Almost two months after Typhoon Ondoy my house still suggests a mix of Lysol, Winrox, Axion, Baygon, Speed Babad, Murphy Oil Soap, Pledge, Ajax, and various other cleansers, insect sprays, air fresheners, etc. In the evenings, we squirt our beds and pillows with some sweet-smelling spray to enable us to sleep peacefully.
Almost two months after Ondoy, prices of vegetables are still up there. Happily, fruits are sold at almost pre-Ondoy prices.
Almost two months after Ondoy and a month before Christmas and my neighbours are heady about Christmas. Many houses are well lit with Christmas bulbs in the evenings and Christmas decorations are up. My own Christmas tree is almost done. My son has been going around Metro Manila taking pictures of beautiful Christmas scenes for his Around Philippines fan page at Facebook.
I think we are ready to forget Ondoy and move on with Christmas as our anchor.
You can hardly move around Divisoria even on a Monday with so many shoppers on a budget looking for affordable gift items. Also, there are so many entrepreneurs buying goods wholesale that they could resell.
That makes me think about "giving." Do we really need to give gifts on account of Christmas? Some say that we must follow the example of the Three Kings who brought symbolic gifts to Baby Jesus. I say, yes, but they did not give each other gifts; they did not give the shepherds gifts either.
I, therefore, conclude that we only need to give gifts to Jesus to commemorate that first Christmas. What could we give Jesus? By becoming HIs image and likeness in everything we think, feel, say and do. Every day, not just on Christmas day.
But how do we buck this tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas? I suggest a shift from material gifts to more meaningful and useful gifts that imitate the gifts of the Three Magi: to honor and respect, to divine and to consecrate the Babe in the manger. And here are some examples for individual gift giving. I guarantee that you will enjoy the giving as much as the recipient will enjoy your gift.
• Visit a friend or family who lives alone or who is sick
• Fix something in your house or your friend's house or workplace that's been broken for years now.
• Give potted fruit bearing plants, e.g. calamansi and finger chili
• Clean up your own mess
• Bring your mom and dad to the seaside very early in the morning
• Vivaldi's Four Seasons CD
• Borrow a projector and have a movie marathon on a big screen (white linen on your wall) at home with your family. Provide comfortable pillows, popcorn and soft drinks.
• Make your own mushy Christmas card or poster
• Watch and identify the stars, constellations and other celestial objects on a bright December evening. I use the book Star Guide: learn how to read the night sky star by star as my reference. Or you can just Google them.
• Spend time listening to a troubled person woes. Resist the temptation to interrupt, to give advice, or to admonish; just listen. A pair of listening ears is all they need.
• Take your dear ones on a swing around Manila onboard the MRT, LRT1 & LRT2. The view from the trains is amazing. You may also try the Pasig River Boat and the PNR Commuter Train.
• Red lipstick
• Watch the sun rise or set atop your roof.
• Give your spouse and househelp a break, order takeout. Give caterers business this Christmas season.
• Go swimming or biking or whatever on Christmas day.
• If you insist, a gift check for spa treatment
• If you really insist, an all expense paid vacation package in Caramoan, Cam Sur.
It's okay to give material gifts that will absolutely be used by the recipient. I asked one son to give me a computer table and the other son an oven toaster as early Christmas gifts. My old ones drowned in flood and are now rickety. I have a thousand other ideas for consequential individual and corporate gift-giving. Make your own and share them with us.