The Li’l Grinch Who Stole Christmas

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Mood: 4/10 Honks! (The little Grinch just woke up. Looking for his mommy.)

Trying to be Merry on Christmas

 

I’m now officially one of the Grinch. After 13 years of landing a job, last night was the first time I reported to work on a Christmas Eve. Normally during this time of the year, I’d either be in my hometown – Bacolod, or in Batangas celebrating Christmas with my wife and our family.

But then everything changes. And this year that change came to my career and left me no choice but to stand by it and be at work – technically, to role model. Ahem.

So yesterday afternoon I was actually feeling some mixed emotions as my time to go to work nears.  I was feeling excited for this first time event in my profession; and at the same time I was feeling uneasy and sad that I’d be celebrating my Christmas eve  without my wife or family with me. I’d be with my peers and people instead.

By the time I arrived at our plant, I can feel that the mood is surprisingly festive. The sight of employees with bags of gifts added to the holiday atmosphere.  The smiles and greetings are unwavering and infectious. Well at least whatever the reasons for the jolly characters, I know I’m surrounded by good aura for the rest of the graveyard shift.

Everything went the usual way just like any ordinary day when work kicked in. I was actually thinking, “Well, not bad. I can actually be a nurse, a pilot, a fireman, a security guard or a doctor on call…”or any other personnel who is expected to work even during the holidays. I felt like I’m not missing a big event or a love one. Well, not yet.

Break time came and a special dinner for all the manufacturing employees was served. The special meal was accented even more by a special dinner table setting. We’d be eating with candlelight. So by this time I was becoming even more convinced that working that night will be no big feat. I’m even starting to enjoy it. The sight of the lechon worked like a charm.

Right after dinner, I was back on my desk doing some routine tasks when I heard someone mentioned, “Sir Christmas na po (Sir it’s Christmas already)”. That’s when I glanced at the wall clock to see that it has struck midnight. The greetings around the production line competed with the humming equipment and audible alarms. I returned the merry wishes but caught myself faking a smile. I suddenly felt sad. I felt a lump in my throat.  I tried to contain myself.  And as if by a snap of a finger, I missed everyone whom I used to be with.

Probably this experience will stay with me until the next year. The feeling of having to choose between work and being with my love ones is a perfect dilemma.  Something’s got to give. And whoever said before that “Work is just a slice of life, it’s not the whole pizza” is mostly someone who can afford to sacrifice that slice. Unfortunately I don’t have the pleasure of doing so. When that day comes I’ll be the happiest.

Tis The Season to be Jolly

“Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself” – Enigma. Return to Innocence

The ‘ber’ months must have some effect on everyone if not to the Filipinos alone. Once the very 1st day of September sets it everything seems to intensify or gets exaggerated. As if some switch gets turned on right after the midnight of August 31.

Different ages react differently to this transition. For most adult this is the start of expenses pouring in. Everything seems gets listed in the “needs” section of the budget list. The “wants” list more often becomes empty – blame it on consumerism? For most children however, this is the season to be Jolly, period.

I can still remember my excitement – when l was kid – every time when the calendar reaches September. As if the calendar page between August and September is a musical card that plays a song when opened, “…Santa Claus is coming to town…” And unknown to me then, this Santa Claus are those adult that gets weary and anxious when these ‘ber’ months sets it. They are either our parents or our “unlucky” ninongs and ninangs (godparents). After 20 years, I’m now one of them.

It was as if just a couple days ago when someone reminded me to start buying gifts to avoid the shopping rush. In fact that was months ago. Just like any broken vinyl record this irritatingly skips and repeats. Sadly the holiday rush doesn’t skip. It just repeats. The farthest I can remember panicking at this level is since I started having my own pay check. (Now I’m confused if having a paycheck should either get celebrated or cursed.) My wife and I normally kid each other usually around every January to start buying Christmas trees and gifts by this time. But before I know it, the ‘ber’ months are in, again. Now I’m behind 2 months already. It’s now November.

The mall sales now get more frequent than before. The bonuses are coming in (or shall I say passing through). The yuletide songs are as common as jeepney noise. The dreaded traffic gets worst. The horrifying thought of the inaanaks (godchildren) knocking at the front door getting realized as December nears. It’s funny but when someone says now “Christmas is just around the corner”, this is now like a windtalker’s code that someone is out to get you.

Hey, did I just realize I’m now a Grinch? During this season most adults are, I guess. Well it must be the cycle of life I guess. Some call it karma. The act gets repeated but the recipients change. If before I was thankfully receiving crisp bills, now I’m…I’m not giving one. Beside, the crisp bills now are of less value. Now that’s justified (miser smile).

