Thursday, December 24, 2015

Boyhood Christmas before the ashes of Pinatubo came falling down

Christmas was so much simple then, long before Mt Pinatubo covered our childhood playgrounds with almost a meter of ashes from its hot bowels.

Pregnant Mary and Joseph. Painting by Badz Magsumbol.
Neighborhood kids went caroling with a limited repertoire of Christmas songs learned from grade school: Silent Night, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Whispering Hope, this last one seemed to be, in my recollection, the favorite.  Ang Pasko ay Sumapit was an alien song in our Ilocano corner of Zambales province when info tech was still limited to the radio after six o'clock in the evening (electricity was available only at night) and later, the transistor. No one had a TV (black and white) set.

Carolers were happy to receive a few centavos: ten was already big deal. When nobody came down to give a little reward to the ad hoc kids' choir, the house owners were challenged through a song: "Bulong ti apatot / Pascuayo a naimot / Umulog ti makarurod / Ta narnaran mi ti dandanog!" [Leaves of the noni plant / are Christmas gifts for the selfish / Come down if you're angry / And we will pummel you with hand blows!]

Midnight mass on Christmas eve was enjoyed by the innocent minds because of the 'walking star'. The church lights were turned off, and a big lighted bamboo lantern floated down from the choir loft to the tableaux of images of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds and the Three Kings, and an angel above them, at one front side of the altar.

That mass was strictly at midnight, not any earlier like today. The dawn masses were very early at four o'clock in the morning, which my father did not miss because an hour later, he'd take the bus to his work at the US naval base an hour away from our town. 

Mary and Joseph arrive at the manger. Painting by Badz Magsumbol.
Christmas day was really for children even if there were no malls or theme parks or fairs to spend the holiday. There were no high-tech toys to expect from relatives or god-parents (we were pioneers in recycling empty cans to toy cars). Children were on there own to ask for Christmas gifts, which were usually candies or suman (parents advised to bring bags for these native fare), around the barrio. God-parents gave at most ten centavos, a salapi (50 centavos) was already a fortune. 

Our family reunion was at an aunt's house. She was a widow of an American serviceman she married in Cavite before Japanese bombs fell at the start of the Second World War. She was in a better position to host a family gathering. She could buy goodies from the commissary in Subic Bay, hence, 'American' candies esp. M&M were our childhood treasures. Our luncheon table teemed with imported fruits, a privilege to American dependents at that time: apples and grapes.

What I remember fondly was the arroz Valenciana, which another aunt prepared only for the Christmas day reunion. So many light years between Christmas pasts and today as our nephew who took up culinary arts is now busy preparing the seafood paella for the family noche buena of Christmas 2015. 

Misa de Gallo starts at 8:30 this evening, and the feast to celebrate more than two thousand years of the birth of Jesus Christ would be around 10 o'clock.

Jesus, Maria y Josef. Painting by Badz Magsumbol.

Naimbag a Pacuayo [Ilocano]!  Maligayang Pasko [Filipino]! Merry Christmas [English]! Feliz Navidad [Hispanic]!

No comments:

Post a Comment