My Christmas Story and Holiday Blues

A holiday is supposed to be the season to be joyful and celebratory but not everyone is happy during this festive season. To some, a holiday is a reminder of a happy past that can never happen again. I grew up in an era when holidays were something that we look forward to. Unofficially in the Philippines, the Yuletide season begins in September. Therefore, the running joke on Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas songs being played on the first day of September would probably not get old.


As a child, I used to wonder what to ask Santa for Christmas. During my age of innocence, I did not make a big deal out of my mother’s spontaneous questions about what gift would I like to receive from Santa. Of course, it would make sense to me later that the reason why she asked was because they (my parents) were the ones playing Santa. I believed in that magic until puberty hit me–I found myself asking questions why the gifts that we received looked like the ones that were available at the mall. I kept quiet about the Santa thing so that my younger brother could still experience the magic. When I was 12 years old, Santa “told” my parents that that would be the last gift that I would receive from him.


Gift-giving was something that had become a tradition in our house. I guess it was the reason why I did not feel deprived of gifts even when the truth came out that Santa was not real. There were gifts from our relatives in the form of cash and goods. The Yuletide ambiance was kinder, more loving, and more magical with the presence of traditional decorations like Christmas lights and Christmas trees.


It was a must to celebrate Noche Buena with the family. As a young child, I did not appreciate it because I would rather spend my time sleeping but it was my father’s rule to wake up for Noche Buena. My family was not the pious type, we just wanted to celebrate Christmas as a tradition. In fact, I attended my first “Simbang Gabi” when I was already in college. But as a family, there were times when we attended the Christmas mass before heading to my grandmother’s house for the celebration.


Our Christmas lunch was attended by my mother’s relatives. Kare-kare was a staple menu in lunch along with grilled chicken, barbecue, and grilled fish. Our last Christmas lunch celebration with my mother’s relatives was probably sometime in 2004. The following year, my grandmother passed and that was the start of the gradual changes in terms of how we celebrated the Christmas lunch.


From 2005 to 2008, we celebrated Christmas in the confines of our home. The first Christmas without my grandmother was lonely but we avoided the topic to focus more on being happy. In 2008, it was the last Christmas celebration with my mother and coincidentally, my last Christmas, too before I changed my religion. If the changes in terms of Christmas celebration were gradual when my grandmother passed, it was the opposite when I lost my mother. Her demise was a huge blow to each and every one of us in the family—we were just too stressed out how to live our lives without her.


For a time, I think that I hung on to my religion to justify my non-celebration of Christmas. But years later, I realized that the deeper reason why I avoided Christmas was because it reminded me of the happy years that I had with the ones that were no longer with me—it was a case of the holiday blues.


Emotionally speaking, I am now in a better place than the previous years. I still don’t celebrate Christmas because of my new religious belief but I can now look back to the happy times without feeling bad about the present. I fully understand that CHANGE is really constant and those who could not adapt to it would find it hard to survive. In the case of my brothers who are still celebrating Christmas, I think that they came to realize that the old tradition must retire for a new one to start. My brothers could start their own family tradition that would leave happy memories to their children.

A Once Sickly Child

It has been almost a year and a half, and we’re still in the pandemic. I could only pray that my family and I will survive this deadly virus if it hits us. Had my extroverted parents were alive, they would have been so much affected emotionally and mentally.

I realize that the last time they took care of me was 25 years ago. I was a sickly child, one that would skip a class because of fever and colds. Ironically, I ate healthy foods and took vitamins, but they were not enough to keep the illnesses away.

There is something in the December wind that makes me most prone to respiratory illness. It must have been the cold and dry wind that triggers my allergy attack. As a young child, my father used to heat the unchopped calamansi and extract the hot juice out of it. He mixed the extract with a little oil and used them to massage my back, throat, and chest. He hated anything unnatural and relied much on herbal treatment. On the other hand, it was my mother who brought me to the doctors in case the herbal treatment did not work.

