Hearken the Season of Giving

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Each year, the Asociacion de Alumnas de Poveda hosts a Christmas party for the Makabata School kids.

I heard that in my country, the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated from September 1 up to December 26. Well, I heard that from the television. Honestly, I’ve never really celebrated Christmas in this way–just imagine, each year you undergo a marathon of cheerfulness!–it’s more than enough to exhaust me emotionally. I mean, just because we start doing the Christmas countdown from 100 days, does not mean that we ACTUALLY celebrate the holiday for all those days.

Much closer to my own personal experience, the first of December often heralded the start of the season. When the air just starts to have a colder bite, and the airwaves get dominated by Jose Mari Chan (you’re probably not Pinoy if you don’t know who he is and what he has done for bringing the Christmas spirit). While the more upscale neighborhoods start lighting up in festive decorations, our house was never really festooned with the symbols of the holiday spirit. We’ve always had our messy (only because it’s full of things) house look the same way it does throughout the year, every year. What is different is our storage of food! We always stock up on chocolates, chips, and all those goodies that add on the pounds. There were years when we would have gifts for one another, but more often than not, there were no gifts exchanged. Since my older siblings (and myself) have started working, the Christmas surprise of gifts to each other has been replaced with the kinds of gifts, gift baskets, raffle prizes, and whatnot received from the office. Invariably, my peers have also started to celebrate Christmas by splurging on something because they have received their year-end bonuses.

Not to sound like the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas for everybody, I’ve actually never really received a Christmas basket, rarely receive Christmas gifts, never mind that Christmas bonus (ugh, such is life!), and I’ve never experienced dressing up any Christmas tree. Of course, all household-level dearth of Christmas-ness would be common to my entire family–even my dad who lives apart from us. So, yes, the gift-driven holiday has never been our style of celebrating this particular occasion.

Instead, we would take the time to prepare the various dishes to be served up together. Cooking would be our party and eating the food that we ate would simply be the icing on an already sumptuous cake! Simply, our Christmas is mainly limited to our family, to our household. Needless to say, yes, we are veritable Scrooges when it comes to those pesky carolers (ugh, they can get to one’s nerves, honestly)! No money for your off-tune jingles that celebrate consumerism!

Every year, I think to myself that I want it to be different. Well, basically, I want to start caring more. And well, it was not by accident that I accepted an invitation to attend a Christmas party at the Makabata School.

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And, well, check out Ms. Otero’s shirt. It’s a quote from St. Pedro Poveda:

No one represents Christ better than the poor.

Well, I’m not turning religious…but it’s the idea of selfless service. Whether you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Risen Lord, or not, that guy’s teachings about helping and serving others selflessly is really something worth emulating. I’d like to think that I’ve consciously made a choice to continually serve a purpose greater than my own personal concerns, but somehow, I really got caught up with the daily B.S. that goes around and I feel like I don’t reflect enough on what exactly I do for others. On what my life has amounted to. Of course, serving the public as perforce my profession is not really the same as serving without the expectation of any return apart from having served.

Is this another resolution to be dissolved in the course of mundane life? I don’t really know, but I guess, like everything in life, it has to be taken day by day. So today, I feel this way. I am excited about the prospect of volunteering and giving back to society. All I want in return is for my efforts is a warm smile. Perhaps something like….

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I know that her smile was out of focus! Argh, I should have taken a better photo, but alas the moment was gone by the time I got control of the lens.

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