Pasko na! Ilang tulog na lang
at Pasko na sa San Diego !
(Its Christmas! A few more sleep and itll be Christmastime in San Diego)!
A Christmas article by Simeon G. Silverio, Jr.
San Diego, California
December 15, 2005
When I was a little boy, we would ask our older cousins how many more days before it would be Christmas. We did not have a concept of a day then, so they would tell us, their little cousins: “Sampung tulog na lamang at Pasko na (Ten more sleeps and it would be Christmas).
Today, we only have to sleep ten times more before we can celebrate Christmas Day here in San Diego, California. And I am getting excited. Or at least, that is what I am gearing up myself to be. Why is this so? Why do I need to exert some effort simply to savor and enjoy the joy that Christmas brings? I guess its because Christmas was much more exciting when we were kids. Now that we are adults, and living in our adopted country, we somehow long for the “good ole days when we were celebrating Christmas in our home country, the Philippines.
As kids, we had a future to look forward to, in contrast to now when we are already adults and in the twilight years of our lives. At that time, we rarely get and could afford to have inexpensive things like new shoes, clothes and toys that we expected to wear and receive as gifts during Christmas time. These days, we can buy them for ourselves anytime we would want to. Correction: every time there is a “sale at the department stores. The ability to do so somehow rubs off the excitement we normally experience whenever we get a thing that is difficult to acquire. Moreover, despite the dire economic situation in our country, the Filipinos in the Philippines simply celebrate Christmas with much more feeling and intensity. Remember the Christmas carols that start playing in Philippine radio stations by October? The colorful lanterns hanging on the windows of every house and buildings? The little kids conducting caroling in the streets evenings before Christmas?
What also dampens our Christmas spirit as adults is the fact that we no longer have our friends and relatives who had passed away to celebrate Christmas with. Our happy memories with them can only remain like that and can no longer be brought back. Some Philippine Christmas carols like Levi Celerios “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit (Christmas has arrived) remind us of the past and instead of cheering us up, sometimes make us feel nostalgic and sad.
What to do
So what shall we do? Shall we rue the fact that we are “stuck here in America where affordable luxury food are aplenty while some of our friends and relatives are going home to the Philippines to celebrate and enjoy Christmas?
I dont think so. All we have to do is look around and exert extra effort to make this years Christmas in San Diego as exciting as when we would have celebrated it in the Philippines.
The Pasacat Dance Company, led by its director, Ana Marie Cobato, started the ball rolling by holding a “Paskuhan Dance Festival at the courtyard of St. Rita Parish Church last Saturday, December 3, 2005. Colorful parols (Philippine lanterns) were on display, complete with a bahay kubo (nipa hut) and some items that would remind one of the Philippines. A pabitin for the kids completed the Paskuhan experience after about two hours of native dances and Christmas carol singing in a festive program hosted by Filipino educator Robert Ricasa.
If you missed that one, you should have gone to Balboa Park and experience the “Christmas at the Prado festival last Friday and Saturday. For years, it has been a tradition of my wife and daughters to witness the event. I was always too lazy, if I was not out of the country, to join them because I thought the efforts, standing on my feet in a cold open air as well as walking a good distance from the parking lot to the center of the event, far outweigh the rewards. This time, I agreed to join them but thousands of San Diegans had the same idea as we had. After testing our patience in a heavy traffic, we ended up in a parking lot at the City College in downtown and at the end of a very long line for a shuttle bus ride that would take us to the park. We thought that having Chinese dinner, with warm wonton soup filling our stomach, was a better option.
It was too late for us to see the traditional Chula Vista Christmas Parade that evening. When our kids were small, we used to bundle them up with warm clothing and brave the cold weather to enjoy the festivity. Now that they are grown up and on their own, the incentive to see Santa Claus walking in the parade and throwing candies at the crowd is less enticing.
Years before, we used to go around Guava Street in Chula Vista and enjoy the colorful Christmas lights and display in each of the houses in the entire block. It was a tradition people enjoyed for years, many coming from different parts of San Diego County to see the colorful and cheerful sights. Eventually, some of the Guava Street residents grew tired of the hassle of preparing the decorations, not to mention the traffic, until finally, the Christmas display in the famous “Candy Cane Lane died down. These days, colorful Christmas lights and display can be seen at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, for a fee of course.
