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Friday, December 12, 2008

Misty Eyes of an Expat

In the Philippines when the early mornings become colder and the various TV and radio stations starts playing Christmas carols and music, it means that the month of December has arrived.

During my childhood in the province, mother would start buying live chickens and put them inside a long cage made of bamboo (tangkal) for fattening. She would also start collecting chicken eggs for making them into cakes, cookies, and kinakaw. In addition, mother would request one of my old aunties to make a native cake called pasingaw as big as a bilao (round-shape rice winnower made of bamboo spits).

At Noche Buena (24 December), we hear the midnight Mass, then the whole family gathers at home to partake of native delicacies and other foods such as pansit, lechon, fried chicken, ham, apples, grapes, chestnuts, queso de bola and more. All houses are decorated with paper lanterns in the shape of a star hanging from the windows with multi-colored lights, while youngsters and adults explode firecrackers and sing Christmas carols from house-to-house.

On Christmas Day (25 December) after hearing Mass, our dining table is again laden with various kinds of foods, while at the corner is a Christmas tree with glittering lights and gifts piled at the foot of the Christmas tree. Everybody who comes to the house is offered food or something to drink and eat. On that day, we also visit our relatives aunts and uncles, ninongs and ninangs, to greet them a "Merry Christmas and kiss their hands.

To expatriate Filipinos, wherever they may be, they remember their own respective hometowns or cities during Christmas and could not help feel nostalgic – their eyes becoming moist and misty. As I sit down at noche buena before a table laden with food and drinks, how could I explain to my children who grew up or were born in a foreign land with strange or different customs, why their Dad or Papa has misty eyes?

I have no heart to tell them I missed Infant’s Christmas described above when I was still a child. Be that as it may, the significance of Christmas is the same everywhere in Christendom – peace, goodwill, and love.

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