This year marked the fourth year I did not spend Christmas with my family, the third time I spent Christmas overseas, and the very first time I spent a whole Christmas day alone.
At the start of the month, I braced myself for the inevitable loneliness that, I was so sure, awaited me on the coming holidays. For one, I am in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the proverbial capital of an organized belief system that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ, whose birth is the reason for the season, as Lord and Savior. This place could well be the loneliest place to be on important holidays for Christians like me.
For two consecutive Decembers, I have been a witness to how Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East do their best to recreate the trademark Filipino Christmas here. Filipino communities hold parties here and there ---showcasing on their buffet tables caldereta, kare-kare, leche flan and fruit salad, among other porkless Filipino Christmas dishes. Silly parlor games such as charades, Pinoy Henyo, Bring Me, Trip to Jerusalem, etc., are very well-enjoyed by both the young and the not-so-young, and you can bet the parties would be rated dull without them. Everyone concerns himself/ herself with what to get for monito-monita, the Filipino twist to the classic exchange gifts, and which element of mystery never fails to bring a thrill to any one participating. Last but not the least, and thanks to the manufacturers of Wow and Extreme Magic Sing, those who love to sing are able to do so ‘til they drop. “From one to sawa,” as we say in Filipino slang.