Season’s Greetings from the Philippines! I hope you have all had a wonderful Advent and are eagerly awaiting a new year! I am currently in Bontoc, at the Bishop’s house, which is where I spent my Christmas.
It is impossible to replace your own family, and the feelings you have when you are all gathered together for the holidays, but this was the next best thing for me. I find that I often times don’t realize how much I appreciate things until I don’t have them anymore-Christmas in Wisconsin is one of those things. I have always enjoyed going up there for the Holidays, but never realized how much it meant to me until I couldn’t go. I’m not one to get homesick easily; but I felt a very real, very sharp, pang for the house and family gathered in Wasau, Christmas morning. However, that was quickly replaced; it is hard to feel homesick in a place where people treat you like you are one of their own, which is something I’ll never be able to repay them for.
I’ve been asked several times what Christmas is like, here in the Philippines. So, I’ll try and do it justice. The first major difference that I have noticed, at least here in the Mountain Province, is how UN-commercial it is. I found this to be exceptionally refreshing. Of course I like buying and receiving gifts, who doesn’t? But it was nice not to be constantly bombarded with adverts and sale papers. It also, I think, allows for the true meaning of Christmas to hold a more prominent role in the public eye-as it should. The second thing I noticed was that the radio stations, just like home, play entirely too much bad Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas music, but the traditional stuff i.e. Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Nat “King” Cole etc etc. I CANNOT STAND contemporary music stars making Christmas albums and ruining classic, beautiful songs. The third thing I noticed, which is more of a reflection upon myself than the Philippines, but I found it hard to believe that it was Christmas time because it isn’t cold. I think of blustery and snowy days when I think Christmas. It was balmy and in the 80’s Christmas day. The fourth thing I noticed, which is similar to the States, is that people here also deem it important to be with their family during Christmas. I think that may play into why it’s less commercial-people would rather spend money on their traveling expenses to be with family than purchase gifts. And they come from a long way; the Bishop’s sister, husband and son came from London, the Bishop’s niece and her husband came from Poland, and others came from both ends and all corners of the Philippines. A fifth thing, which they share with the states, is the production of a Christmas pageant, which was hands down better than any I have ever seen in the United States. They took this thing seriously. The kids were well behaved, they executed the parts with precision and skill, the costumes looked authentic-it was quite impressive. But perhaps the most glaring difference that I have noticed, or not noticed, is the absence of Christmas trees and lights. I have only seen one building with Christmas lights, which was a Catholic Church. As some of you may have also garnered thus far, our cuisine is a bit different, it continued to be so on Christmas. We butchered a goat and had fresh Tilapia for Christmas supper. It wasn’t my ideal Christmas supper, but it tasted good and was filling nonetheless. Following that food line, I made fried chicken last night. I can’t remember if I mentioned this already or not, but, there are KFC’s EVERYWHERE. World Wide-seriously-it’s ridiculous. Anyways, the moment I tell someone I am from Kentucky I can see the little light bulb go off and they immediately respond with, “like the chicken!” So, last night, at the request of the Bishop and the boys, I made fried chicken. I was leery at first; I didn’t think there would be any chance of finding paprika or onion powder in the Philippines, much less Bontoc, but to my pleasant surprise both were acquired. I’m sure that it wasn’t as good as what my Dad makes, but I think it turned out quite well. I also made mashed potatoes; I hadn’t eaten mashed potatoes since I left the states, and I love mashed potatoes. I ate entirely too many mashed potatoes.
I suppose that is about all for now, folks. Keep your fires warm, drinks strong and family close; be good, y’all!