December 15, 2006


Something Like Life
Dec. 15, 2006

DESPITE the fact that Christmas carols have been playing in shopping malls since October, it only dawned on me that Christmas 2006 is just right around the corner when recently I saw a big red ball sitting in a bread basket next to the fruit basket in my mom’s dining room.

It was my dad’s quezo de bola, a staple in every Christmas as far back as I can remember. Sorry San Miguel, but no Magnolia cheese balls for my dad; this was a real Edam cheese ball from Holland. He has long given up on Marca Piña or Pato, which have lost their bite. Papa discovered years ago the nutty mature goodness of Dutch Master (try it!). And no Christmas is complete unless there are one or two red balls sitting in our dining room.

No sooner had the quezo de bola been purchased when the parol and the blinking colored lights were already up, the Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph displayed prominently in the belen, and three Christmas trees in different sizes ensconced in their rightful place. Suddenly the living room throw pillows were all covered in red (my mom’s sofa is a bleah green but somehow the combination comes together this time of the year) and fat Christmas candles were all over the house. On the screen doors hung bountiful and colorful Yuletide wreaths.

Over the weekend I began downloading Christmas wallpapers for my iBook (, trying out which would best fit my personality and mindful of where we live. (Um, nope, no snowy country cottage themes with smoke rising from the chimney for me. Maybe someone should come up with Filipino Christmas wallpapers.) I finally settled on a close-up of a Christmas tree with silver trimmings and red bows. It’s real pretty! I also downloaded MacLampsX (, which installs Christmas lights around the border of the computer screen. It’s fun because you can design the lights yourself and decide how to string ’em up on your desktop screen.

And before writing this column, I earnestly searched the Internet for web radio stations ( so I could add them to my playlist and stream Christmas music all day long. Yeah, I know. It’s over-the-top, cheesy even, but I just couldn’t help it. I’ve been bitten by the holiday bug!

By the way, the most hilarious Yuletide song I’ve heard by far is Elmo ’n’ Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Hahaha! Laugh your holiday hearts out at

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I know many people think the holidays are stressful but I’ve learned to deal with it over the years. First of all, I shop early. All that Yuletide stress is often brought about by that almost desperate last-minute search for the perfect gifts for the special people in your life. And sometimes, for the not-so-special people whom you need to suck up to anyway, which makes the search for gifts even more stressful.

Malls and tiangges are jam-packed already this time of the month, no matter what day or time you go. Jostling, pushing and shoving can’t be avoided. (Be careful of the salisi gangs at the Ayala malls.) Parking is a hassle but if you don’t bring your car, you will be at the mercy of rude cabbies.

So next year, make your Christmas list early. And perhaps trim it a bit. These trying times, I don’t think anyone with an inch of sensitivity on his person really expects humongous presents. One newspaper columnist told me years ago that he didn’t mind receiving only Christmas cards. It was enough that people remembered him during the holidays. And shop slow so you can give each gift more thought. You don’t have to buy everything in one go.

Buy a few gifts every payday beginning October, which I think is a reasonable month to start shopping. It will be a little easier on your wallet as well, as your expenses will be spaced apart, giving you a little breathing space from payday to payday.

Be disciplined about your gift-giving. Set a fixed budget. You cannot go over this amount even if your son threatens to stop going to school unless you buy him the latest PlayStation console. Priority should always be your family and your closest and dearest friends. Do not include the cute guy you just met at the tennis court yesterday. Besides, he should be the one giving you a gift, no?

So you want to suck up to the boss, eh? I am truly ambivalent about this because I think the boss should be the one giving us a gift. Aba, our work makes his job so much easier! But if you truly feel the need to give him a gift, then go ahead. It need not be outrageously expensive, which some of us tend to do in our desire to upstage our colleagues at work. It should be simple, thoughtful and sincere. (Please be more creative naman than the Purpose Driven Life. My poor brother-in-law, for example, received three copies last year!)

But it’s really the little people at the office or at home who deserve our gifts. Take up a collection among your colleagues to buy something extra special for the manong janitor. Persuade your fellow homeowners’ association members to contribute to a common fund for the subdivision guards or gardener. The househelp we depend on to take care of us and the rest of our family members, toiling over heated stoves, handwashing the laundry and cleaning out our toilets daily, will also need an extra dose of, ahem, loving from us this season.

It’s all about sharing, folks!

(My column, Something Like Life, appears every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Cartoons from and from another web site I can no longer trace.)

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