Every time I’m in this situation I think of an old Filipino song (by Asin) with the following lyrics:

Itanong mo sa mga bata (Ask the children)
Ano ang kanilang nakikita (What they see)
Sa buhay na hawak nila (At the life they have)
Masdan mo ang mga bata (Observe the children)
Sila ang tunay na pinagpala (They are the lucky ones)
Kaya dapat nating pahalagahan (We should appreciate them)
Dapat din kayang kainggitan? (Shouldn’t we envy them)

Although this is not a Christmas song, this clearly describes and shows how having the innocence just like the small ones becomes a very big deal. More often, taking the simple meaning of an event or season is what matters most. Children love summer for the vacation. Children love Christmas for Santa Claus. If they love it for Christ’s birth, the better of course. But that’s where our adult explanation comes into play (and it’s another long story or blog).

So if only most adults, including me, can see this significance just as it is (even just during December), then I think this is when we can wholeheartedly join the children in saying, “Tis the season to be jolly”.

Home in Bacolod on the 25th…(and some of the Booboo’s)

After spending our Christmas Eve in Batangas with my wife’s family, we woke up by 4am the next morning and had to go straight to Park and Fly to leave our car while we are in Bacolod. From there we were whisked to the Manila Domestic Airport through their shuttle service.

We were on queue earlier than our 2-hour check-in time. Even then, the lines of travelers going to different destinations were already jam packed. Some lines even crisscrossed each other to the frustration of most people including myself. One of the noticeable things is the number of foreign visitors (British, Americans, and other Asians) going to places such as Kalibo, Cebu and Palawan. When I checked there’s no one in Bacolod’s queue. I’m wondering why.

The 845am flight was delayed for more than an hour. If not for the Delifrance’s Christmas Ham Clubhouse sandwich (surprisingly, it’s one of the best sandwich I had tasted) that I was eating for breakfast, I would have been grouchy as I always am given the situation.

Boarding time came. To my wife’s dismay we had to walk from the departure area to our designated plane. It used to be a short one. Now it’s some 300 meters walk and longer exposure (this is what she actually hates) to the glaring morning sun as the plane themselves (also to other domestic places) were also on parallel queue. One can just imagine how many people are traveling even on this Christmas day.

Except for being not on the window seat, the flight was smooth as usual. The on board “bring me” games was held just like every Cebu Pacific flight. This time though my wife was too tired to actively participate. The addition of tokens and corporate items for sale (nice gifts for those you realized you forgot), made it even more interesting. And of course, the beautiful flight stewardesses are still there.

Landing wasn’t bad either. I was at this point thinking that we can leave the airport in a jiffy after alighting from the plane. But that just isn’t going to happen. The “new and improved” arrival area and baggage claim answered (just maybe one of the reasons why) the question why we haven’t got any foreigners on board. In these times of high-tech, innovative and “whatever-you-call-it” technology, one would be shocked to see how the bags are handled. After manually unloading the bags from the cart, these were just either dragged or tossed on a metal barricaded floor where you can easily claim it if you’re lucky to get the attention of porters handling it. Damn, I should stop watching the Discovery channel.

After some frustrating time, I was able to claim our bags. These is one of the times I’ll recite in my mind “Good things come those who wait” as a mantra.

As it has been our practice to avoid the taxis right outside the airport terminal as they would normally overcharge, we walked out of the airport vicinity to flag down an empty taxi just along the road. Unfortunately, two consecutive cabs I got were Grinches (or they could have thought of me just the same). I find it so shameful when I am being swindled by someone who’s a kababayan (town-mate for this matter) just because I got bags (obviously coming from the airport). I can just imagine if it were especially Caucasians. It’s now reason # 2 why the foreigners aren’t queuing for Bacolod?

I gave up hailing a cab right in front of the airport. We decided to board a jeepney instead that would take us to downtown. Along the way though I couldn’t help but notice the scattered garbage, uncut grasses in the city plaza & the stagnant sidewalk canals. This is not the Bacolod I used to know for years. What an un-welcoming sight. Reason # 3.

From downtown, we were lucky enough to get an honest taxi driver as I’ve observed that there were only a few of them (pun intended) on duty on this Christmas day as the streets are somewhat empty than usual. Well, at least my resolution (for some years already) of not generalizing anything or anyone will still work. At least just SOME of them are bad. NOT ALL.

Eventually, we got home. My tatay and nanay were there with some of my siblings. It was almost 11am. And as expected a good lunch of seafoods were served. Tatay cooked sweet and sour fish, tanigue kinilaw (both which are his specialty) and with some fruits for dessert. It was another hearty lunch.

Thankfully we are home. Home sweet Home. And it’s still Christmas day.