I looked around me; I sawmany people and most of them are my fellow Filipinos. Life here is tough if you know what the word tough means. Tough here means you don’t have enough money for substantial food and luxury. Tough here means, you only have enough food for the day and you have to work another day to be able to have food on your table again. Also, tough here means you work for eight hours a day and you only earn 200 to 250 pesos a day and you go home after work and budget your money for food and needs of your family. You cannot afford to be sick and be hospitalized for few days because you don’t have savings for that. But I am not trying to let you see the negative side of this life. I am showing you the beauty of it that despite these challenges around us or within us, life is still good, specially that Christmas is there. And Christmas to Filipino people is very special than any other season of the year. Despite the hardship of life here, Christmas never became an ordinary celebration. It is the reward for all the troubles that we had for the past months.
Filipinos, start playing Christmas songs as early as September and many people would probably ask why. We are people who are full of hope; we anticipate good things coming on our way. We tend to welcome the good season as early as we can. We see things farther and dream bigger than what we can be. We are excited about many things. We do not treat holiday as a regular day when other people still spend time to work and be busy with their regular tasks. It’s not because we are lazy people but we love to gather with our loved ones and once in a while to celebrate together. Since Christmas is the biggest season, we want to feel the atmosphere of it longer and extend our celebration if possible. In fact by September you can already see lanterns, Christmas lights, Christmas balls and other Christmas decorations displayed in malls and vendors sell them in the sidewalks. At September, some towns or provinces start building the “BELEN” which is one of our traditional Christmas symbol as Filipinos. Belen is a representation of the nativity. Most Filipino families would build the nativity miniatures in their houses as a symbol for Christmas. In the beginning of December you will witness some teenagers who would sing Christmas Carols to every house with their musical instruments like the guitar and tambourine to collect some amount for a certain project they want to achieve. By doing it, the families that they offer Christmas carols would give them any amount they can or any gift they can in return for their serenade.
When it’s Christmas, family members that are working far would do their best to spend the holiday together with their families. We save money for our travel if we are working far from home so we can celebrate with them. We make sure that we attend the mass early in the morning from the 16th of December until the very day of Christmas. We believe that if we complete the mass, our wishes will come true and God honors it more. The night of the 24th of December we make sure that we have food on our table for “Noche Buena”. When the hand of the clock pointed at 12 midnight, we start to eat the meal that we prepared. Usually we make native foods like desserts made of sticky rice and rice cakes. For those families who can afford to prepare a big meal, they usually buy a pig and grill it whole. We call it “Lechon Baboy”. It is a common type of food you will see on our table when there is a big celebration. Then we share our foods to our neighbors as well. We prepare gifts for each other, games and other activities for kids while we wait for the day of Christmas. Then we also pray together as family.
Our celebration is not based on how much we have on our table, it is on how we gather together and be happy out what we have. It is based also on how grateful we are for whatever blessings we received for the year. We have simple life but we experience the real Christmas. We are Filipinos and we are Blessed.