The holiday season has always kind of been jam-packed for our family because this is what it looks like:
- Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve
- Dec. 25 – Christmas Day
- Dec. 26 – Dad’s birthday
- Dec. 27 – Mom & Dad’s anniversary
- Dec. 29 – Grandmother’s birthday
- Dec. 31 – New Years Eve
This year is even more so because of the fact that it’s my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted to do their silver anniversary back in the Philippines with their family, so here we are. My biggest complaint so far is that this does not feel like Christmas in the least bit. Yes, are Christmas trees and snowflakes all over the place (even in the Philippines which I seriously doubt has seen a legitimate snowflake in real life). And yes, places are blaring Christmas music (including inside the airplanes during boarding and disembarking). But the fact of the matter is that Christmas is no longer the same as it used to be. And it’s not just this trip that’s making the difference.
The song that this entry is named after has the lyrics “my world is changing / I’m rearranging / Does that mean Christmas changes too?” Yes, Faith Hill, that’s exactly what it means. The first real shock was two years ago. I had just started working as a nurse in an emergency room north of Austin. The problem was A) my family lives 3-3.5 hours away depending on who is driving and B) I had just started, so I was literally at the bottom of the totem pole on choosing holidays. So I was working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. TL;DR I was bawling my eyes out like a damn baby out in the parking lot on the phone with my parents at midnight of Christmas Eve because I was missing the family tradition of sitting in my parents’ living room opening presents with my brother.
Thankfully, last year, I bought a house, so I hosted Christmas, which was nice because I could work have Christmas Eve off, work Christmas Day and not miss anything. But I missed having the extended family around.
Now this year, we’re halfway around the world. First off, I worked the three days prior to our departure from Houston, so I got off of work on day three, finished packing, and my brother and I drove down to Baytown. Needless to say, I was already tired going into the trip. Second, I hate traveling with other people. I’d rather do my own thing, but Christmas (and my parents’ anniversary) are a big family thing, so we traveled together. We started off in Manila sharing a one bedroom condo between five people. On top of the culture shock of getting to the Philippines, I started this trip off basically irritated with everybody.
Then we get to the whole thing about how, other than my family, I don’t really identify too well with the Philippines. Food, meh (except they have seafood and lots of it, so I’m eating the hell out of that). The language…I’m relatively fluent in Ilonggo, so it hasn’t been a huge issue here in Bacolod, but in Manila where they speak Tagalog, and I don’t…yeah…screwed. And don’t even get me started on the whole three-day anxiety attack that was me coping with Philippine traffic.
But then yesterday, we had just gone to an Aguinaldo Mass at Redemptorist(4am Mass complete with a dance routine during the Gloria), finished an AYCE breakfast at L’Fisher Hotel, and I’m browsing Facebook on my phone while my dad drives, and I see a post from some random relative that friended me seven years ago after my first trip to the Philippines saying that Tito Toti died (Tito/Tita is just like the Spanish Tio/Tia for uncle/aunt. Toti is a nickname. They come up with the weirdest ones here. Don’t ask me how). So I ask my parents who this cousin is and who Tito Toti is. And my parents answer me, so I’m just like wait, this cousin just said he died. At that point, I realized I should have chosen my words a bit more tactfully (which is not my strong suit in the least bit) and we rerouted to my mom’s family’s “complex”* while my mom was frantically dialing an aunt to verify this story. The worst part about this whole thing is that literally a month ago, this uncle’s sister died of cancer, so their mother just lost two kids right around the holidays.
On top of that, I got news that another one of my aunts, who was already in the hospital for a syncopal episode probably caused by intractable nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, had severe rectal bleeding and was being transferred to the ICU. Unfortunately for her, she’s at the hospital in Baytown, which is a glorified “band-aid hospital” in which (between shadowing some nurses there and my mother’s stories from when she worked there) I wouldn’t entrust the care for anyone I even remotely cared for.
Regardless, it’s been a stressful week. And other than a “midnight mass” that happened at 7pm, there hasn’t been much Christmas to this whole holiday. It’s been nice to see the extended family for the first time in seven years, but I miss my house, I miss my bed, reliable plumbing, central air, reliable wifi, my friends, and most of all, actually feeling like it’s Christmas.
Despite all of this, I hope you and yours have a safe and blessed Christmas and take the time to appreciate who and what you have.
* My mom’s family basically lives within the same block of each other and most of their houses are connected and can be accessed through the same alleyway.