By Aby Yap
In a nation whose days are marked by countless festivities—most of which you no longer celebrate for reasons financial and otherwise—you know it’s that most wonderful time of the year again when A to Z suddenly means:
Aguinaldo: With every warm greeting of Mano po, Ninong/Ninang comes every kid’s unconcealed wish for an aguinaldo. No, it doesn’t have to be gold, frankincense, or myrrh. A gift-wrapped toy or a crisp beInte is enough to earn a grateful kiss from your inaanak.
Bibingka: A taste of this season’s delights? Start with grilled bibingka, its sweetness melting with the salted egg, creamy cheese, and grated coconut in your mouth. Follow it with the purple puto bumbong and wrap up with a cup of hot thick tsokolate for a delicious experience.
Christmas Tree: You not only look forward to the lighting of the giant Christmas tree at Araneta Center, you also can’t wait to assemble your own tree in the living room and surround it with presents of all sizes. As soon as All Souls Day is over.
Dollars: More than any other time of the year, it’s during Christmas when dollars pour into the country. And like manna from heaven, dollars remitted by OFWs and spent by balikbayans make this season a lot merrier, especially for the lucky beneficiaries, and keep our economy sane.
Emote: For those who are into LDR (Long Distance Relationships) or certified members of the SMP (Samahang Malalamig ang Pasko), you can now emote-to-the max while listening to Gary V. croon Pasko na Sinta Ko without ridicule from people around you. That’s because they have to give love on Christmas Day, according to MJ.
Fiesta Ham: Whoever cooked up this branding deserves a lifetime supply of hamon. And not just any other ham; it should be fiesta ham! Imagine the need it has created among us. We lust after this delectable slab of glazed meat (with pineapple rings on top, please) year after year.
Gastos: Still wondering where your 13th month has gone? One miserable word: gastos. The worse part is we’re actually enjoying it. We shop for gifts, clothes, food, drinks, and whatever the season calls for like there’s no tomorrow. The only consolation is we’re no Scrooge.
Home: Ah, home, in the loving company of those dearest to you: family and friends. And if you’re part of an extended family, don’t forget to include your apos sa tuhod, 5th-degree cousins, kinakapatid, in-laws, kabarangays, etc. Christmas is worth celebrating when you’re at home.
Inaanak: For those whose list of inaanaks is longer than EDSA, playing Hide and Seek is the customary practice—not that it’s advisable. See, you can’t hide for the rest of your life. Besides, you have to confront your fear. Just arm yourself with aguinaldo.
Jesus: How many times have we heard it that Jesus is the reason for the season and not jolly Santa Claus? Yes, the big guy is rosy-cheeked, cute, and brings us gifts through the chimney (which makes his identity sound incredible). But Jesus, the poor babe who was born in a manger, is our Savior.
Karoling: “Namamasko pooo!” Once you hear this announcement, prepare to listen to a sintunado medley of Sa may bahay…, Ang Pasko ay sumapit, and other easy-to-memorize Pinoy carols. Then, give out a few coins lest you hear them sing “Thank you, thank you, ang babarat ninyo.”
Lechon: As in any other fiesta, lechon will always be the Christmas table’s centerpiece. It’s not healthy, yes, but who said being healthy is part of this season’s deal? Remember: pigging out is allowed during the holidays (and certain occasions).
Metro Manila Film Festival: It’s your chance to see the unstoppable Shake, Rattle & Roll once again! (It’s now on its 12th sequel.) And Bosing Vic transform into the legendary Enteng Kabisote! So, forget Hollywood flicks for a while and let’s support our local films.
Noche Buena: It’s probably the most awaited meal of the year. At the strike of midnight, your usually bare table instantly turns into a lavish feast fit for the kings. Oh, the picture of meat dishes, carbs, and sweets gathered altogether is mouth-watering!
Over the Top: It’s been said many times in many ways that Pinoys have the longest, grandest, costliest, and of course, the merriest Christmas of all. That’s definitely over the top!
Parol: No house—big or small—is caught without a parol come the holidays. It could be as simple as bamboo sticks formed together to be a star then wrapped with papel de hapon, or as high-tech as the capiz lantern with dancing lights in Pampanga.
Queso de Bola: It’s like fruitcake; everyone has it, but no one eats it. Fortunately, it makes for a nice shiny red décor on your platter of New Year’s Day fruits.
Reunion: With the entire angkan (including people you didn’t even know you were related to), long-lost kindergarten classmates, high school friends, college barkada, and former officemates—there are all sorts of reunions that you just have to attend. If only for the tsismis…
Simbang Gabi: Ready to hear mass for nine straight mornings? Take note: it’s 4 a.m. But that’s what makes Simbang Gabi all the more exciting; it’s a real test of your willpower! Here’s the deal: if you pass it, your one wish shall be granted.
Tiangge: Rejoice, bargain hunters (read: kuripot)! Your Christmas shopping worries are nearly no more with good, old tiangges where the rule of thumb is to haggle—what you’re naturally good at. Warning: prepare for a battle of siksikan and tulakan.
Unlimited Food and Drinks: Since everyone is extra generous and welcoming, you’ll get invites to every party there is. Grab this opportunity to spare yourself from dining expenses. With the unlimited food and drinks available, you’ll never go hungry or thirsty—at least during the holidays.
Vacation Leave: After a year’s hard work, you deserve a long break. And when’s a better time to take your vacation leave than during Christmas season? Thinking about all the shopping and reunions will distract you anyway. Hence, the influx of balikbayans.
White Christmas: Call it the American dream, but many Pinoys still dream of a white Christmas. That is, frolicking in the snow and building Frosty while singing Winter Wonderland.
X-change Gift: Something soft? Something smelly? Something special? Buying an X-change gift, “X” meaning top secret, for your Monito Monita or Kris Kringle could be challenging and exciting or disappointing and annoying—depending on the gift you’ll receive.
Year-end Reflections: The holidays, too, are a perfect time to go through year-end reflections in preparation for New Year’s resolutions. Example: I think I ate too much crispy pata that it’s starting to show in my thighs. I’ll start dieting on January 2.
Zero: The truth is all that holiday splurging could give you a zero, even a negative, balance in your financial books. But, hey, Christmas happens only once in a year—though celebrating it is bound to be a little too exaggerated if you’re a Pinoy. (Please see entry on O.) So, let’s just eat, drink, and be merry! Ho, ho, ho!