Friday, November 17, 2006


It’s on the 7 o’clock news. The temperature in Metro Manila has gone down since last night, creeping on the unaware and unprepared. The sun is going to set earlier and rise later; the winter solstice is near. Christmas is near.

When I was younger, my grandparents were the first to put up the Christmas lights in the subdivision. There was a tall Indian tree standing guard in front of their house then, and it was the first among its neighbors to be decked in a glittering radiance. Their Christmas tree had handmade décor; my tita always smelled like glue gun until the plastic tree has ceased to become one to the imagination. The whole house used to glow with singing lights, and us kids used to sit down in the middle of the street to stare at the only place where Christmas came early.

It was magic, then. I waited for Christmas, and although I did not understand what it really meant (Jesus’ birthday, dear, mama said), the superficial symbols were enough to make me believe in Santa Claus and holiday cheer and The Jackson Five. They were enough to make me innocently happy.

I remember the last Christmas I spent with my grandparents. I woke up really early, took out my kid bike, and pedaled all over the subdivision waiting for my Lolo to unlock the gate. As soon as it was opened, I rushed in to check out the gifts sprawled under the tree. I was tipped with ten pesos for being early, and you know what they got me? A dinosaur. It walked and it roared. It was green and made of plastic.

The next year, Lolo and Lola converted to Dating Daan—a religion which does not celebrate Christmas. I guess I was crushed and disillusioned, but I don’t really remember how it felt, what it meant: all I know was that I will never get any more dinosaurs. We had our own tree and lights, but they were not quite the same and not quite as special. Kids didn’t sit down in the middle of the street to stare at our house.

Since then, the other houses in the subdivision lost morale. The houses put up their Christmas lights later and later into the holidays, and some, like ours, just stopped. Maybe they thought there was no point to it. I know I did.

Isn’t it sad? I hold that Christmas is nothing more than a massive commercial success. There might be a deeper meaning, there probably is, but I don’t know what it is yet. Listen, all I know is that Christmas is special. The cold reality of it being a marketing stunt cannot cover that. It is special, and without the lights and the tree I’ll never know when it’s near.

Thank the entity above for 7 o’clock weather news.


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