Some Filipinos in San Diego wanted to have their “bibingka (rice cakes) and eat them too. Hence, they organized a Simbang Gabi (evening mass) in their parish churches. Together with a Filipino priest in the parish, they hold a novena (nine-day mass) from the 16th of December to the evening of the 24th. Though this tradition is held early in the morning in the Philippines, usually at four a.m., the San Diego Filipinos, for convenience of everybody, usually hold the mass at seven in the evening. They try to complete the experience by sometimes offering bibingka and salabat (ginger drink) after the mass. Some of the parishes that usually held this Simbang Gabi in the past were those of St. Marys in National City, St. Michaels in Paradise Hills, and maybe Good Shepherd in Mira Mesa and St. Charles in Imperial Beach. I do not know which one will offer Simbang Gabi this year simply because I am too lazy to call them up and inquire. Would you?
Expect some of your friends who belong to a group, like a cursillo or a town association to hold a caroling in your house for their fund-raising projects. While it is a hassle to prepare refreshments for them, as one feels obligated to do so in the Filipino culture, the experience is worth the while if you are to savor and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. You get to hear them sing out of tune, but what the heck, a Christmas carol, especially when sang during Christmas time, will always sound as good.
Of course, various businesses will hold a Christmas party for their employees and their families. One, Meridian Realty, requires its employees to go to Las Vegas where their party is to be held. Maybe the Christmas bonus the employees are expecting to get are much more than the cost and trouble of going there. If you are planning to hold one for your company, forget the function or ballrooms in local hotels. They have been booked months before. Maybe you might want to have a “Christmas Party at the Park for a change. You are guaranteed to have a space because no fool will stay in the park during these cold evenings.
In the Philippines, business firms are required by law to give thirteenth, sometimes fourteenth month pay as Christmas bonus. Being an employer myself, I am glad I am not in the Philippines. For a miser like me, a Christmas card, with a well written dedication, will do.
By Christmas Eve, Plaza Blvd. in National City will be filled with traffic all day. This is because Filipinos will troop to the areas restaurants, Oriental and other Filipino food stores to buy the food items for their Noche Buena and Christmas Day feast. One of the most popular are the jamon de leche, bibingka at puto bumbong at Manila Sunset Restaurant, where owners Raymond and Marie Wisco distribute the items ordered days before.
Ric Caballero of Happy Bakery located on Plaza Blvd., east of 805, will be busy baking as many pan de sal and other native bread to satisfy the appetites of his customers. One can be sure that his oven is roasting pigs (lechon) all night and day long. Ric will also offer favorite Filipino party dishes like Apritada, Kare-Kare, Menudo and others because Filipinos would rather have them than the traditional turkey served in American homes. You can expect Queso de Bola and chestnuts to be available at Seafood City Oriental Store because these are the items traditionally served in the Philippines during Christmastime. Check out the Asian Journal because Seafood City has a two-page, full color and center spread ads identifying its sales items for Christmas.
For our family, it will be the first time in three years that we will be celebrating Christmas in San Diego. We spent our Christmas out of the country during the past three years. This year, my youngest daughter wanted us to spend Christmas in San Diego. She wanted to be with her boyfriend during the joyous of all seasons for a change. But guess what? Her boyfriend and his family had decided months ago to spend their Christmas in the Philippines! He-he
If you feel that you still dont get excited this Christmas, try the reverse psychology. It is said that “tis better to give than to receive. Gather some toys and used clothing and with your friends, distribute them to the poor kids in Tijuana, south of San Diegos border. Better yet, participate in Father Joe Carrolls “Feed the Homeless Program. If that is not enough, send a hundred dollar or two to your relatives in the Philippines and have them distributed to your relatives as Christmas gifts. At $5 each, they will jump with joy and be grateful to you. My friends, Frank and Guada Rivera, owners of Award Master, which makes trophies and plaques, always distribute money to their neighbors in Valenzuela in Metro Manila. A long line of people are formed outside their house every Christmas Day as they fulfill their vow to play Santa Claus in their area every year.
Remember, Christmas 2005 will only come once in your lifetime. Might as well make the most of it before you run out of Christmas to celebrate. Ilang tulog na lang ..
Merry Christmas! AJ