Being prone to colds and rhinitis meant that I could easily get flu, too. I used to catch the flu twice a year. The most dreaded disease that I got was chickenpox. Since I had a weak body then, it took me almost a month to recuperate. I had chickenpox rashes from head to toe. In my 3rd week, my mother put some cilantro in the boiling water. I used that as bathwater when it was comfortably warm. Cilantro has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that is why it aids in healing wounds fast. Of course, we are talking about the late 80s here as there are available ointments now to facilitate chickenpox healing.
If there’s any consolation in being sick, it’s when somebody (like your parents) exerts more time and effort to help you recuperate. Growing up, the only times when grapes were available on the table were New Year and when we were sick. It took me until adulthood to help me realize that grapes were not that expensive. Aside from that, we had Royco alphabet noodles or corn soup, fried chicken, and soda to encourage us to eat.

I was in my late 20s when I asked my mother how Dr. Hugo Banzon was. She used to bring me to his clinic every time my coughs and colds worsened. I never went to a pediatrician not until I gave birth; I wonder why there were no known pediatricians in our town when I was young. Dr. Hugo Banzon’s clinic appeared to be an ancestral house. There were a few plights of stairs going down to reach the front gate. The front yard was covered with bushes and flowers. I was a shy girl and one who was easily intimidated but he was one of those that I liked as a child. He had a deep comforting voice and a shy compassionate look on his patients. The last time I saw him was 31 years ago, can you believe that? His clinic is still vivid in my memories until now.

Twenty-five years have passed since my parents took care of me whenever I was sick. Sometimes, I ask myself if I was able to return the favor of taking care of them in the same nurturing way that they did. Time flies, I remember the old days but I don’t feel old.

Mother’s Day While On Lockdown

Mother's Day

Let us not let the lockdown dampen the Mother’s Day spirit on May 10th. Instead, let us use this day to reflect, reconnect and honor all the women who shower us with maternal love.

She could be your yaya (nanny) who takes good care of you while your parents are busy making a living.

She could be your aunt who comes to your defense when your parents are mad at you.

She could be your teacher who goes out of her way to make her students understand and appreciate the day’s lessons.

She could be your lady boss who hides under the guise of toughness but has a soft heart when it comes to her team’s welfare.

She could be your elderly neighbor who looks after you and treats you like her own child.

Not to mention, she could be your grandmother who is more capable of giving you that purest kind of love.

But of course, let us not forget your MOTHER who will move heaven and earth just to give you the life that you deserve. Your mother who is your cheerleader when you feel like life is being hard on you. Your mother who doesn’t complain and when she occasionally does, is prone to being misunderstood. Your mother who will let all her children pick the most delicious part of the viand before getting her share. Your mother who wears the same clothes for years because she wants you to have new items for yourself. Your mother who loves you with all her heart and because you know that, you tend to take her presence for granted.

Some children can afford to give money as gift. Some send flowers on this occassion. But heartfelt greetings are more appreciated because you cannot fake affection when it is not in your heart in the first place.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

VHS

I don’t get it why newly-married couple Vicki and Hayden Kho are being ridiculed in social media just because they got married! Some people say that Hayden is just a gold-digging handsome guy with a history of infidelity but that story is so 9 years ago. One of the ladies involved is now a happy wife to a singer. The other one is now a happy mother to a beautiful little girl and Vicky and Hayden are now proud parents to Scarlet Snow.

Some people say that Vicki is too old for Hayden and she should be acting her age. Here comes the double standard when it comes to love. Men can love at any age while women are expected to “behave” once we reach the age of 50. Men can get away with a relationship with younger women while women are criticized if we will have a young boyfriend or husband. I think that the people’s perception of love is superficial; most of us fail to see the soul connection of two people who are in-love.

What I cannot stand is the way some people meddle into the couple’s decision to have a child through surrogacy. Others hinted that Scarlet may be Hayden’s biological daughter but the egg cell came from a donor. While I believe that she is 100% the daughter of this lovely couple, it doesn’t make her a lesser “Belo” if she doesn’t come from Vicki’s egg cell. Like what I said, people cannot see beyond the goodness of having a child; be it a natural child, adopted or one who was conceived through surrogacy.

Scarlet is her parents’ happy pill. Her big siblings love her. Her parents’ friends adore her. Social media is addicted to her. The little girl is a pleasant sight on the internet so why don’t we just focus on the good things instead of creating doubt and hurling insult?