot of hugs were shared!  It was a very unforgettable moment for the whole clan.  It was a day to be remembered and treasured for the rest of our lives.  My heart will always be at the home I knew.  This was the Grand Reunion on my father’s side.                  

“The Merdegia Clan Grand Reunion”

“A few weeks after the Canlas Grand Reunion, my Merdegia clan on my mother’s side, held a grand reunion on the 3rd of April, 2010 in San Fernando, Pampanga.  It was an opportunity to come together and celebrate our family and accomplishments.   It was a lot of fun as well.

“My Grandfather Merdegia was a lawyer, a teacher and a professional boxer.  My grandmother was a teacher as well. They had impressed upon our minds that “The glory of God is intelligence.”   They taught us that Education was a legacy that will never be taken away from us and it will go with us into the next life.  We were to take seriously the need to finish our degrees and to be professionals and business owners so we could help others and be self-reliant.

A Celebration Of Family

“At the reunion, the family celebrated each of our achievements, the men and the women, the boys and the girls, all the family accomplishments in education, business, and the church as returned missionaries, leaders and workers. They held a program to recognize all the achievers that continually bring honor to the family.  And with that, everybody is committed to pursue more achievements in life.

“We gathered to recognize my sister, Ruth Jade, who had recently finished her Master’s degree in engineering with highest honors and merits, Magna Cum Laude; my brother, James Charltom, who graduated high school as a valedictorian and gave a valedictory address and speech during the graduation; my cousin, Girlie, who graduated and is now the second doctor in the family, and another cousin, Aileen Rose, who graduated with her Criminology degree.  They were joining the rest of the family who were Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Psychologists and even the younger ones who were “A” students, in bringing honor to the family. Everybody was bringing honor to the family.

“After the program, the family enjoyed a barbeque with rice and fish and then they went to the beach for some games and fun at the sea.  We closed this special day and evening by relaxing at a hotel.  What a wonderful event this was for my family!  It was a very memorable reunion!

Family Reunions and Temple Work

Sister Galavan’s accounts of her Philippines “Engrandeng Pagtitipon” (Grand Reunion) remind us of the important principles of the gospel and family. Her Grandparents joined the Church, and taught the gospel to their children and grandchildren.






We learn from her about the accomplishments of each member of her family. We came to understand the importance of honor and achievement for these Filipino Saints.

Kathleya said: “My family, both mother and father’s sides are very religious. With a new temple in the Philippines the principles of devotion to family are strengthened.   When it comes to family, genealogy and keeping covenants, it is so important to the family that each person strives to achieve.  They all keep personal journals, pictures and videos.  They also do the temple work submission.  We are in the 8-10th generation of our family ancestors and we have submitted it to the temple.  My parents are well-known for their passion in genealogy in the Paranaque Philippines Stake and that is why my dad is called to do genealogy.  He is asked to help the members do theirs.  My aunts and cousins as well have the Spirit of Elijah that prompts them to do temple work, all in preparation for our eternal Engrandeng Pagtitipon.”

She further explained that with each new calling in the Church (several of her brothers and uncles have served as Stake Presidents and Bishops, and many in the family are returned missionaries), and with each academic accomplishment, and recognition in business, a picture is hung in her grandmother’s home to signify the honor each family member contributes. However, emphasis is not placed on the achievement but on the honor and support the family members bring to their Grandparents, to the Family, and to the Church.  This commitment teaches each the importance of service to others.

Belonging For Eternity

“I will forever be grateful to belong to such a beautiful family.  I didn’t recognize that while growing up because I was more focused on playing and being a child, but now I do.  I love them with all my heart. I can truly say, like Nephi of old, “I, Kathleya, having been born of goodly parents…” The Grand Reunions on both sides of the family…I will remember for all eternity.”

Putting this Philippines Grand Reunion in perspective, many of us don’t remember the experiences of just a century ago, when the LDS culture was in its infancy.  A college degree was unheard of in most families, and we’ve forgotten the commitments our pioneer families made to sacrifice, that new generations could rise above the laboring endeavors and reach for new heights in medicine, law, business, and education.  Latter-day Saints everywhere have been encouraged, since the earliest days of the Church to seek towards perfection in our families, our church activities, our daily work and business; and not for our own acclaim, but to strengthen our families and build up the Kingdom of God.  Through Sister Galvan’s family, the Church is thriving in the Philippines and abroad.  We can follow their example and wherever we are planted, we, too, can build up the Kingdom of God through our families’ faithful dedication to the gospel and its principles.  We can use the grand reunion to strengthen our families and further our commitments to eternal covenants and our Father in Heaven.  

Have you held your “Engrandeng Pagtitipon”?  Our families all need to hear the testimonies of loved ones and of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and be reminded of the devotion of family to the Lord.  We need to participate in living family reunions and temple work for our kindred dead.  The Canlas and Merdegia Clans, of Pampanga, Philippines bear testimony of the importance of Eternal Families, and of that day when the Eternal Engrandeng Pagtitipon will take place in the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The members of our Eternal families, both living and dead, will gather to honor God from all countries of the World, and from all Ages and Time.  We will join in prayer, and sing, and stand and report to our Lord that we were faithful in doing His will.  And like Kathleya Canlas Galvan we will say “I Love my Family, and the Grand Reunion…I will remember for all eternity.”


James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”.  President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business. “Trusted Professional Genealogy Research Services Firm”, providing genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.

For Heirlines-Quality professional services, resources, and products including free genealogy and family history advice or to learn expert answers to commonly asked  ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website for free consultations www.

Heirlines.com and his blog  www.ProfessionalGenealogy.com.