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It’s food that brings the Sotto-Pingris and the Hermosa-Sotto families together. Sharing a meal together lets them give thanks for the simple things in life.

Oyo and Kristine are hands-on parents when it comes to putting together a small family celebration, even with four kids underfoot: Kiel, Ondrea, Kaleb, and Vin.

“We help each other because we often don’t have helpers,” Oyo says, with Kristine jokingly adding, “We don’t have a choice, in short, haha!” It helps that neither of the kids are picky eaters; they like pretty much whatever is served on the table, and their adventurous palates have them enjoying sashimi and even bagoong.

Just as important as the food is everyone’s presence. Kristine says, “Hindi engrande ’yung handa, but everyone is gathered together to enjoy the meal.” Both parents set rules around the dining table to ensure that they all bond without unnecessary distractions: “No toys allowed at the table. No playing with the food. Elbows off the table.” And more importantly, no gadgets allowed. “That’s the most important,” Oyo stresses. “Bawal talaga ’yon.”

It’s a similar scenario at the Sotto-Pingris home. Marc and Danica also strive to make the dining table a smartphone- and tablet-free zone for their kids Jean Michael and Anielle Micaela, though Danica admits to being guilty of answering sudden calls in the middle of the meal. “Sometimes, we can’t avoid it, and the kids would be the ones to remind us, ‘Hey, no texting, no phone calls,’” she says. “We’re really mindful of that because kids will copy what their parents do,” Marc adds.

Instilling gratitude is a big deal in both households. Oyo says, “We don’t spoil the kids. We teach them, ‘Don’t choose, don’t complain,’ especially when it comes to food.” For the Sotto-Pingris household, Marc says that their number one rule during meals is for the kids to finish their food. Marc states, “Wala talagang dapat matira na pagkain, and we always pray and give thanks before meals.” Finishing whatever is served is part of a disciplinary lesson that both parents hope to instill, aside from that it’s a great way for the family to bond—widening their culinary palettes.

“Parents have to show kids that they are grateful, too,” Kristine says. “Parents model good behavior for them. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but when I feel like complaining, I explain [it] to them. ‘What Mama or Dada are going through is natural and normal. But in the end, we choose to be grateful.’ I feel ’yon ’yung panglaban mo sa challenges sa buhay.

This rings true especially for Marc and Danica. Last year, when an injury sidelined Marc and kept him from playing basketball for a year and three months, the couple relied on the strength of their faith and focused on even the smallest blessings to get through that rough period. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” Danica says. “Marc was dealing with physical pain, plus he was getting anxious, worried, and fearful. We also had challenges in the business so sabay-sabay. But we got through those and became a stronger family as a result. Now that we’re okay, we can breathe again and celebrate more.”

Like Oyo and Kristine, they teach their kids to put life’s inconveniences into perspective. “Sometimes they can be mareklamo: ‘It’s boring,’ or ‘It’s hot.’ But that’s how we were as kids, and our parents would remind us not just of being grateful for what we have but the simple rules we practice at home. Kids may not fully understand their purpose yet, but they will, eventually.”

With the year winding down, they’re all looking forward to the big gathering where they get to see everyone again, including new additions to the family. Often hosted by Oyo and Danica’s dad Vic, the reunion is where they get to create more memories to treasure and be thankful for. “Maraming kwentuhan, maraming nakahanda,” Kristine says. “It’s always memorable whenever we all come together.”