The "Brr" months and the long-awaited vacation came early for students and harried University folk, which is just as well. I'm just hoping (with a wink and my trademark smirk, for show) that there isn't a catch... like school or work starting early.
When late October came, I was expecting Christmas bunting and related frippery to make their tentative appearance. I was shocked because the only gold I saw crowned the head of a visually impaired, tall and willowy blonde girl with an inviting smile; I saw her the day I helped billet my cousin at the UP International Center(1). There was no evidence of Christmas at all.
Then November came and the story was still the same.
No bunting. No lights. No tall, willowy, visually impaired blonde-- she promptly disappeared before I could return and make her acquaintance. And horror of horrors, no one was caroling. Well, someone tried-- a poor, hungry kid in Los Banos whose singing could evoke either pity or scornful laughter. I went so far as to sing with him, providing for us both the lyrics he didn't know. I handed him twenty pesos and told him to smile more. I think I only succeeded in freaking him out.
I remember thinking, Who could blame anyone for not feeling festive? Fuel prices were going up and taking everything else with them. As odious as working conditions were in mideast countries, they'd just gotten worse for Filipinos because of the war. In the face of Hollywood and massive call center-sponsored accent training, the Filipino's English was still atrocious(2).
Then there were those nasty typhoons making thoroughly felt the depradations of decades of indiscriminate logging-- legal or otherwise. And the poor Filipino lost his King.(3)
I didn't notice how stealthily Christmas snuck up on us all until I saw actual (and improvised) lights and bunting hanging on street lamps and fences ...in the middle of December. Wonderfully, I also heard the faint report of small firecrackers-- always a good sign, unless followed by voices screaming for lost appendages. Best of all, I heard kids caroling at the gate.
Call him short-sighted, call him shallow, call him English-impaired, but you can't find the Filipino spirit wanting for resilience.
(1) I have never seen that girl again, and the inquiries of my cousin have met with blank looks. If my cousin hadn't actually see her that day, I'd think she was an aparition.
(2) Self-serving comment on my part, but I do wince in pain when I hear people talking about the "advices" they gave or took; the "furnitures" they had to sell or install... yes, I'm elitist and should be roasted in my own fat by slavering untranationalists.
(3) His corpus is resting, on display for fans and supporters at the Santo Domingo church, a stone's throw from my house. Believe the reports, my friends: the line to see this guy's remains is long no matter what the time of day.