By J. Josefina Guevara-Salonga
I was my granddaughter's age, (I can't seem to remember anymore, how
long ago it was), the thought of Christmas simply did not fail to
evoke excitement in my heart. The sound of Christmas carols as
they filled the air always managed to give me joy and delight for I
considered it even then as a season when everyone feels all set to
give and give; a time when the heart swells with gratitude for the
many blessings that one has been showered with; a time when one
cannot help but think of the many ways by which one can be a blessing
the first week of December, I remember my sister taking out the
Christmas balls, the gold and crystal trimmings, the angels, the
silver stars and yards and yards of red and green ribbons, the
Christmas lights and boxfuls of decors to adorn our big and small
parents then would not settle for an artificial tree so that they
made it a point to buy fresh pine trees coming from Baguio, which
were usually sold in Plaza Lawton. The smell of pine, they used
to say, was the true smell of Christmas. Truly, it was so much
fun to decorate the big tree with the whole family taking part in
this once-a-year endeavor. The small tree though got to be
installed in our house, which was beside our botica. Underneath
that small tree were our gifts for one another, which were to be
opened only on Christmas day. The young ones (then) meaning
myself and my little brother, were given a special treat by Santa
Claus (we really thought he came in during the night with his sled).
As we opened our eyes on Christmas day, we would find a sockful of
money (mostly coins) underneath our pillows. On the huge
Christmas socks, which we were made to hang on the baluster of our
stairs, were candies and goodies too.
Simbang Gabi was altogether another story. In our barrio
(that's how it was called then), the sign that the 9-day early
morning mass was about to begin was the setting up of the
puto-bumbong stand right in front of our drugstore. Everyone
was of the idea that our next door neighbors, Tia Doñang and
Ate Binay, made the best puto-bumbong in town. (I am sure
they are still busy catering to St. Peter and his gang up there).
As a tribute to their cooking prowess, even residents of other
barrios went all the way to our place to partake of their sumptuous
creation, which came with bottomless banaba tea made from fresh
banaba leaves boiled in big tin cans. The novelty of it all
came from eating the puto-bumbong and sipping the tea while standing.
Christmas day, families went to church together dressed in their
finest outfits. Queso de bola, Chinese ham, embutido and
grapes were the usual fare on the breakfast table, no matter what the
state of life one was in. Our unmarried auntie, whom we called
“nanay” made sure that there was plenty of food on
the table all day long. Relatives with children in tow, came
and went to make “mano” to my parents and “nanay”
and partake of the Christmas fare and the loot bags. All day
long, the streets swarmed with happy kids who knocked at every door
in the neighborhood, for Christmas gifts.
for me and my brother, accompanied by a help, we went to our ninangs'
and ninongs' houses, a ritual we looked forward to with delight.
Coming back home, our bag would be full of toys and cash. What a joy
it was unwrapping gifts and counting the money we got. We
definitely considered ourselves rich once we got to count fifty
pesos. At that time one can buy a glass of our favorite
halo-halo for only 5 centavos so that 50 pesos would translate
to about a thousand glasses!
the passing of time, things have not changed that much though. It may
be true that my grandchild may have an entirely different wish list
than mine when I was her age. But the family still has fun
putting up the artificial Christmas tree, now with the help of a
hired hand. Christmas fare on the table still has the
traditional ham, queso de bola and embotido and grapes.
Relatives with kids in tow do drop by, this time to make “mano”
to Romy and myself.
the change in the body's metabolism, the grey hair here and
there, and the aches and ouches in the morning, I still look forward
to Christmas with the same excited anticipation as I did fifty-some
years ago. It shall always be for me a time of sharing,
forgiving, loving and caring, a time to make up, to renew friendships
and give the best of oneself. Indeed, it is and shall always be
a great time to share the love of Jesus who is the reason for the