Christmas at my parent’s house started soon as the decorations were put up. And that is often right after the fiesta of the La Nuestra Senora dela Porta Vaga, the patron saint of our city. That is celebrated every second Sunday of November.
Lanzones, Mangga at Kastanas
For Noche Buena, the turkey siempre (per tradition it is badluck to served anything with wings on New Year’s kaya the turkey always finds it way on the dinner table on Christmas) is roastng in the oven as early as 7PM. This year, we opened our gifts early (11PM), making sure Gabrielle was still up and alert. As she tore off wrappers and opened her (and our) gifts, two month old Liam quietly napped.
Matthias, from work, had taught me how to make gluhwein or spiced mulled wine in New York, and I tried it at home. Francis found the cloves too strong so he enjoyed my daughter’s vodka sprite concoction more.
The fascinating tradition of ‘pamamasko’ has the godchildren visiting their godparents at home to claim their gifts, usually money. In the previous years, we’ve had the experience of literally being swamped with tens of children with arms stretched asking for their ‘gift’ or pamasko. Not just kids, really, as it is the same with the trash collector, the newspaper delivery boy and the postman who all expect something. One time a bunch of cops came to the house with their sirens on as a prank to my dad, a former politician. My mom and I nearly had a heart attack, of course. Maybe I am stingy but this tradition of pressured gift-giving I find in bad taste. I mean, I give gifts or cards to people who I feel deserve it. I have a Christmas list that changes yearly, some people get added on and some get scratched off. I refuse to give anything to anyone I feel doesn’t deserve it. More so the people, even children, who I do not know nor talk to 364 days of the year!
Ensaladang Mangga, Sisig and Taal Volcano
After Christmas, we went up to Tagaytay and had lunch at Dencio’s. We feasted on tuna belly, sisig, bulalo soup, pinakbet, iba-ibang sinugba and calamares. Afterwards, we headed for Gourmet Coffee Restaurant and had Gabrielle run around on the wide grassy lawn. My niece, the major kikay of the family, has a habit of kissing and hugging boys her height regardless if she knows them or not. Nicole caught this picture.
Today we went to Pricemart to do more grocery shopping for New Year’s. It is a Cosco-style wholesale supermarket with even some Kirkland brands on the shelves. Let me remind you again, if you’re going home to the Philippines that you can forget about those trademark ‘balikbayan’ boxes and save yourself the trouble of lugging those heavy cargo with you. Aside from the fact that it is soooo baduy, it is inconvenient! Everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING that you can buy in the US is here and sometimes even cheaper. Just bring your cash. Name it and it is here: spam or any other canned goods that get stuffed into those boxes (malay ko!), chocolates (Hershey’s, Lindt, Cadbury, Toblerone, etc.), perfumes, cosmetics, sneakers, clothes. Trust me, I am the girl who travels light and never with regret. This year I actually brought with me some giant Toblerone bars only to find the same in SM on sale – buset!
New Year’s is special here. Major production yan in the kitchen because tradition dictates there SHOULD be a lot of food to welcome the year so you’d be prosperous including our family’s traditional ‘calandracas’ soup. We always have fireworks and firecrackers (yes, and we have all of them in front of our house). New Year’s in my country is always celebrated with a bang, literally. At the strike of midnight, as Dennis and I used to describe it, you’d feel you were in a warzone with the loud pops of firecrackers and the whistles and bursts of fireworks in the sky.
The part I love most is when my family and I greet and wish each other good luck with hugs and kisses. I have a wonderful family. Not perfect but one that appreciates, loves and values each other. This is the reason I always find my way home during the holidays. A call from New York is just not enough. I love sitting around chit chatting with my mom, laughing at my dad’s stories and pestering Nicole when she is in a brooding mood. I love that Gabrielle can call me “Tita Mavic” and that I can carry Liam in my arms and have him smile back at me when I talk to him.
Happy New Year’s to all!