I was trying to put myself in the situation of Stephie. It might be unusual celebrating Christmas without snow and fur coats for the first time, seeing these Asians eat and drink for hours and hours, and being asked for the Nth time: "How do you celebrate Christmas in Germany?"
(She's the one in white. This is the only decent picture I have during the night because I was so tired that I just want to sleep after the mass.)
I worked with Stephie before (together with 3 more European student volunteers) in a psycho-social relief operations of UNICEF for an elementary school in a distant town in Laguna. She said that she wanted to feel how Filipinos celebrate Christmas (because it was relatively solemn and sad from where she came from) so my cousin and I invited her to stay with the family for a couple of days.
So how does a typical Filipino family celebrate Christmas and what makes it so unique? The food? songs? church traditions? last minute shopping? exchange gifts? lechon?
We took her in the Simbang Gabi and introduced her to Bibingka and Puto Bumbong. She was actually amazed by the church attendance here because back in Cologne, Germany, few people go to mass. She said that it was such an experience shopping at Divisoria because there are loads of great finds there and the prices are ridiculously cheap.
We asked her about her most memorable experience here in the country and she mentioned the Aetas. They showed a film in the Aetas' village and all the people there got excited so much because their village had no electricity nor even a good water system.
She's been to most of the good places in the country and in her remaining days in the Philippines, she'll visit Palawan, Bohol and the Rice Terraces.
1) My dad can actually speak straight English for hours when he's drunk and in front of a foreigner.
2) It was difficult to define/exercise how a typical Filipino Christmas should be because we don't practice it often nor appreciate its uniqueness. Or maybe, the Philippines is just one big cultural melting pot that formulating a Filipino Christmas identity is difficult.
3) We still live in a traditional society wherein the values of a society are more important than the value of an individual, and we have the Church to blame for this; thus a lot more people have been marginalized/discriminated.
4) Some foreigners know the country better than I do. I met this lawyer and playwright from New York in the Philippine National Museum and as embarrassing as it may sound they were the ones giving me lessons on Philippine History.
5) Santa was drunk when he got to our place! He gave me this book from John Maxwell: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook. He should know that I suck in law class - only got a C.
***I hope this yuletide season, you will see the incarnated God whom we call Jesus Christ as someone who transcends the boundaries of religion. He is the Sensate that allows us to experience the love of the Supra-Sensate. We should experience God more in our relationship with others, than see him as an Authoritarian deity who rewards the good and punishes the wicked.