It Happened to Me

Happy Baek-il, Ryan!

Meanwhile, back in Accordion City

My nephew and sister’s youngest son, Ryan Joseph deVilla-Choi, turned

100 days old on Thursday. Ryan’s dad, my brother-in-law Richard, is

Korean, so we observed the Korean tradition of celebrating Baek-il, the

100 day anniversary of a baby’s birth.

The man of the hour!

The family gathered at my sister’s house, complete with Auntie Beth,

who’s visiting from the Phillippines, Mom and Dad, whom the boys refer

to as “Dodo” and “Yoya” (their pronunciations of “Lolo” and “Lola”,

Tagalog for “grandpa” and “grandma”) and Richard’s parents, who flew in

from Vancouver for the big event. The boys call them “Haroboji” and

“Halmonyi” (Korean for “grandma” and “grandma”).

From left to right: Nico, Ryan and Aidan.

We had a delicious Korean dinner of kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage),

galbi (barbecued beef), bin dae duk (vegetable pancakes), jap chae

(clear noodles) and Chateauneuf du Pape (okay, that’s not Korean — we deVillas and Chois believe

you can both pay homage to your own tradition and do the vive la difference thing). Richard’s folks certainly know how to cook up a tasty Korean meal.

If you’ve never had Korean food before, you’re missing out on a meat-a-licious treat.

100-day cake.

Dinner was followed by the traditional cake served on Baek-il: baeksolgi,

a very dense cake made of steamed rice.  Something along the lines

of “Happy 100 Days!” is spelled out in Korean on top of the cake using


I’m not all that keen on the baeksolgi — it’s pretty bland

and almost as dense as depleted uranium — but I gladly finished the large slice that Richard’s mom gave me to be polite. However, I will always show up at an event where Richard’s parents are making Korean barbecue.

Nico, Dad and Aidan watch the 100-day cake.

Baek-il is one of two Korean traditions celebrating the passage of a

baby from one age to another. In addition to celebrating a baby’s 100th

day of life, another very important birthday is the first birthday,

which the Koreans call Dol. Both traditions stem from “the bad old

days” when medicine and hygiene weren’t as advanced and the rate of

infant mortality was much higher. Making it past the first 100 days was

a sign that you’d live to see your first birthday, and making it past

your first birthday was a sign that you’d at least make it out of


Frustrated with the lack of milk, Ryan takes matters into his own hands.

Congratulations, Ryan! Happy Baek-il!

8 replies on “Happy Baek-il, Ryan!”

100 days post birth also denotes the 1st year birthday if you consider inclusion of the 9 months pre-natally as being part of being alive.

So 9 Months + 100 Days = approx 1 full year (plus or minus yada yada) making it an actual 1st birthday as an alive critter.

So where did they meet? I lived in Korea for quite some time and Koreans tend to marry only Koreans. They see themselves as very homogeneous. Richard must be a westernized Korean, yes?

Filipinos are much more open to marrying outside their ethnic group.

These are my observations from out here in the “real world.”

Hey, ‘Spammer!

Richard’s family came to Vancouver when he was about 3 or 4 years old, so his growing-up experiences were North American.

Eileen and Richard are both doctors and met the way most doctors I know seem to meet: in the hospital. Eileen was a med student doing her clerkship; Richard was doing his internship. Near the end of some shift that they’d been working together or nearby, he asked her out to dinner. I remember Eileen coming home and telling me (we shared an apartment then): “Some geeky cardiologist asked me out!”

As you can see, the date worked out better than expected.

I myself am the indirect product of a mixed marriage: my great-grandfather is one James O’Hara of Dayton, Ohio. He went to the Philippines after the Spanish-American War to teach, got married and had kids, one of whom was a fair-skinned, hazel-eyed girl named Marietta. She was my paternal grandmother.

That’s so cute! (The baby AND the 100-day celebration).

I turned 10,000 days a while ago, but was too lazy to do anything about it. (So I’m 100x as old as your nephew. That sounds ancient…)

In many Asian countries, mixed blood is considered dirty blood. I’ve been here for 12 years.

I once went to aq hospital in Pusan, Korea and told them I was going to donate my blood and the nurses eyes bulged open. They would not accept “foreign” blood.

That being said, I am sure Baek-il is doing fine. “il” is an awfully difficult pronounciation for westerners. Does he have a nickname?

All this hoopla over Ryan�s 100-day celebration brings up some interesting issues of identity. Before jumping into a mixed marriage, a person should really think through what they will be doing to the children of such marriages. These children end up being neither here nor there with respect to identity. Certainly, in the West, where step-children, half-sisters, and ex-wives are as common as cream in a coffee shop, it all seems quite international and progressive to celebrate �multi-identities.�

However, in Asia, promoting such complex identities is dangerous to the livelihood of a child�s self-esteem. It is very important to be a part of the group in Asian society and conform to social norms.

The best part of the Iraq War is that it has slowed down the western hegemonic expansion fueled by the United States. It was not too long ago when the powerful American economy was bulldozing its values throughout the world with Bill Clinton at the controls. If that had continued, we�d probably be celebrating multiple identities in Asia by now.

Thank God for George Bush.

Ryan is so cute! Our daughter will be celebrating her 100th day this Sunday but without the rice cakes and whatnot as my parents don’t live close to us and my husbands family is french. I don’t know why there are so many people out there that don’t approve of mixed marriages; it’s like what my mother in-law says “A baby born of two cultures gets the best features of both” And that is so true!

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