In the Philippines,Christmas carols are already played by radio stations as early as September, and it unofficially signals the start of the holiday season.
We have the longest Christmas celebration compared to other countries. I think mall owners have something to do with it. And why not? They are the biggest beneificiaries of the season. Even Tessie Sy Coson when she guested recently at the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce (PAMCHAM) meeting at Laus Event Center acknowledged the fact that their malls have unprecedented growth in the past years and sales peak before, during and after the holidays..
And in Pampanga, particularly in the City of San Fernando the endless blinking and dancing lights of parols sold on sidewalks of highways will mean only one thing. Be prepared. Ilan tulog na Lang pasko na naman. Just it was melodiously said in a song, ‘oh kay tulin ng araw…’
I love to keep writing and reminiscing this. When I was growing up in our lethargic town of Porac, there were no malls yet.
Since our town fiesta was on November 25, my mother would buy me clothes peddled by street hawkers who sold wares and most anything. Having new clothes for Christmas, a trouser with a matching pant! Wow, that’s big deal.
No new shoes. Those which were bought two or three years ago were not yet outgrown and were still okay to use. Unless there were solicited hand me downs from rich kins. And normally given to my mom by my uncle Godofredo, father of Democrito, Ener and Amable. Or from my uncle Bienvenido, father of Nonong, the former mayor who was felled by an assasin bullet while campaigning in the eighties. All the above cousins were a lot older than I am, except for Nonong who was my three years senior.
The giant and electronically operated lanterns were the future. Even on houses of the rich displayed on their windows were the simple parol. No other decor. No multi-colored dancing Christmas lights.Only the wealthy can afford decorated Christmas trees. Only them can afford cakes, apples, oranges, ham and cheese.
Ordinary families enjoyed ‘nilaga and suman’ and other home prepared dainties.
My parents woke us up early and attended all the dawn masses (simbang gabi) and we had to walk more than a kilometer to reach the church. Fr. Santiago Blanco, a pure blooded Spaniard was our parish priest. His booming voice can be heard from the altar to the main door of the church when delivering his homilies.
Microphones and loud speakers were not in use then.The Gopez sisters, aunties of Francisco G. Nepomuceno, composed mostly the choral group with Memeng Tadeo, father-in-law of former Senator Lito Lapid as the male vocalist, and my late sister Zenaida was the female lead.
>> Only the kids were carolers. Unlike today, the mailman, the garbage man, the security guards, subdivision associations, office workers and many formed groups send notices that they would knock on your door on a designated day, and ‘in the spirit of the season’ you have to give. I used to hear then from older people that Christmas is for young people. ‘ Ang pasko ay .para sa mga bata!’
>> On Christmas day, as early six in the morning,we donned on our well pressed clothes and we visited our relatives and the ‘ninongs and ninangs’. Before lunch time, if I had enough money for fares and movies, off to the theaters in nearby Angeles. And before dusk I was home, and my celebration of Christmas was over, and will look forward for the next year.
In this day and age, and to the millenials Christmas entirely took a very different meaning. And I am also a victim of this modern day and digital age. I no longer wake up early mornings for the dawn masses. I no longer prepare Christmas cards to greet kins and friends. I greet them with the very impersonal text messages. I join the rush with other people in going to the malls in a mad scramble to empty the shelves. I part now with my money, not to young carolers from our neighborhood singing ‘The first Noel’, Jingle Bells and Silent Night, but put in the cash in envelopes and never see the faces of the recipients. If you can’t see their faces, how can you hear voices? How can you get their warm greetings,except in a written solicitation letter.
For whatever, we are always big on Christmas.