I woke up this morning with a rumbling discomfort in my tummy followed by the urge to use the toilet. After a couple of trips, I was turning pale and soon enough I started vomiting. My frantic grandmother and her henchwoman (our lavandera, who was asked to assist in cooking Noche Buena) immediately panicked after I told them, and I was rushed to a nearby lying-in clinic where they gave me an anti-vomiting shot and tablets of Loperamide and Cotrimoxazole.
Not a very nice way to start the Christmas Eve day.
But I'm okay now (a bit, though, I somehow did not follow one advice from the doctor and that is to drink Coke which I've always found effective for LBM), and this uneasy feeling won't deter me from writing about the Filipino Christmas.
I know most of you are in the middle of a busy preparation of Noche Buena or Christmas feast. This task usually gathers the older family members to help each other in cooking the meals. Preparation time doubles as chit-chat time as they also talk about each others' lives in the process. Others who do not have time joining the rest of the family in preparing would bring food that they cooked at their home. No matter how the food was prepared, seeing the assortment of dishes laid out on the dinner table shows a team effort which the entire family would be definitely proud of.
Noche Buena is also a time for the kids. Siblings and cousins get to bond with each other as they share in gifts and food prepared by their parents. It is also a time to get to know cousins whom we haven't heard of for a long time. This also a chance for adults and children to bond with each other through the giving of aguinaldo. Most of us would probably remember how wonderful Christmas was during our childhood because of the gifts we received from our ninongs and ninangs.
Of course, the celebration of Christmas changes as time passes by. Before, distant relatives would just send mail or Christmas cards, or call through the telephone. But with the arrival of the Internet and digital technology, it is possible to celebrate Christmas with them in real time. For the last three years, my mom who is in the United States would celebrate Christmas with us through Skype, a technology which I am always thankful for. Back in the first decade of the 21st century, when texting was a craze, we Filipinos worked our fingers to text our friends and loved ones our greetings, taking advantage of the various call and text promos. But with the arrival of social networking in the Internet, we can simply put our greetings in Facebook or post a Christmas card and tag all of our friends to it. Our ability to utilize various forms of technology really shows that Filipinos will not be deterred by distance just to celebrate this Season with their loved ones.
Being a predominantly Christian country, Filipinos have always observed a sense of religiosity during Christmas. This is evident with our desire to complete the nine mornings of simbang gabi or morning mass. Again, this is an opportunity for the family to strengthen ties and be close to each other, while at the same time becoming close to God. Our dedication to this tradition does not only show how important family is to us, but also how God plays an important role in strengthening the family. And of course, simbang gabi will not be complete without puto bumbong, bibingka and some hot chocolate.
Christmas Day will not be complete without the family going out into the city. And new landmarks and destinations in the city has made it possible for families to spend leisure on Christmas Day. We have the Metro Manila Film Festival which yearly attracts crowds of masang Filipino to watch their favorite movie entries by their favorite movie stars. The event is really a family-oriented event as most of the movies are wholesome, child-friendly and fosters family values. Theme parks such as Star City and Enchanted Kingdom also never fails to attract customers. But new attractions such as the Manila Ocean Park (which boasts a light and fountain show) and the Mall of Asia grounds (which features an annual fireworks display) are also beginning to attract more people. Nevertheless, no matter where the celebration goes, whether in Luneta Park or anywhere else, what is important is that the family stays together for the holidays.
The Philippines has a family-oriented society. And our inclination and importance for family just shows in celebrations like Christmas. This Season, I hope the Filipino family continues to stay strong and united despite the challenges of life. No matter how hard the struggle is, the family will always be there for you.
Merry Christmas to everyone!