(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)
“This is my first Christmas with my children in nine years na nandito ako sa Spain. “
7:07 a.m. Two hours before boarding. Terminal 1. El Prat Airport.Barcelona. Tita Dorothy sips her coffee, looks at the people milling around the coffee bar and breaks into a smile. Even if she is coy about it, she can’t hide her excitement. In almost 21 hours, she will be with her three sons.
“Hindi na ako nakatulog sa kakaempake at kakaayos ng tatlo kong maleta. Kalahati ng laman ng maleta ko, halos mga padala ng mga kaibigan. Hindi naman ako makahindi. “
At Christmas, homesickness doubles. This is the time of year when our overseas kababayans are reminded of the distance between them and their families. Christmas here in Spain is still different from how we celebrate the holidays back home.
As early as September, which is by the way the unofficial start of Christmas season (September being the first of the BER months, months ending in ber), radio stations race among themselves who plays the first Christmas song of the year. Malls are already starting to gear up for the longest and much-awaited jolly season of all.
Christmas officially starts after All Saint’s day when Christmas trees and parols are proudly displayed in most of the households and offices. As the month of December approaches, everybody is busy buying gifts and cramming their schedules to fit every Christmas party there is. Crisis or no crisis.
Everybody behaves well during these days. It is like everyone is careful not to be blacklisted on Santa’s list. Good things seem to happen at Christmastime too: promotions are announced, enemies make peace, couples reconcile and so on. All in the spirit of Christmas.
The countdown towards Christmas Eve starts on the 16th when dawn or early morning masses start until the 24th of the month. Churchgoers brave the cool December breeze and battle sleepiness just to complete the nine-day dawn masses in the hope that prayers and wishes will be answered. Outside the church, rich mouth-watering aroma of native delicacies wrap the air and at night children go house-hopping singing Christmas carols hoping for some aguinaldos.
And these are just some of the many good things that our kababayans abroad dare not miss at Christmas in the Philippines. Some are lucky to be allowed by their employers to go home. Several are fortunate and can afford 1,200 to 1,500 euros of return ticket. But some are not. To those who don’t have the resources and can’t make it, they contend themselves to join their loved ones celebrating Christmas virtually. I cannot blame why Tita Dorothy looks very excited.
“Iba pa rin ang Pasko sa atin. The best. Kasi palaging summer ako kung umuwi dahil sa trabaho. Kaya this year, ginawa ko talagang Pasko ang uwi ko. Magsisimba kaming lahat, kakain sa labas, mamamasyal!”
When she checked in her suitcases an hour ago, she exceeded three kilos. Deterred, she was not. She charmed, haggled a bit and “won”. Her excuse: “It’s Christmas after all and I am a frequent flyer!” The airline attendant was charmed and gave in not knowing that the long queue behind Tita Dorothy will do the same: exceed, charm and haggle; as thousands and thousands of balikbayan boxes will flood international airports around the world this month of December. The exodus begins. Destination: Philippines. According to Immigration officials at NAIA airport, around 200,000 balikbayans arrived home first week of December alone in 2010.
Tita Dorothy is flying Barcelona-Singapore-Cebu. She is arriving at two in the afternoon the following day.
“Mahabang biyahe ito. Makapag-muni muni ako ng mabuti. My Christmas wish? More blessings from God, good health and pagmamahal sa pamilya ko. At sana next Christmas, makauwi uli.”
Indeed, nothing beats celebrating the yuletide season with our loved-ones. Merry Christmas, Tita Dorothy! And to all our kababayans all over the world, those who couldn’t make it and those who are now with their families munching their sumptuous Noche Buena at home…
Maligayang Pasko po at Manigong Bagong Taon!