After twenty-six years of not spending Christmas in the Philippines, I decided that 2014 Holidays is a good time to go back, after all, my son K has two weeks vacation from school. Finally at the airport December 19, psyched to be in a tropical country but not looking forward to the long hours of flight, we soon learned that my son’s passport is not good for entry because he has less than six months before the expiry date of May 2015. Needless to say, suitcases in tow, we rushed to the passport agency for renewal only to find out that renewed passports are released at 4 pm that same day, thirty minutes after our flight would have left for Montreal, from there to Toronto, then to the Philippines. Stressed and ready to break down upon speaking to a helpful guy at One Travel.com and letting us know that we can’t fly that afternoon or the next day and the only flight he could find are those arriving in the Philippines December 26 because of fully booked flights, I begged for him to searched some more. After what seemed like an hour, Connor (how can I forget the name of that helpful agent) came back with the good news that we can leave December 21, with 13 hours layover in LA, arriving in Manila at 1145 PM December 23… we took it of course! We were on our way. Thankfully, we booked our stay in the Philippines at a five star hotel, EDSA Shangri-La, the reason being that I don’t want to aggravate my family over there fussing and dealing with us, and to have them worry of what food to feed us which chances are my guys might not be too keen on eating ( they have never been adventurous when it comes to food especially my hubby) and agreeing that we might as well make this trip a relaxing, fun one wherein my family can also enjoy the hotel amenities, undeniably a luxury for us all. We were met at the airport by a white-gloved nice driver from the hotel and as soon as we checked-in, we ordered our usual favorite dishes–usual, I say, because this hotel has been our home away from home since my husband and I got engaged, long before K , year 2001. We have been staying in this hotel every year we visit the Philippines, but never for Christmas.
The morning after we arrived, we went downstairs for breakfast at the Heat Restaurant where we got to say hello to the staff who we knew, and gave them gifts from the USA. After eating, we decided to enjoy the pool first before visiting our family, the irony of which was, we were swimming in the Tropics while it’s freezing cold back home in New England.
After taking a taxi from the hotel to my mom’s house, we finally saw my family and gave them the suitcase of goodies we brought with us. It was a nice feeling to see how happy they all were to see us again. That day, December 24, Christmas Eve, thru Filipino Christmas carols and sermons, we attended church while K who was jet-lagged fell asleep at his Lola’s house. He woke up only when it was time for Noche Buena, a traditional family dinner in between the merrymaking. K’s only concern was that Santa might not find him because he said he was away from home. Little did he know that Santa already came and since he didn’t hang a stocking, Santa hooked his gifts on the ornate gate of my mom’s (Lola) house. On top of that, K received packs of Pokemon cards from his auntie and uncle. I connived with a hotel staff as soon as we got to our hotel that night. K, of course, got a call from the front desk because Santa also left him a gift there. The day after Christmas, we went for a 6-hour trip back to where we grew up. Naval Station Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union is where we , as navy brats, used to live. First, we went to see what they have done to what used to be Wallace Air Station next to the base. It was converted to a nice resort named Thunderbird Resort. Our trip was very nostalgic as I took pictures of the base… my brothers and I posing in front of what used to be our bungalow; meeting one of our childhood friend who is now a Chief Petty Officer and escorted us around the base; searching for telltale signs that our father left such as his initials etched on a rock, pointing out where we used to hang-out and play as kids to my husband. Us with our childhood friend who is now a navy man himself We also visited our alma mater, Christ The King College, the school where my brothers and I went for our elementary education. This trip to the North of Manila was a bitter sweet one as I had been contemplating in going back to the place I have called home for so many years. It was also wonderful that my husband and son saw where I grew up and now they have a mental picture to match when I tell them stories of my childhood which is quite often. After that long trip, the remaining days of our trip were spent meeting up with those near and dear to us. Some high school and college friends, and both of my godchildren and their respective families.
Here’s a picture of my family
New year in the Philippines was also a blast. Full of traditions, rounded fruits for good luck, food in abundance among others. My mom’s neighborhood comes alive. There is no shortage of games, food, coin throwing and music courtesy of my bother who also happens to be a DJ. The traditional Filipino New Year is loud with noise makers like firecrackers and sparklers. K slept thru all these only waking up when he was hungry. Spending Christmas, once more, in the Philippines is very nostalgic and amazing especially for me whose family are all there. However, no matter how wonderful the feeling and the experience was… I still somehow miss the Wintry Holiday celebration of what I call home now–Massachusetts. I miss my beautiful Christmas tree, stockings neatly hang by the fireplace, the crazy anticipation of K preparing for the arrival of Santa, cookies and milk for him and reindeer food with sparkles all sprinkled on our driveway wishing that Santa won’t miss our house… that wonderful spirit of Christmas morning all bundled up rushing downstairs, squeals of joy from a happy, contented boy. It is nice to know that the magic of Christmas is alive and well– different worlds, far apart, but the same, in a way, steeped with traditions in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.