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Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2002 10:00 pm

The Buenafe family: Rev. Mark Buenafe, wife Norms, and sons Marick, 8, and Mahal, 3.

Mark has been a pastor for nine years and the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church since July 2001. Norms is a substitute teacher for Lodi Unified School District, teaching kindergarten through eighth grade.

Marick is a third-grader at Vinewood Elementary School. He recently scored high enough on district tests for the Lodi Unified School District's Gifted And Talented Program.

"He is so proud," Norms said.

Mahal is a preschooler at Little Methodist Preschool.

The family's last name means "good faith" in Spanish, which has been a running joke among those who know them.

"We always get comments. 'What a name for a pastor, like our local dentist named, Dr. Gums,' " Norms said.

How they met: The couple are college sweethearts.

Mark was born and raised on the East Coast but went to high school and college in the Philippines. Norms was born and raised in the Philippines, which is where they met their senior year in high school. They both enrolled at Philippine Christian University in Manila and began dating.

Mark moved back to the United States in 1983 to pursue his seminary studies. Norms came to Chicago to be a presenter at a seminar for Teacher's of English as a second language and they were reunited. What she didn't know was that Mark was planning on proposing to her, and he did at the top of the Sears Tower.

They were married in the Philippines, Norms said because the husband has to pay for the ceremony there. The couple have been married for 13 years.

Family activities: "We are very musical," Norms said. She and Mark play the guitar, Marick plays the piano and Mahal likes to sing. The family also likes to go to museums and zoos.

Their favorite pastime is going to playgrounds. "Of all the towns we see, Lodi has a lot of playgrounds, nice new playgrounds," Norms said. "The boys enjoy playing there. That makes our family time very special, fun and most of all free."

Family Traditions: The family takes a lot of pictures, a tradition handed down from Mark's grandfather. Norms keeps all of the family pictures in "fancy scrapbooks."

She said people know they can't get out of their house without taking pictures. "We usually have out the camera all the time," she adds.

Another tradition is that the family always makes sure they sit down together for their meals. "That is our family time," she said.

Best cook: "I am the cook," Norms said. Their favorite meal is a Filipino dish called sinigang, which is a broth soup with meat or fish and vegetables eaten with white rice.

Do you have a family ancestor of note? Mark's father, Mamerto Buenafe Jr., was a musician, who composed the theme for Manila Central University in the Philippines.

Was there a life changing event in your life? Norms' mother passed away a few years back from liver cancer. She said losing her mother taught her to enjoy her family.

"I learned to enjoy the moment, seize the moment. To spend time with your loved ones," she said.

She said that being pregnant with Mahal at the time was tough, because they were dealing with losing a life yet looking forward to a new life.

What keeps your family close? She said their faith in God in what bonds the family. "Our relationship with Jesus Christ. Because he loves us we know how to love," Norms said.

They also say that keeping things in the family consistent is important. The family moves around a lot because of Mark's occupation, which doesn't leave much stability. The family has lived in Redwood City, Lake Isabella, and Riverdale to name a few.

However, Norms said because they have kept consistency in their relationships, the kids have been able to handle it better.

Best family feature of Lodi: The community. "We fell in love with Lodi. It still has a small town atmosphere yet has a lot of services to offer," Norms said. "It's very family oriented."

They also enjoy how people in the area maintain their yards and keep them looking beautiful.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. To nominate a family, even your own, for our Family Portrait series, call Deanne Lowenstein, panorama editor, at 369-7035, or e-mail deannel@lodinews.com.


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