One of the reasons why I was compelled to go home this year was that I wanted to spend the holidays with family and friends. I have not spent the holidays in the Philippines since 2010. In 2011, I spent it with the Boloquis and in 2012, I spent it quietly alone at home. Those two were firsts for me because all Christmases and New Year celebrations have always been done with my parents since I was born. It was one of my parents’ marching orders — always celebrate Christmas eve and New Year’s eve together at home with family. So when I went home this month, it was back to tradition — it’s my family’s celebration.
Personally, New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite occasion. It was not that exciting in Cincinnati, but I love how the Philippines celebrate New Year. There are parties, countdowns, and whatnots, but what I find unique about the Philippine celebration is that it’s family and a community celebration. Every household would have their different way of ushering the new year. I grew up with firecrackers, cacophony of various noise makers, media noche and the smell of burnt gunpowder. Almost every household has that and we celebrate this outside on the streets watching the noisy firecrackers or beautiful fireworks while stereos and trumpets make their noise as well. As the clock nears 12, everything is turned into a warzone as the noise from fireworks and firecrackers intensifies. And by 12, celebratory greetings are heard and we feast on the media noche — the first meal of the new year. Christmas was more of my parents’ thing. It’s more somber as my mom would just hear mass and then we wait for 12 midnight for the Noche Buena. We’ve always had Excellente Ham, Hizon’s bread and mocha cake, and hot chocolate. Other food items are variable. Yes, I enjoyed my holidays back home.
I am hoping that the coming holidays in the next few years will be similar but the future has become more uncertain as the years go by. My dad is not in his best health anymore (complications due to smoking), so I really made a conscious effort to go home for the holidays. I knew that it would be the world to him to actually celebrate Christmas and New Year as a whole family. It really hit me earlier that he was very affected when my parents brought me to the airport for my trip back home to the US. When we were saying goodbye, my dad burst into tears and I actually felt the sadness he was probably feeling of me leaving again. All I could do was shrug it off and say, sus magkikita pa naman tayo (come on, we’re still going to see each other). It is one of our hopes day by day. It’s funny that I keep saying to myself that I have already accepted *that* inevitable reality, but actually, I know that I will be a wreck. All I can probably do is to mitigate that by proper planning and advanced preparation.