Our Very Hungry Caterpillar

With all the existing beliefs about how first birthdays should be and my easily-swayed personality, I had a hard time finalizing Elijah’s first birthday.  At the end of it all (or at the start, rather), I set my foot down and decided based on three important points (which I did not necessarily think about then, but only on hindsight).

These three points were 1) what Elijah loved, 2) the resources we had, and 3) the call of the time.

First: What Elijah Loved

Ultimately, my husband and I believed that it was a celebration of Elijah being ONE. With the birth scare that he gave us, and the problem in weight loss that we encountered at the start of his infancy, he was pretty much literally A Very Hungry Caterpillar in his own way. And we wanted to celebrate his little transition with a theme most appropriate — his favorite storybook at that point in time written by Eric Carle.


With all the many venue choices, we chose The Cocoon Boutique Hotel. Aside from its name being Cocoon, (which was perfect with the theme), I was rooting for it mainly because it was considered a Green Hotel.  What is a Green Hotel? All the wood they used to build the hotel, were old and recycled, taking an extra five years to collect before actual building time. The function rooms’ chandeliers were rehashed from the Old Peninsula Hotel, and the bulbs changed to LED. Cost-wise, we adjusted the kids’ and adults’ menu very well to accommodate our guests’ needs and our budget. We were very warmly assisted by one of their personnel, Camela Valencia, all throughout the process from planning, ingress, and egress.


And what is The Very Hungry Caterpillar without the desserts, which he gobbled up on a Saturday? So yes, we had a dessert table (co-conceptualized with and completely designed by Issa).  I literally drew my idea of Elijah’s cake and Karla Ilacad of Gypsy Girl Dessert turned it into life. I added mini cupcakes in line with the theme (colorful circles found on the book) which came from my talented Tita, Tina Diaz of Taza Platito/Food Magazine.  My sister, Nikki and her husband, Franco, gave us mint M&Ms, which were all green and matched the caterpillar theme. The rest was from local grocery in low prices 😉 Issa’s magical hands put all of these together and voila! We had our dessert table for Elijah.


Second: What our Resources Allowed

Styling with friends.  With the venue and food booked, we cut down on everything else, which was whipped up my superwoman friend, Issa, who was the queen of incredible tipid tactics and who possessed magical hands.  Elijah’s first birthday party would not have been what it was without Issa and her husband, KC, and their good friend, Carlo.  They were the brains, hands, and driving forces behind the idea. (Please refer to Issa’s post.)


Making own movie. I made Elijah’s video using iMovie, which did not cost a thing except for electricity and time.

Teachers are the best hosts. The host was a good friend from graduate school, Rain De Leon, who did an amazing job not just in keeping the children’s attention, but also the adults’. She was after all, a teacher and radio jock rolled into one. My other good friends, Rinna Puno and Cara Tizon, who were also my co-teachers hosted the most highlighted game of the day — families in a relay race to wrap gifts/loot bags of art/school materials for survivors of Yolanda (which brings us to the third point: the call of the time).

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Third: The Call of the Time

Elijah turned one in January 2014. It was also a month and a half after Yolanda’s wrath left many Filipinos struggling emotionally and financially. I was close to deciding not to have a grand celebration, until I thought of turning the grandness of it into a Giving Opportunity.  This was done with the great help of kind-hearted individuals — my sister-in-law, Anna Veloso Tuazon, whose hometown was Tacloban, and my friend Lia Manalac-Del Castillo, founder of Diksyonaryo Atbp, as well as some of our thoughtful family and friends who opted to donate. We asked our guests to donate in lieu of gifts and to join a packing relief bags/writing messages for those affected by Yolanda as a family relay game.  Lastly, Elijah donated storybooks in behalf of the guests (which served as their souvenir) through the help of Diksyonaryo Atbp.


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Looking back, what made Elijah’s first birthday special was the meaning behind everything.  It was a lot of hard work and support. (Thank you to my husband, Franco, for supporting my ideas, and thank you to Issa for choreographing them into what they became.)

I also believe that when Elijah grows up, he will look back at this, and realize how special his birthday was — filled with family and friends who celebrated him and with him, and how beautiful the butterfly effect was, of his turning one, to other Filipino folks as well.


Photos by Deneb Villanueva

Author’s Note:

I am a fan of late posts, and Elijah has already turned two the other day.  His second birthday was much simpler than the first, but that belongs to another post in the future. 🙂