Brecia, or Isyang, as what I fondly call her, is my best buddy in high school. During Christmas time, we usually spent our nights in Cainta, Rizal (at their old grandma’s house), letting the night pass us by, talking about what gifts we want to receive, the clothes we’ll wear in our party, and what we want to eat while munching V-cut or Chippy which we bought from nearby 7-Eleven.
For years, we exchanged gifts just because, even how simple it was, from letters and simple singing greeting cards to handcrafted scrapbooks and self-made bookmarks.
But that was all before. She is now in the United States with her family where she resides for good. After that, my Christmas without my friend has been all different.
It has been three years since she left. Now, she is thousands of miles apart from me, from us, her friends. Days of greeting each other during Christmas season, of giving gifts, of visiting their house and of waking up at dawn for Simbang Gabi have been replaced with short chats on Facebook and limited phone calls during special occasions.
But this article is not about me missing her physical presence and all. And that how we miss her dearly not just during Christmas but all year round is, of course, another story worthy to be told in an another write-up. Oh how I love to do that. An essay on friendship for our barkada with cheesy recalls on traveling down memory lane can be a sort of Christmas present for her.
Yes, I know. I’m a bit drifting here.
Well anyway, in one of our rare long chats, I asked her about how she has been celebrating her Christmas for the past three years, since she can be my topic in our online journalism article requirement. Oh yes, this was the reason why I’m writing this.
First, I asked her how it feels to be celebrating the Yuletide season in a country away from what she has been used to. She said that, at first, it felt weird. The climate, the people around, the different environment, and the adjustment period.
But their Christmas celebration, for three years, has still been a merry one.
What they have been used to before was still present in their every celebration. Though she misses a lot of things, she said it still feels, somehow, like home.
Her mother finds time to cook her favourites like spaghetti, crispy pata, shanghai and macaroni salad. They usually share them with their neighbours who, in exchange, also give what their share of ham, turkey and pie they have prepared for noche buena.
Their family tradition of giving gifts has not also faded. They would always put their Christmas presents under their Christmas tree and wait for the Christmas Eve to open the gifts.
Because she also now has a work in a perfume company, she managed to buy herself, as a Christmas gift, a car, which she has to pay for four years. She also saves money to give gifts for her siblings and mother. She compared that in Sacramento, she, her co-workers, and her sister always have drinking sessions together after work during Christmas day since it is not a holiday. They also find time to visit yearly the Parade of Lights in Orangevale, California were they love to take pictures and have an afternoon picnic.
But still, she misses the Philippine culture of celebrating Christmas—a Christmas filled with Christmas carols, videoke with friends (drinking sessions sometimes), the abundance of food and the exchange of gifts. She said she misses them so much. So much that she always wishes to be here even just for Christmas and New Year. To be with other relatives, to hear street kids sing Christmas carols and even share candies packed in ice plastics.
Attending simbang gabi, for instance, has been her tradition with our barkada for two years before she left for States. We recalled how we woke up at pre-dawn, without even taking a bath, then heading towards their church ion Cainta, Rizal for the mass. She laughed when she remembered how we all shared with a little puto bumbong while enduring the colds of the Christmas weather because we forget to bring our jackets.
But she now lives in Sacramento where she hangs out with a new bunch of people, deals in a different culture and settings in her lifetime.
However, our barkada never ceases to keep on touch for even just a single message in Facebook saying how she misses us mean a lot to us. This makes our friendship even stronger amidst the vast ocean and continent that separate us.
It was good to reminisce our past memories together, though it seems that we have to wait for a long time, years, or decades perhaps, to experience those again with her, and with our other friends. But still, I know, Christmas, in its deepest essence, is the time to celebrate the birth of the Lord and the joy of having our loved ones, though some are miles apart. Christmas is not about the physical presence of love ones (though it sill counts) nor the distance. Its about spreading and giving love.– Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos