“I want to tell my kids about where their father used to hide when playing hide and seek. Or show them the forest their father loved to trek,” actor Aeril Zafrel says, his face beaming.
“I want them to have all the beautiful memories I had when I was growing up.”
The 30-year-old, who hails from Batu Pahat, Johor, is talking to StarLifestyle about the importance of taking his children back to his hometown every year for Hari Raya.
Aeril has two kids with actress Wawa Zainal – Ahmad Fakhruddin Attar, six, and Hayla Maghfiratul Adzkiyaa, four.
“I lived in Johor for 18 years and didn’t even step foot in Kuala Lumpur throughout that whole time.
“So, the activities I did were all in the kampung, from lighting up oil lamps to exploring the woods,” recalls Aeril, who is now an accomplished actor based in the country’s capital.
He first set out for KL in 2006 and gradually carved his showbiz career over the next decade. The actor has since become a fixture on TV dramas, with notable works like Akulah Balqis, Patahnya Sebelah Sayap and Mandatori.
The first thing Aeril does when he returns home each year is bring his kids to visit his parents’ grave.
He says going home to celebrate Hari Raya doesn’t feel the same anymore without them. Both his parents passed away around 2010 and 2011.
“Growing up, the best thing about Hari Raya is simply eating together with my family. I can still remember the rendang and ketupat my mum made when she was still around,” reminisces Aeril, who has four other siblings.
“It’s not the same anymore now. Last time, when they were still alive, (the atmosphere) was very lively.”
Aeril believes though his parents aren’t there anymore, it’s still important to make his way home.
“I want to teach my kids what it means to balik kampung and feel what the atmosphere is like there,” he says, adding he is saddened by the fact that, as the years go by, he sees less and less children at his hometown for Hari Raya.
Aeril is determined to do the same with his wife’s side of the family. Last year, the family of four celebrated Hari Raya for the first time in Wawa’s hometown, Lahad Datu, Sabah, for a change.
“The reason we haven’t gone to Sabah until last year was because the kids were still small and I wasn’t confident about them flying at such a young age,” Aeril says.
Wawa says the kids had a lot of fun as there were many children around the same age to play with in her hometown.
The 28-year-old, who rose to prominence after starring in the 2011 drama Ana Lu’lu, has fond memories growing up in the east coast of Sabah.
“I lived in a house that was (built) on water until I was 10,” she enthuses. “It was not scary at all. It was awesome!
“And when it was Hari Raya, everybody would visit each others’ houses, whether we knew them or not. It was really festive.”
Unfortunately, her kids didn’t get to see her old house, as it has since been demolished.
Wawa says she wants to pass on Hari Raya rituals like seeking forgiveness from one another to her children. “And at the same time, since they are still so young, I just want them to enjoy Hari Raya,” she adds.
They also took the opportunity to reflect on the road they’ve journeyed on as a family. The couple first got to know each other on the set of drama series, Klik, in 2010. Aeril and Wawa then tied the knot in 2012 when they were 24 and 21 respectively.
Settling down around the time they were still trying to break into the entertainment industry wasn’t easy.
“You really need to be prepared in terms of having enough money and a place to live,” Aeril talks about stepping into the role of a husband at a young age. “Because once you have a wife and, later, kids, you have a lot of commitments.
“So the money I got from my acting jobs, I saved it. That money was on standby for when she got pregnant. You have to think about diapers, clothes and all the things your kid needs.”
Wawa chimes in: “Thankfully, it didn’t get so bad that we had to borrow money from others or we didn’t have food on the table. We had just enough. We just can’t buy the things that we want.”
Aeril feels that they are at a good place in their lives now. “It’s been seven years since we got married and I’m grateful that things have now stabilised.”
Indeed, it’s all coming together beautifully now.
Last month, the couple, who has been trying for another baby, announced they are expecting their third child. What a way to ring in Hari Raya!