Saturday, November 29, 2014

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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 Thailand

December 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

You are Cordially Invited:
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.

Ted: "I'm missing home"
"When I was in the Philippines, my greatest joy was seeing my family being together during Christmas Eve doing the traditional 'exchanging of gifts' and sharing thoughts of love for each other," Ted Bagsican said. A nurse by profession who has found his niche in Saudi Arabia for 4 years now, Ted, finds solace in the love of his friends whom he considers his family abroad. "Christmas carols, dazzling lights and beautiful decorations that fill every place boosting the feeling of Christmas everywhere. and the sumptuous food that is being shared. These are the things that I miss most about the most awesome time of the year in the Philippines," he added.

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 Counting

Christmas 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.

16 comments:

  1. Hope you will get to go home to celebrate Christmas soon, :) With the help of Skype & some imagination, perhaps it can lessen your homesickness.

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    1. Sadly, Skype isn't available in a remote place like ours back home. Hopefully soon.

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  2. Nothing beats the Christmas in the Philippines. Maybe there is a way you can take a break and spend it here? Always remember that your family is always thinking of you and sending you lots of love! :)

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    1. It is possible to spend Christmas if it falls on a weekend. Usually, schools here in Thailand don't allow Christmas vacation so there's no way we can come home otherwise, a sick leave will do but for only a few days.

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  3. You will get to meet your family very soon, no worries! :D And merry xmas in advance :)

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    1. Thank you. Merry Christmas to you as well.

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  4. Skype! I have not experienced spending Christmas away from home. I know nothing beats Christmas woth your family but I hope you will still have a happy Christmas with friends. Nobody should be alone during Christmas.

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    1. I'm glad you haven't experienced what we have been through. I'm a bit jealous. But yes...I have friends to spend it with though. That somehow eases the loneliness.

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  5. I had skype back when I was based in Manila. :-) It was a lonely and sad experience for me, but thanks to technology it somehow mitigated the sadness. My family happily showed me what they had for Christmas dinner, and a lot of things. My nieces and nephews smiles are priceless on screen. :D

    I pray you'd have your Christmas in the Philippines soon though.. :D

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    1. Christmas is always all about family, Raymond that's why it really sucks to spend it away from them.

      Merry Christmas to you.

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  6. At least, you still have a community of Pinoys who can join you in the celebration. I guess, that's the next best thing to celebrating it at home.

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  7. You are definitely right, Franc. Merry Christmas to you.

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  8. I really hope that next Christmas you will enjoy a big turkey with your family back at home. Till then, keep smiling dear :)

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  9. It's nice that there are initiatives that gather people together especially on special occasions like Christmas. But as you've said, there's still no place like home... nothing can beat a Christmas celebration with the family.

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  10. As a person who lives far from my ancestral home, I can relate. I have a family here in the US but I also miss my extended family. One thing I miss most is attending mass (church service) on Christmas day. In the US, they only have mass on Christmas eve.

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  11. I think you can always make your own celebration and tell your friends to exchange some gifts to keep the Christmas ambience as you know it ;) Normally is little things making us miss home sometimes. Hope you have great time!

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