It is the 23rd of December as I write this piece. Almost Christmas! It’s been a while since my last blog. The weeks since zoomed by so quickly. Necessities of work grabbed time with preparations for my vacation trip before the holidays. Like a whirlwind. Now I’m in the Philippines enjoying a rather hectic schedule of get-togethers with family, relatives and friends. A happy whirlwind. Fortunately, no jet lag … yet.
My vacation actually started in the plane en route to Manila. But for some turbulence over Hawaii, the flight was a fairly smooth one, thank God — no one cares for air pockets and rocky shakes. Pampered with so much good food, I seemed to luxuriate in a comfortable pattern of sleep, eat, sleep, eat during the fourteen and a half hours of flight. I felt terribly full when I got off the plane, but when excited family members greeted me in their home in Las Pinas, it was a barrage of – Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Here, this tastes very good. Eat more of this before it’s all gone. Food! Greeters of a culture. Guess what, I gave in. And it was surely good!
Just like in the plane, I ate again; then a long nap. Then more eating: breakfast at the right time, since the flight arrival was 3:40 a.m. Then a short nap. Then lunch, and then volumes of stories and catching up that seemed to never end. That was my first day of vacation.
It’s almost Christmas, and I hear occasional fireworks in the neighborhood. My sister’s family is planning a Noche Buena (heavy evening snack after dinner) for Christmas eve. I’m excited. I look forward to going to church and singing Christmas carols in between prayers and praises for the Holy One. Two years ago, I was here, and I remember a packed chapel of devotees inspired in worship and invigorated with a celebratory spirit that infused the atmosphere with so much cheer and goodwill. I want to be immersed in that atmosphere. And after the church celebration – is the family party at home. I so look forward to the lechon de leche (small roasted pig) my sister and brother-in-law will serve, the sticky suman (gelatinous rice cooked in coconut milk) and the variety of sweet cakes. I’m hoping for some chicharron (crispy potk rind) dipped in peppered vinegar. Noche Buena after church worship completes the advent – and then of course, Christmas the next day.
Traveling to the Philippines around the holidays is like a douse of fresh water on my face. I am ushered into a lively culture where seriousness of life takes a pause to give way to an invading frenzy of celebrations pivoted on religious fervor. No denying, however, the party mood that saturates the atmosphere. The party commemorates and exalts the birthday of birthdays: Jesus’ birth. The good news is, He came to save the world. The sobering question is, does the world want to be saved?
Merry Christmas everyone! May the spirit of the good news be upon us all!