Let this start with a funny grade A meme with a punch of sublime truth I came across online: “In 2019: Stay away from negative people. In 2020, stay away from positive people.”
And that carried me to think about how that would play out during this most celebrated and decorated Christmas season.
Christmas – the most awaited holiday ever. This special occasion is a bridge for loved ones to be reunited. Filipinos have unique ways of celebrating Christmas. When the “BER months” begins, the traditional way marks the start of decorating houses with Christmas decors. It is said that Filipinos have the longest celebration – starting from September and extending to the Feast of Epiphany, which is celebrated in January. When the songs of the famous Father of Philippine Christmas Carols Jose Mari Chan start filling every corner of our streets, you can tell that the so-called long celebration starts.
After all, we all agree that it is a season of love, giving, and thanksgiving. But what if the usual way we celebrate it suddenly vanish? What do we do? How do we adjust? Is Christmas still going to be the best holiday?
This year, an unexpected dilemma happened – the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. This virus had claimed many lives, caused panic, depression, and so many illnesses. But above all, it took us away from each other. It took us away from seeing and being with our loved ones and feeling their warmth. Being festive, Filipinos love to gather around and have grand celebrations no matter how simple the food is on the table.
Due to this disease, we were required to keep our distance, which means mass gatherings are prohibited as it will cause the transmission and spread of the infection.
That being said, airports were closed, and travel bans were implemented almost all over the country, with a minimal opening for some areas where travel is allowed provided they undergo quarantine and health measures coupled with an overwhelming number of processes to go through. Just tons of hassle to even begin imagining.
The pandemic made everything change, but one thing remains: it’s the Filipinos’ spirit of resiliency.
Although this Christmas is not how we expected it to be, we still managed to cover up and find ways to make this holiday a joyful one.
For instance, many through a mass held on television, the usual Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, which starts from December 16, is now attended by many. Although some churches are open for people with limited numbers, some choose the former to be safer.
Another change is the then busy streets filled with children’s carols are now deafening with silence. Crowding in malls and other usual spots during Christmas cannot escape an observer’s eyes as they will all close to the public.
Above all, this pandemic had also caused the loss of livelihood and income source, significantly impacting the celebration.
Here are more of the adjustments we need to consider this Christmas celebration:
- Festive celebrations are strictly prohibited
- Most tourist spots and places of hangouts are still closed
- Travel bans are still implemented in some areas, especially with a high number of cases. This means a lot to those families who usually plan their Christmas vacations spent in their provinces. They might be able to, but they’ll have to undergo 14-days’ quarantine and all the safety protocols, which again, do more hassle than a joy. So we’ll have to endure the longing.
- The usual caroling is also prohibited, making the children a bit sad as it becomes the tradition.
- We cannot witness the fireworks display by the popular spots and malls.
- Celebrations are strictly for family only, which means the usual “salo-salo” with our neighbors is also not allowed.
- Gift giving will be more challenging, given the fact that most of us lost our source of income.
The usual Christmas glee and merriment that we have been accustom to is still possible this year, only in an unusual way.
If there’s one of the many things we should be grateful for is the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in the comfort of our homes.
But some don’t have food, if not a home, worse a family…
Christmas after typhoon
How can we possibly prepare for a Noche Buena, knowing that many Filipinos might not be able to put anything on their tables?
None other than our countrymen living in Cagayan Valley can say how difficult it is to celebrate this year’s Christmas after the typhoon hit the province and caused massive destruction. Typhoon Ulysses has undeniably given a hard blow to its victims, and an uncertain Christmas was its promise.
After the damage that the pandemic caused to millions and billions of families, some Filipinos have to go through the typhoon’s catastrophe. It has been recorded that 720,000 families were affected by typhoon Ulysses alone, more so those affected by the storms that came before it.
Cagayan is the top producer of corn in our country and the second producer of rice. Cagayan’s plains and valleys cater to these crops’ production a month ago when typhoon Ulysses covered it with mud. Region 2 and Region 3 sustained combined damage of P2 billion in its agriculture.
In a place where most mothers and fathers are farmers, and agriculture stands as the foundation where families like Cagayan provide for their children, how much less can they possibly feel after the typhoon’s devastation?
We have a roof over our heads, meals on our tables, and most likely a house decorated with Christmas ornaments by now, but can you imagine how a day looks like for a kid living in Cagayan?
Can her parents even wrap her a present for Christmas?
Will she be able to gather her friends and go door to door to sing Christmas carols?
These are questions that will pinch something inside our hearts; we are Filipinos, we may not be Cagayanes, but we all are Filipinos.
Can you sit idly by with these thoughts running inside your head?
Just as how help poured down to the families in areas that were highly devastated by the typhoon, hopes are high that the same may happen for the holidays.
Their plea for help does not stop when the typhoon hits them; that plea will continue until our kababayans recover from this tragedy. Prayers are one but may we won’t turn a blind eye to the needy.
If you have a heavy heart for them, there are foundations like GMA Kapuso Foundation that can link you to them through other private organizations’ collective efforts.
These two crises had brought us closer, making us realize that grand celebrations hold lesser importance and helping one another. Though we don’t celebrate Christmas the ideal way, as long as we have our families by our side, we should be grateful, and our Christmas would still be merry.
Above all and after all the dire circumstances that happened this year, let us not forget to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and let Him be the focus of our holiday celebration this year.
2020 is a week away from it, but we are more of a Filipino that we can ever be. May we wrap our hearts with gratitude, love, and faith in God.
Let us spread more hope, peace, joy, and love this season! Merry Christmas!