ENZO'S POINT. Facebook has been filled with pre-Christmas posts these days; photos of redecorated Christmas trees at home, windows adorned with multi-colored Christmas lanterns and doors decked with glittery Christmas wreaths. In the local shopping malls here in Phitsanulok (Thailand), giant Christmas trees are already standing tall and proud and Christmas songs are starting to fill the air. As the Yuletide holidays drew closer I'm beginning to feel the same melancholy I felt five years ago - my first Christmas miles and miles away from home.
First Christmas in ThailandDecember 25 is nothing but an ordinary working day so it was the same routine as the rest of the days. I went to work and did things as scheduled except that there was a tinge of inexplicable sadness deep inside. The day went on and although there were teachers who remembered to greet me 'Merry Christmas', I still felt there was something void in those greetings. After attending the Christmas Eve mass that night, I went back to my apartment. When I called home, I lost it and cried my heart out as soon as I heard my mother's voice. It was the saddest Christmas I've ever had.
It was Christmas and the only thing that reminded me of the occasion was my little blue Christmas tree at a corner of my solitary room. The whole neighborhood was all the same. There was no "puto" or "suman" nor "pansit" on the table. There were no carolers, no Christmas greetings from the people passing through, there were no expected visitors. It was a perfect blue Christmas.
'Paskong Pinoy' in Thailand
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P'lok Pinoyz Christmas 2014
Here in Phitsanulok, We, Pinoys, start to put up our Christmas Trees at home as early as September as a way to keep the spirit of Christmas afloat in our midst. Each tree has its own theme; Leah Doysabas has gold, the Narajos have purple, the Benliros have gold, blue and pink in one, the Lunarias - green and mine is a reissue of last year's blue, pink and silver.
Annually, the P'lok Pinoyz, a Filipino organization here in Phitsanulok, Thailand, organizes a big gathering attended by Filipinos from the three big organizations in the province; Saint Nicholas Church Foreign Community (SNCFC), Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), and the Mission Beyond Boarders (MBB).
In Bangkok, Paskong Pinoy event is also held every December at the Philippine Embassy grounds spearheaded by the 10 Filipino organizations collectively called the Filipino Copmmunity Organizing Committee (FCOC). While it gives Filipinos opportunity to bond with fellow 'kababayans' it is also a time to shop Pinoy products, and gorge on Pinoy foods and delicacies.
What OFW's miss most about Christmas in the Philippines
Mercy Lawan, now a resident in Canada for 8 years and has never been home for Christmas since 2009, said that she missed the family bonding most. "I missed the time when no matter how tired we get, we have to wait till the clock strikes 12 to greet each other Merry Christmas and share the Noche Buena," she quipped.
For Arrianne Balinton, a Foreign Language Teacher in China for 6 years, attending the 'Misa de Gallo' early in the morning and the caroling are two things she definitely missed since like here in Thailand, Christmas is also not celebrated in China.
Noel Itaas, currently based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, who has been away from home for 7 years, misses the traditional 'Exchanging of Gifts'. "It's a good feeling to give a gift of thanks to your loved ones and in return you can also receive from them. No matter how simple the gift, it is valuable for me and considers it a treasure knowing the fact that somebody cares and remembers me," he said.
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Like most Filipinos abroad, John Escrin, now residing in South Australia, still can't get over and still misses the caroling, and the 'misa de gallo' though he has already lived in Australia for 9 years now.
Statistics show that in 2013, during the period of April to September, there were about 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers whose thoughts and hearts are right back home during this season. If only these thoughts can be converted into cash, Philippines will be far richer country.
Five Years and CountingChristmas 2014 is the 5th year that I will be spending Christmas in Thailand, however it still feels like the first Christmas I've spent here. Like all the rest of the millions of Filipinos around the globe, there is no getting used to it because Christmas in the Philippines is definitely one of a kind. 'Paskong Pinoy' starts the earliest at the fall of BER months and finishes the last. We have the liveliest and the grandest celebrations which make us wish to have Christmas all year round.
It's been five years and I'm missing home terribly. As to when can I finally celebrate Christmas in the Philippines again?
Only time will tell.