December 22, 2006

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Something Like Life
Dec. 22/23. 2006

IS it just me or can you smell it, too? I don’t know, but there’s just something superspecial in our carbon monoxide-laden air these days that gives me an extra high, with just a few days to go before Christmas. Sure, we’re all probably tapped out right now, having exceeded our Christmas budget again…or suffering a splitting headache from the vocal contortions of the blind woman with the mic outside the mall…and maybe a bit frazzled from managing the maze of pasilyos at the tiangge and shoppers meandering like they were walking under the moonlight in Luneta!

But gee…Merry Christmas! It’s a wonderful holiday that should be celebrated throughout the year (sans the traffic). Let’s take some time to reflect on the birth of the Christ Jesus who has made all our blessings possible. And for that, we should offer our grateful hearts to Him and share the bounties of the season with all. As my gift to you dear readers, here are some friends to share their thoughts on their favorite Christmas traditions. Happy Christmas to you everyone!

Mayor Jojo Binay, Makati City

When I was still in high school (I was living with an uncle’s family then), I was supposed to go out with my cousins and my barkada. May karnabal pa noon, at ’yon lang ang pinaka-happening ng mga panahon na ’yon. I really wanted to go but I begged off, saying I had lots of books to read. The truth was, I didn’t have any money. This experience encouraged me to establish a tradition of gift-giving, especially to indigents in our beloved city, and treat them with free entertainment during Christmas/New Year.

Gov. Say Tetangco, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Besides family reunions, what’s my favorite Christmas tradition? Ah, it’s the golf circuit; I play with friends between Christmas and New Year. We’ve had one scorekeeper all these years, and only he knows how the tallies of wins and losses are made...but that has never seemed to bother any of us. We let him have his way, all in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that fills the Christmas air.

Jimmy Bautista, president, Philippine Airlines

My favorite Christmas tradition is the Noche Buena, when after going to Mass all family members, from grandparents to grandchildren, dine and drink together and exchange gifts and pleasantries. When my parents were alive, we made it a point that my family and my sisters’ families spend Noche Buena in our parents’ home. It’s like our annual reunion and everybody, especially the kids, looks forward to it.

Lance Gokongwei, president, JG Summit Holdings Inc.

My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating the tree with my wife Jay, my daughter Hannah and my son Jacob. Basically, we use the same ornaments every year, but this year Hannah, who is four years old, added a Dora star on top of the tree. I love seeing my children’s faces light up as they watch the tree disappear under all the lights and colorful decoration.

Fritz Kahler, general manager, Alegre Beach Resort

Back home in Austria, our Christmases were mostly white, with a large freshly cut fir tree set up in our living room, beautifully decorated and lit by real beeswax candles, which altogether created that very special Christmas scent. My father then would walk through the house on Christmas Eve with pieces of hot coal from the fireplace on which he put some incense, which further enhanced the atmosphere. Christmas out here in the tropics is a bit different but we’ve kept some of the traditions. We always have a natural “Christmas tree” which could be a local bush or small tree “adapted” by my wife Cynthia and decorated with ornaments we’ve collected from the numerous countries we’ve lived in. We have real beeswax candles from back home which we light on Christmas Eve.

Macel Fernandez-Estavillo, legal counsel, Yuchengco Group of Companies

My dad would make wonderful paella that he’s famous for, my mom and aunt would make chicken salad and potato salad, and we’d eat at 12 midnight after our 10 pm Mass. When my sister Andion is in town (from Berlin), she’d sing Christmas carols during Mass (our family’s gift to Jesus). Now that it’s our first Christmas with our baby Javea, we’re hoping to start our own traditions, too. We got a trinket for the tree to celebrate Javea’s first Christmas, and hope to get one each year, so that when my husband, Karlo, and I are old, we’ll have a tree filled with trinkets for each year. We’re excited to be spending Javea’s first Christmas in Berlin with family, including Andion’s baby Jeffrey Jr., who is celebrating his second Christmas.

Nilo Cruz, managing director, HP Philippines

After Simbang Gabi on Christmas Eve, we’d stuff ourselves during Noche Buena with home-baked Chinese ham, pasta, fruits and French garlic bread, downing it all with either hot chocolate or freshly popped champagne. It’s gift-giving/opening until the wee hours. On Christmas Day, we visit relatives and friends, and in the evening we call those who are abroad. We also sponsor an orphan through our parish-church project during the holidays.

Ruby Gan, co-owner, Schu

We usually start our Christmas shopping when the school break starts. My sons Martin Francis and Raphael and I would scour the malls and shops armed with our lists. This is also the time when they would choose their Christmas cards for the rest of the family members. This time of the year, I tend to spoil my sons because I try to get everything on their lists. But hold your horses! These are not long lists—only about two to five items between the two boys, and they’re not really that expensive. On the 24th, after the 6 pm anticipated Misa de Gallo, we celebrate Christmas Eve with a nice dinner, usually at the Peninsula Manila, dressed in all our finery. Then at exactly midnight, we would open all our gifts!

Prandy Yulo, managing director, Hella Phils.

As a born-again Christian, I attend a Christian service normally before midnight of the 24th in our local church where we remember the birth of Jesus as told in Scripture and focus on the reason for the season, the coming of the Messiah. After congregational songs of worship and prayers, we proceed to the reading of Scripture. The highlight of the service is our pastor’s sermon on the significance of the season. My family would then spend some time after the service in fellowship with our churchmates, then go home to sleep.

Joey Bermudez, president, Chinatrust Commercial Bank Corp.

On Christmas Eve, we always hold a talent contest where we—my wife Ester, my kids Miggy, Anjo, Jeff, Gabby and Christine, and myself—perform individually with the househelp as our audience. The househelp also act as judges and they select the best performers. Of course, we give the househelp their Christmas gifts before they do their judging chores to ensure that they will be neutral. I have never won in any of these contests.

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At no better time of the year can we give of our hearts to the less fortunate among us. I would like to enjoin all to remember the Guimaras oil-spill victims, whose futures are not as secure as most of us in this Holy Season. You may send your donations, either in cash or kind, to:

c/o Land Bank of the Philippines Guimaras Branch
Account Name: Provincial Government of Guimaras
Account No: 1922-1000-35

c/o Lette Teodosio
Cell-phone Nos.: +63919-225-3262, +63928-231-3193, +63915-7854-035

(My column, Something Like Life, appears every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos from BusinessMirror.)

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