My Intermittent FBS: Christmas in Manila

by Prancer The Reindeer

Ever since I can remember I have always been a bit of a Scrooge. This was way before hating Christmas was even a thing.. Surely a travesty for a Filipino where Christmas starts in September. Hearing Christmas carols early in the year would make my heart drop and plunge my soul into the coldest Snow Queen. I was never the card carrying loudmouthed I-hate-Christmas type. I loathed the season with a cold, quiet, unforgiving resentment. With gritted teeth and clenched fists I waited out the tidal wave that is Christmas in the Philippines.

Three years ago, fate decided that I would drop everything that I know and care for to follow a boy to a foreign land. That boy was my med school classmate who became my boyfriend. And that boy somehow became fiancé and husband after all.

If I could describe the short 30 odd years of my life I would say it has been interesting. Life gave me a cherry red spot I did not anticipate. I said I would never leave. I can never leave. There are more people here to help. I said, no I would never get married. I ate every single one of those words. Long distance relationships are hard. It is tough. Something had to give.

Moving to another country has taught me so many things that I would have never learned about myself. Looking back at my first year in a temperate country, I cannot help but laugh at myself. I used to turn on the heater for 60 degree weather, 14 to everyone else in the world. And now, half joking that 40 degree weather is shorts weather (that's basically 4 degrees to us). Better than single digits Fahrenheit weather or even worse, minus degree Fahrenheit weather. Shudder. Something to look forward to (while briskly rubbing hands together). Of course cooking is one of the skills I enjoyed learning more than the usual chores. Here's to the ghost of Christmas past's first pasta, first adobo, first mashed potato, and first pot roast. And all the other firsts lumped together. Heck our first Christmas tree has just turned two years old, collecting dust by the tv. Shhhhhhh. We never took it down. The idea of putting every single ornament, disassembling the tree, and taking down the lights is just too much. That's side-eyeing you dishes, carpet, and laundry. Dirty socks for me?! Oh you didn't have to. Of course there's nothing like sharing the work with my ever beautiful and loving husband. Nothing brings a newly wed couple together than being flung to a foreign land no left to fend for ourselves. Not that we are living off the land. Close! But not yet.

I'd like to think I've coped with living in another country. I am aware of the issues at home that I have eluded for better or worse. I was tempted to insert a political paragraph here but have decided against it. That is for another day. This was going to be about love. I am grateful for the little things that I never got to do back home that I do here with such ease. One of the perks of living abroad is Christmas season comes at a sane, reasonable, appropriate time of the year- end of November. Thank you Lord for the decent Yuletide season of the west.

There are things I will never get over from the Phili-Pines, Christmas season or otherwise

Food. One thing I learned from my mom. Food equals love. So here you go, fiesta! Though it is not the feast that I miss. It is the simple food that I can never be sated. I want real taho I don't have to make myself. I want it in a clear, warm tall glass. Extra everything please. I want real fish balls when I jog to the park. I want 40 bucks worth of that drowning with regular and spicy sauce please. In other words, I want real tablea hot chocolate made by my mom. Just please hold the chunky peanut butter mom! I kid you not. I have to strain that stuff out. My lips, teeth, and tongue are God's natural sieve for my mom's chunky peanut butter. It makes it creamy she says. Okay.

Family. I will never cease to miss them especially at this time of the year. More than the gifts and the overfeeding, it is the suffocating affection that we wrap in each other. The loud in your face time that we spend together. Such that when it is time to go the absence is palpable. I fear that my future kids will not know their Lolos and Lolas. That they will not know the humor and overflowing energy their Tata has for them. The quiet presence of their Tito. The mirth of their cousin. If I can't help it, my kids will have that.

Christmas doesn't make me miss Manila any more or any less than if it was any other day of the year. People ask me if I miss the Philippines. What I usually say is yes my family, but not the country. But I would be remiss in saying that. I gravitate to warm people realizing it is the geniality of our people that I actually seek. A colleague once noted that I smile when I'm stressed. I didn't realize I was doing what I think is the Filipino nervous tic- which is to smile/ laugh at everything. A crunchy well-put curse word in the vernacular is so satisfying when in distress. I am indubitably formed by the country, the people, the culture, and largely by my family. And for that, then I do miss home. We are all under the same blue sky and I am comforted by that. In my actions, in my mannerisms I carry all that I have dear in my heart.

About The Author

Prancer the reindeer is an ophthalmologist by training but a wanderer, dreamer, and explorer at heart.