Unlikely Thoughts on Christmas

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

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[ NOte from NOel  : For all the impositions, I beg your indulgence, and for all the kind feedback, as well as constructive criticism, I am grateful.  To friends and compatriots in SJCS Batch 82, SJCS Alumni, Alpha Phi Beta, Auckland Pinoys, UP Alumni sa NZ and Sycip Alumni yahoo!groups, Facebook and Multiply friends, I wish you every blessing these blessed days ! ]
Dear anakis :
First of all, I’m very glad your mother was able to go home to be with you for the first time in three years.  I know how badly you miss her and how long it will be till you see her again.
[ Conversely, although I’m sad I can’t be with you this year, you will I hope understand that I was able to come home each of the last three years.  The countdown to Christmas 2011 has begun ! ]
Next. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to send you enough money for the laptop you asked for.  I know that these days, having a computer for both school and personal use is an absolute necessity, and moreover, you are able to keep in touch with everyone who’s physically out of reach, including your mother and me.
But I guess between a roof that was ready to fall off and a laptop, it was easy to choose which expense was more urgent, and while you don’t have ready access to YM, Chikka and Facebook, at least you won’t have a drenched second floor everytime you sense monsoon rumblings, which happens almost any time of the year.  Put it this way : by the time you have enough for an Acer or Asus (affordable but dependable), hopefully early next year, you’ll be comfy, dry and waterproof.
**               **            **
Staying overseas for the better part of your teens is one of the sadder realities of my lot in life, and at no time is this more evident than during Christmas.
It’s easy to say, for example, that since we can’t do the holidays this year, we’ll just make up for it the next.  But the set of memories, situations, interactions and all other events peculiar to just that point in time, will never be reproduced as part of the sum total of our times together.  The consolation is that we can still communicate, and rightly or wrongly I can tell you the things I see and the feelings I have during these senti moments of Kapaskuhan.
And perhaps one of the unexpected lessons I can draw and relay to you is a most cynical one : notwithstanding all its universal messages of peace, hope and love, it’s just another day for many people, especially in the non-Christian world.  I hope you don’t judge me a wet blanket ; it’s a perfect time to count our blessings, stop thinking of ourselves for a brief moment, share our good fortune and all that, but the reality is, you can do all these laudable things any other day of the year. 
It just pricks our conscience a little more deeply on the 25th of the last month, the beggars seem a little more pitiful, and the efforts of the charities a little more profound.  Less than a week after Christmas, it’s almost no surprise that we forget about all the feel-good energy generated from our altruistic activities.  That’s when it becomes obvious that our month long Christmas spirit should be sustained much longer than the malls, movies and bonuses allow.
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Then I don’t know if this is related to the season at all :  it’s not intentional, but I live in a block where there are plenty of Indian residents.  To my left, right and two units away live a second generation Indian family (kids born in NZ), a Fijian Indian family, and finally an Indian family recently arrived from the subcontinent, about as long here as I’ve been. 
Christmas Eve I passed along to each of them a bag of flour from the mill I work in, and in passing asked if each of them knew the other two families.  None of them did, and I clarified just to make sure if these three families, from nearly identical ethnic backgrounds, really were unaware of each other. 
I got the same answer, and the only theory I could come up with, in light of the fact that next-door neighbors were trilaterally denying each other’s existence, was that they simply didn’t like each other.
I don’t know if there’s a lesson somewhere in the mix, but there must really be something screwy if people of the same race, culture and religion make an effort to get out of each other’s way. 
Pinoys may not express mutual admiration among themselves, but they don’t go to absurd lengths to avoid each other, right?  If we can’t get along with our own, how do we expect to be a functional community with diverse nationalities and shades of skin?
Strange days, indeed.
**         **         **
I have to revisit the topic of Christmas being a singular day among many remarkable days of the year :  If you know of anybody alone during the holidays and wanting for company, especially the human kind, please don’t hesitate to open your doors to them, even if it’s just for a dinner or merienda. 
It’s no coincidence that incidence of suicide and self-inflicted injury spikes during the holidays and Christmas / New Year are on top of the list.  If people make all sorts of efforts just to be with family at this time of the year, you can imagine how it is for the people without families, those estranged from spouses and kids, and lastly, those with no more loved ones to spend their special days with. 
I am so happy that you have each other this Christmas, and you have your mother to spend noche buena with.  Maligayang Pasko Ganda & Bunso ; I love you always.
Kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos.
PS. Your brother is lonely here, but he has a bright future ahead.  Pls e-mail him when you have time, would you ?