26 December, 2008

The Barefoot Baklesa's Top 10 Christmas Memories

Here we go... A day after the 25th, decompressing from the rush... I've drafted this a while ago but never got to posting it.

10. The C.O.D. Animated Christmas Displays
~ Back when I was a child, my mother would always take me to the Cubao shopping district in Quezon City where the
C.O.D. department store was. During the Holidays, the department store would create these animated Christmas themed displays [something like that "it's a small world" ride at disney] that had its own take on the Christmas Story. They would often portray Filipino Christmas traditions like the misa de gallo, children caroling door to door, the making ang lighting of parols -and all of these would somehow happen at the same time or coincide with the Christmas Story to which Christ's Nativity is the finale. I remember being in awe of these crude robotics as a child. In the late 90s, C.O.D. put up its last display; the store it seemed had seen better times. I'm glad the mall at Greenhills purchased the old displays and re-fitted them just recently for another generation of kids to enjoy.

9. The Scent of Ham
~In the days leading towards Christmas, my mother would purchase these hams from Excellente, a ham specialty shop near Quiapo Church in Manila. She would have entire ham legs shipped to Antique and i remember the smell of it. Passing by Excellente recently, i tried to see if I could get acquainted with that old scent, but the crowds of people for the holiday rush deemed it futile.

8. The Parols on display at Central Market
~I haven't been there in years, but when I first went there, I was no more than seven or eight years old. In the dry goods section of the market, which was adjacent to the street, the sellers would hang rows of parols -in all sizes, shapes, and colours- by the hundreds. [ Parol: adapted from the Tagalog word 'parola' which means lighthouse. a Parol is a star-shaped lantern, either 5 or 8 pointed, used as decoration for the christmas season in the philippines. The Parol is said to symbolize the star that led the magi to the newborn messiah. ]

7. The Ayala Avenue Christmas Displays
~ I don't know if it's just me, but don't you guys feel like the Ayala Avenue christmas decorations look so depressing? Those 'kugels' mounted on the light posts look awful...Who uses bronze slash brown with that blue? What happened to the days when Ayala Avenue used to be the grandest and brightest lit this time of year? The displays at bangkok and tokyo could run circles around this one. Oh well...

6. Roast Chicken and Rosemary Leaves
~ There's something to be said about the memory associated with the smells of food. Aside from the usual jamon, quezo de bola, and bibingka [rice cakes], the rosemary roasted chicken that we cook religiously on noche buena [except for that one year we had a pig's head...] is one of the familiar smells I would always expect at our kitchen on christmas eve.

5. The Many Trips to Divisoria
~ You haven't experienced Christmas in the Philippines until you have gone to shop at divisoria towards the Christmas rush. It's just insane... talk about the wave of people, the pushing, the noise... It's often beyond description.

4. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
~ I spent a fair amount of my childhood playing with He-Man action figures. Back then, one action figure from the standard series would cost 49.99 pesos while a new release would be no more than a hundred pesos. There was a particular christmas when my mom got me four action figures:
Man-At-Arms, Mosquitor, that one with the elephant's head that squirts water, and another one of those villains i can't recall. I think I pretty much admitted to my age with this memory.

3. Nativity Sets at C.O.D.
~ I began collecting nativity sets since i was a kid...I even made some from clay.Whatever happened to the really good nativity sets where there was more than one shepherd and not limited to seven pieces? C.O.D had the best collection of nativity sets. They used to display like 20 of them in one table averaging 16 characters a set in their many sizes. That's when my penchant for nativity sets began, i think. I have 28 of them at present.

2. The Lights at Ateneo Bel Field
~ At Christmas time, they would light up the old acacia trees that surround Bel Field with these tivoli lights wired as drop lights on the tree branches. One year, they put up blue and white parols with the tivoli lights, and I would look forward to coming out of the Rizal Study Foyer after one of our Tanghalang Ateneo shows or Xavier Hall and seeing this enchanting sight. I would spend some time just admiring it or walking under the lights just before I get home. And when there was a meteor shower, they encouraged everyone to watch it at Bel Field...people brought their guitars, sang, smoked, ate, hung-out, told stories...Oh, that was some christmas memory.

1. Mount Carmel Church in New Manila
~ When I was about six or seven years old, we used to live near the area of Mount Carmel Church, thus I grew up listening to these English Priests with their pristine accents every sunday. I remember coming out of the Christmas Morning mass, while holding on to my mother's hand as we were walking across the courtyard, a boy approached us and he was begging for some money. As a kid, my mother would place a twenty peso bill in my left pocket, and a white handkerchief and a rosary on my right every time we went to mass. And that particular Christmas, instead of a twenty, i had a couple of crisp five peso bills in my pocket, and we were walking quite a few steps with that boy in front of us -palms out- and i never knew what came over me but i suddenly took out the folds of five peso bills and gave it all to him. Later, when we got home, my mother told me that every Christmas, the Christ Child would always come and visit as a beggar child. Fast forward to the 25th of december 2006, we had this party for some kids around our neighborhood. I had 47 ticket stubs for the 47 kids we invited. But I packed 48 goodie bags instead, just to be safe. After the snacks and games, i had them fall in line to take a goodie bag and pick a raffle number to coincide with the prizes. And then a cute but rather untidy child shows up at the line, he didn't have a stub, but i did have the 48th goodie bag and he was able to take home a prize as well. And when it was all over, my mother asked me if i remember seeing that child come in or out of the gate. I had no idea... and then i remembered that boy at mount carmel church once again. So, if you do encounter such a child, it wouldn't hurt to be a little charitable.

That's pretty much it. Tis the 2nd day of Christmas...no true love sending anything yet. Hahahaha!

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