December 24, 2010

Unforgettable, favorite Christmas gifts

FREQUENT readers of this space will probably know the answer to this. My favorite Christmas gift was a talking Barbie given to me by my Mama. It wasn’t the gift per se, but how I got it.

I was probably 7 or 8 years old then, and was tagging along with my Mama in Cartimar, Pasay, where Filipinos used to go to for their PX goods. Yes, I am a child of America, what can I say? Hahaha.

I saw my Mama looking over the Barbie which was in a fuchsia box (then everybody still called it “hot pink”), and I pestered her who she was buying it for. She wouldn’t answer me but I kept on nagging her about it, because I was so incensed that I, her bunso, wouldn’t be getting any gorgeous thing like that doll for Christmas.

She silenced me with that “wag kang makulit” look, and I shut up. (Yup, back then, kids were nakukuha sa tingin.) But I was seething inside, so jealous of that little girl—probably one of my Mama’s godchildren—who would get that Barbie for Christmas. I earnestly hoped and wished that I would get a Barbie as a present, too.

Of course, when Christmas midnight came, I excitedly opened all my gifts, and lo and behold! I got the very same Barbie! I couldn’t contain my joy over my new precious doll, and kept on pulling on the string behind her neck to make her “talk”. I thought then that my Mama probably got me the same gift as her inaanak just to pacify me. Silly me, I still thought she had given the doll she had earlier bought to another lucky kid, hahaha. Ay tanga.

But it made me realize then, which I still believe holds true today, if you deserve the present you have been hoping to get, you will receive it. The Secret? No. Just an eternal belief in how the universe just works for everyone’s benefit, and we all get what we deserve.

(DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo with his wife, Lovely, and their grandchildren.)

So for my Christmas and New Year columns this year, I asked several well-known personalities in government and industry what were their most unforgettable or favorite Christmas gifts of all time. Their answers, as usual, are heartwarming, a few terribly funny yet endearing, and give an honest insight into each person’s character.

Let me wish one and all a Happy Christmas with your loved ones, and peace and prosperity for all in the New Year.

(Antonio Moncupa, President, East-West Bank)

Secretary Alberto Romulo, Department of Foreign Affairs

All the gifts my grandchildren give me are unforgettable, whether it be a handmade card, a painting or sketch they made themselves, or a book they bought because they felt I would enjoy it—all of these are my favorites.

Antonio Moncupa, President, East-West Bank

In my grade-school years, I always looked forward to Christmas because it was the only other time (the other one was birthdays) when my parents would buy us a new set of nice clothes outside the simple T-shirts and short pants for daily public-school attire. While I thought they could afford to buy clothes more often, our parents always told us they needed to save for the bigger expenses for high school and college. It must have been hard to manage a brood of nine children for a couple who only reached second-year high school and who started with practically nothing.

(Bianca Gonzalez, TV host and model. Photo from her blog.)

While those clothes were not presented as gifts but a normal course for the season, I treasured those “gifts” the most. Although my parents wanted to be frugal, they also could not bear to see us without new clothes like other children. As I got older, it acquired a bigger meaning for me. I learned to appreciate the values it represented. It helped me realize what vision, firm resolve, and love could do to achieve an objective.

Bianca Gonzalez, TV host and model

My brother JC, who I love most and who hasn’t been home in five years, is coming home for Christmas. Nothing material can ever beat being with family during the holidays.

Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr., Writer and pundit, former congressman of Makati City

My most unforgettable Christmas gift was the model of the German battleship Bismarck which I specifically pointed out to my parents. I was trying to rebuild the Nazi fleet. Instead, I got an American battleship, the USS Missouri I think, which so enraged me that I stomped all over the box which had a picture of the wrong ship and tried to kick the Christmas tree down, but it stood on a wide X and couldn’t be shaken. At such a young and impressionable age, to expose me to such disappointment. Anyway, I never cared for any Christmas gift after that.

But the best Christmas gift I ever got was the long-distance phone call of Cory Aquino just before Christmas 1985, that I return home from San Francisco to join her in the snap-election campaign. I like fights and this looked like a good one. The gift package itself came a little over a month later, around the 25th of the month, when she turned to me upon being told by the US ambassador that Marcos had taken off on a plane for Hawaii—and smiled. I had almost forgotten that gift because joy is not as instantly recallable as disappointment. But it was the best gift ever. I hope to get the gift of another great fight because that is the only time I am happy. Several more would be nice.

Chef Chris Locher, C’ Italian Dining

As a kid, my most favorite gift must have been my Carrera racing track received sometime in 1975. Most sporting goods gifts were usually reserved for Easter. Also, my first sky blue bike “Flipper” in 1974 would be among the top favorite gifts I received.

As time went on, material things became less important. I love giving gifts as much as receiving them. I do love them even more if some thought was placed by the gift-giver. But today, a joyful and noisy evening with my loved ones, some great home-cooked food, and a glass of wine spell perfection.

Annabella S. Wiesniewski, President of Raintree Partners Inc.

My favorite unforgettable Christmas gifts have been from our boys. For example, when Martin was six years old, he made a “GC” with scribblings of a car, entitling me to three free personalized car washes! Andrej gave me a down duvet when he was about 14, and that was an enormous amount to save from a paper route. He had been hearing how I wanted a real fluffy down duvet but could not afford it! I guess what made them memorable most of all was that they truly came from the heart.

(Conclusion on Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos courtesy of the interviewees.)

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