There’s a Japanese term called ichi-go ichi-e – a phrase that translates to "one time, one meeting" in English. It is a concept rooted in Japanese tea ceremonies. It emphasizes the importance of cherishing every moment and treating each encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should be savored and appreciated fully. It is often used to describe the unique and unrepeatable nature of a particular moment or experience and encourages mindfulness and presence in one's interactions with others.
I reflect on this word as I look back at our just concluded month-long stay in Paris. My family has been living apart for decades and any opportunity to spend a good amount of time with them is truly a gift. Over the years, I have learned to practice ichi-go ichi-e whenever I am with them.
GT wrote this on his Facebook page a few days ago:
Time is the most valuable gift one can receive. Thank you Ate Marla and Ate Tina for sharing your time. The time for Pina to heal, the time to build new memories and reflect on old ones, the time to value the meaning of family, and most of all, the time spent laughing, eating and sharing.
(Ate is a term of respect which means older sister; Marla is my nickname– a contraction of my full name, Maria Stella)
My brother works long hours. Most nights, He arrives past 8:00 pm. When possible, cousin Anna, Tina, and I wait for him and share dinner together. Sometimes, when we’ve eaten ahead, we keep him company while he chows down his supper. We always ask how his day went. I cherish hearing his everyday mundane stories because I learn so much about him.
After dinner, we move to the living room. That’s where we end up having meaningful conversations about life. We share our joys, frustrations, and lessons learned. Despite our limited shared interests, there's a sense of connection that comes from these vulnerable moments, and a deep understanding and appreciation for each other's life journey.
On occasion, we sit together in silence, enjoying each other's presence. Other times, he watches Korean dramas on Netflix to decompress. We retire around 10:00 pm. Before falling asleep, he watches youtube videos on how to cook vegan and gluten-free dishes for Tina and me.
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On weekends, he batch cooks 2-3 dishes for us for the coming week. He knows my favorite Filipino dish is kare-kare so he learned how to deconstruct the recipe and make it plant-based. He’s also made potato hash, rice and beans, vegetable curry, munggo, arroz caldo, pancit, and laing. His way of expressing love is through cooking, where each dish is carefully crafted and cooked with affection.
“This reminds me of our time in Somerville,” he often said to me on this trip. It's usually around the dining table that we reminisce about it.
Tina and I share the loft space upstairs with cousin Anna. I barely knew her back in Manila because she was much younger than me. We lost touch for years after we migrated to the US. When I visit Manila, we see each other once— maybe for an hour or so— to share a meal together with my aunties. Spending a month with her is definitely a rare experience for both of us.
My brother extended an invitation for her to stay with him when she expressed interest in pursuing graduate studies in Paris. She also met a man on a previous trip and wanted to explore where their relationship might lead. Things turned out well for her. She graduated, obtained an internship, and found a full-time job. Her relationship with Seb is going strong.
Reconnecting with Anna as an adult stirs up a mixture of emotions - from the thrill of catching up and the desire to learn more, to the comforting memory of shared experiences. I love hearing about her life in Paris and with Seb. Everything is new and fresh from her perspective. I can’t wait to see how her life will take shape in the next few years.
It’s also fair to say that Ichi-go ichi-e also extends to Pina. The night before we left for San Francisco, she chose to sleep beside me. Perhaps it was her way of saying thank you for taking care of her while she recovered from surgery. I was teary-eyed the following morning when the thought came to my mind. Oh, how we will miss all our afternoon walks to Parc Monceau! Not to mention all the cuddles on the sofa, the chest rubs, and her poo misadventures!
She is doing well, dear readers! Her feistiness is back and no seizures have occurred so far (crossing our fingers!) I look forward to seeing her again in June for GT’s birthday celebration in upstate New York.
Lastly, I am so grateful that Tina came with me on this trip. It is so rare for her to travel overseas, dear readers! This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As I mentioned in my previous post, we share a passion for visual design and we enjoyed exploring the city through this perspective. Since we’ve had such a good experience this time around, I am hoping this won’t be our last visit to Paris. I am also grateful that she helped care for Pina. I couldn’t have done it without her. It was more enjoyable to learn as we went through this together.
Although I downloaded books to read, had plans to collage, and brought my journal with me, I intentionally chose to forego these activities and devote my time and attention to GT, Pina, Anna, and Tina. As GT pointed out, It’s all about connection and creating memories together.
Before I go to sleep, I thank God for how the day unfolded knowing that it will never happen the same way again.
Time is finite. It only moves forward not backward.
Life is more meaningful when we are aware of Ichi-go ichi-e.
Make each moment count.
I love that Japanese saying :D. I first heard it in 'Makanai' - a beautiful and understated series on Netflix.
I also just figured out why my nickname is Rica (Raphaela Carina). I thought that Filipinos just have a tradition of naming their children one thing, and then giving them a complete unrelated nickname and literally never calling us by our birth certificate name...
Thanks for solving that mystery!