It started simply enough.
One day, while mowing our rather diminutive lawn, I noticed that some kids had gathered outside our gate. Thoroughly Filipino, they were a curious lot, and the first question they had for me was “Are you sick?” Not feeling particularly ill, I realized they had asked this question because I had no hair, which is an unusual condition among the usually well-coiffed Filipino. “Naw,” I replied, sweating and circling the yard with our push mower, “I’m just opaw (bald).”
For some reason, they found this thoroughly hilarious.
Not understanding their machine gun bisaya much, I was soon rescued by Michell who opened the gate and let the little miscreants into the yard. After rummaging through our stuff and scaling the mango tree a few times, we got this photo of Michell and her new friends:
After that, the kids would stop by just about every day, hollering for “Ate Chell (big sister Michell),” tumbling about the yard and chasing the Frisbee around (which they had first thought was a “plato” – plate). Then – as Christmas approached – I thought it would be cool to do a Christmas dinner party for them. I broached the subject with ate Chell, and she agreed. And since the big Christmas thing in the Filipinos is held on Christmas Eve (everyone up til midnight Christmas day for gifts, family, food and fireworks), we decided that we would do it on Christmas day around 4 PM. Michell then went to the parents/grandparents homes nearby to let them know when the holiday shindig was going down.
My better half then made up the menu for the day’s delights: Sweet Filipino spaghetti (with extra hotdog, naturally), macaroni salad, hot dogs on sticks with marshmallow toppings, juice boxes, and candy – lots and lots of candy. One of the families was going through some tough financial times (their mother was off working in Manila and their father was sick) so we picked up some gifts for their three daughters, wrapped them up and gave them to the grandmother to give them on Christmas Eve. We also picked up a boatload of inexpensive gifts from the local Unitop (purveyor of fine Chinese goods) to give out as rewards during the “parlor games” segment of the day’s activities.
Christmas Day came and Michell fired up the stove. Although only 11 people had RSVP’d, we soon realized that we might need more food, so Michell sent me off to Robinson’s to pick up another kilo of spaghetti and sauce. Thankfully, a lot of stores are actually open on Christmas Day, so I was able to retrieve the object of my quest and return to our very hot kitchen. (It was also good that we had gotten more food as 34 people eventually showed up.) Michell had done up the macaroni salad the night before, so the rest of the cooking was done by 3 PM. Dark clouds gathered overhead as we set up the furniture outside, and we soon had to move it inside as rain began to fall. Our guests arrived a little after four, and we soon sat them down inside for dinner. Thankfully, the rain took some time off, so after dinner we were able to set up outside so the kids could play games and do their singing and dancing stuff, which is an integral part of Filipino life.
After tossing the Frisbee for a bit, Michell started up the games. First up was a musical hot-potato game, where the kid holding the potato (Frisbee, in this case) was eliminated but given a consolation prize of a bubble maker which soon resulted in a veritable Bubblelooza of near-rave proportions. Following the hot potato game, Michell started the “Bring me…..” game, with her first request being “a yellow flower,” which nearly resulted in the destruction of the yellow flower plants lining the inside of our walled yard. Seeing the wrappers and trash all over the yard, her final request of the game was “Bring me….. all the candy wrappers!” which was a pretty good call….
Toys, prizes and candy were distributed and then the kids did a “Star ng Pasko” dance routine that a few of them had been practicing (the rest just followed their lead) and then sang a Tagalog Christmas song that Michell wasn’t able to identify but that the kids obviously loved.
Dark rain clouds then moved in and once again the rain began to fall. The two eldest boys that attended cleaned up the mess while our guests expressed their thanks and made their way back home.
Overall, it was a GREAT day and one that I will always remember! The laughter from the kids was absolutely infectious, and it helped remind me that Christmas isn’t about gifts and what you get, but instead it’s the people that you have and the joy that that entails.
It’s funny – when I was going through all the video to pick out parts for our highlight film, I couldn’t help but smile (and sometimes laugh aloud) at what I was seeing. And that’s’ the great thing about film – your memory might not be perfect, but the images always are.