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Appreciating The Family Side of Technology

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Silicon Valley is a hectic place to live and grow up. Technology, which is the driver behind some of the world's premier companies, brings us new and inspiring enhancements to life in the form of gadgets, devices, and applications. Everything from entertainment to health care to industry have enjoyed the benefits of our technologically advanced society. But one aspect of life which has been touched by many of the valley's technology advents lies in the ability and opportunity to reconnect the branches of one's family tree.

It's one thing to find old friends online, but reconnecting with relatives brings with it additional facets of social networking that extend beyond emails and screen names -- it brings a very intimate level of personal connection that reminds us of where we came from, who we grew up with, and how we started.

I have to admit that I was not one to be actively searching out long lost relatives. As a matter of fact, I tended to be on the quieter side of my family's social order. Typically, in a family gathering, you might have found me tucked in a sofa somewhere, talking to one or two people, watching TV while enjoying a big plate of lumpia, rice and pancit. I've never been known as a brash, outspoken, extroverted kind of cousin, so in like manner my relatives would remember me as "my brother's brother" or "my mom or dad's son." I'm sure those of you like myself can identify.

So recently, while having a discussion with my daughter Christianne about my Aunt Lily, who had earned her Master's Degree from Columbia University many years ago, I sought to look for my cousins Bev, Perla, Mely, and Chris, whom my brother and I grew up with while living in Mountain View, Calif. in the 70's. Aunt Lily was their mom, and I knew that they could tell me more about her.

After some searching online, and making a phone call here and there, I ended up looking on Facebook, where I learned that Bev had a page about the family's business --"Catli's Oriental Market"; a small mom and pop store that they had on Moffett Boulevard. It was one of, if not the first oriental markets in Mountain View.

From that page, I slowly found my cousins. From there, it was like the sky opened up.

Not only did I find everyone, but I began catching up on everything that everyone had been doing. Individual lives which evolved and progressed, while my own life did the same. It was like seeing into the past, finding out where everyone had gone, and how everyone's lives had paralleled my own in so many ways. I learned about things that previously you would only had heard through word-of-mouth family updates. Things that aunts, uncles, and elders would share with younger cousins over the phone or at a dinner table. Reconnecting with relatives felt like being back at a family gathering, only this time I wasn't the quiet, introverted kid on the sofa watching TV. Life changed me enough to open my eyes to the world, and helped me to understand that everyone else went through the same ordeal, but with their own take, their own reaction, and their own results.

In effect, the reconnection of family through technology is the engine the generates the extended family -- through immediate family and close relatives, and on into friends and loved ones.

I thought about it today as I exchanged emails with my newly reconnected cousins, and for a second, I remembered what it was like being a little Filipino kid growing up in Mountain View.

It reminded me of how wonderful it was [and still is] to have relatives, to have a family, and to have technology to reconnect the branches.

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