In another culture... Part I: Christmas  

Posted by Laya in ,

Weeelll.... it was not in a foreign country. But never has it been so brought home to me how diverse the different peoples of the Philippines are, until I spent Christmas and New Year with my er, hum, biyenang hilaw, in Bulacan.

At home in Mindanao, during Christmas, we did have the misa de aguinaldo and karoling. I remember balking like a stubborn carabao when my dad ordered me to go visit my ninongs and ninangs on Christmas morning.. (I was a shy child and still get attacks of shyness at times even in adulthood... I am not at ease with people I barely know, even if they are related to me in some way. Just ask my boyfriend's mom how hard it is to coax me to circulate during occasions at their house!) As a child and all through adolescence, I thought myself fortunate that I had thoughtful ninongs and ninangs (almost all of whom lived on the same street) who remembered to give me a little something on birthdays and Christmas. Others rarely received anything from ninongs and ninangs except for the obligatory christening (or wedding) gift. At home, we didn't go out on the day before Christmas because my dad believed that we should all be at home helping with the preparations for noche buena. We'd then go to the midnight mass, come home to eat noche buena, then pretend to go to sleep. In reality, the adults (and the ones old enough to stop pretending Santa Claus was real) took turns slipping into the sala to leave their presents under the tree (all of them "from Santa" including the polished piece of rattan that my Dad always tagged "for the naughtiest"). Then, on Christmas morning, we all woke up to find that the presents had been sorted into different paper bags tagged with the recipients' names (one of my titas usually did it after everybody else had gone to bed). After all the presents had been opened, admired, and put away, my dad often had us pack up the remains of the noche buena and took us to the beach. Usually I brought my pillow with me and continued sleeping in the beach cottage until noon! Sometimes after we got home in the evening, friends and relatives came to call, but we didn't really expect anyone to make obligatory calls, so it was always a pleasant surprise to see who cared enough to visit.

Christmas in Bulacan was a different experience.

First, there were the namamasko. I woke up on Christmas morning to realize that kids were already waiting in a long line outside the gate, their faces eager in anticipation of goodies. Not only that, but every house they went to was supposed to give them something (usually a crisp twenty peso bill and I mean crisp!) Nanay (what I call my boyfriend's mom) doled out the twenties. For her children's inaanaks (godchildren) (my goodness! my darling was already a godfather before he was ten?!?) and her inaanaks, she also doled out presents and/or money apart from the twenties. Oh my gosh, I thought, I would've wanted to have been a child here, think how much I would've gotten for Christmas! Except that, think of the poor godparents! Now the cliche of the godparent hiding from his inaanak isn't that funny anymore. Luckily, my own godchildren are not so demanding, plus, most of them have wealthy parents so that giving them money for Christmas would've been laughable. Which now underscored another cultural difference between us. I don't know if it was just my family, but in our predominantly Ilonggo community back home, giving money instead of presents was, well, not precisely a no-no, it was just not done. Or maybe people back home didn't have that much money to give away, I'm not sure. Anyway, if we ever went pamamasko back home, it was usually strictly just to godparents and relatives, not the whole barangay.

Then, after the visiting kids had left, the whole family also dressed up for their own turn to go pamamasko! Now I know why most of the people in the family were so gregarious and socially adept. They were used to it from an early age, going to so many different houses and having to make polite conversation and all that. And I heard them comparing notes on who had already visited and who had not yet been by, who gave the best presents and who had the grandest noche buena. "Itong sina ____, sila na lang yata ang hindi pa namasko dine. Dinig ko kay ___ ay nadaan na sila duon, ay bakit napakalapit dine ay hindi pa tumuloy! (The family of ____, they are the only ones who have not been here. I heard from ___ that they went there, so why when we are only nearby, did they not think to come here?)" which brought home to me that these family visits were regarded as social obligations.

This entry was posted at Friday, January 04, 2008 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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