#7,086: Christmas Shopping! (The Filipino Shoppers)

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The time of the year wherein you write down names of your lucky Christmas gifts recipients and you somehow plan out as to when are you going to buy and what to give them. In our tribute to the Filipinos way of Christmas Shopping, let’s talk about the kinds of Filipino Christmas Shoppers…

(Photo by Howell Santiago at SM Mall of Asia, 2011)

2 kinds of Filipino Christmas Shoppers:

1. The Early Birds – In the Philippines, since Christmas season starts as early as September, expect the good mindset of Filipinos who try to gather gifts already as early as possible. They’re the ones who grab every opportunity to buy gifts especially at shops with pre-Christmas sales. The bargain hunters who have this thinking that shopping should be done as early as September to avoid the price increase and human congestion. I even got friends who buy gifts even before September. Buy as early as possible, stress free indeed.

2. The buzzer beater shoppers –  I am guilty to be of this kind, and like my other friends, we just cram all together. These Filipinos would often buy gifts during the few remaining days before Christmas Eve. This kind of Filipino Christmas Shopper usually comes to shopping malls or bargain areas, rushing, panicking, and literally rubbing elbows with the other Buzzer beater Filipino Christmas Shoppers. I remember last year, I got my mom a magic sing as a Christmas present, and I just got it around 8pm on the 24th, just before I went home for Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Feast), Buzzer beater indeed. Who’s stressed and tired during Christmas eve? This kind of Filipino Shopper. But there’s this wonderful feeling that makes you proud to say – “I just made it, I just completed the list and finished my Christmas Shopping, just in time for Christmas Eve.”

It’s that thought that counts they say. Whether you are the kind of Filipino Shopper whose gifts have been kept inside the closet months before Christmas or you just got it around 8pm on Christmas eve, what is important is the gesture – that for our loved ones, no matter how early we buy a present, or a bit late, it brings a simple joy , because we come home to remember, we come home imagining the reactions of our loved ones as they unwrap the gifts you got for them.

Christmas Shopping! (The Filipino Shoppers) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,087: The Filipinos’ pursuit of their godfathers and godmothers during Christmas!

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Move way Santa Claus… Filipinos got a lot of names on their minds first before they can even think of you!

(Photo with my dear coco, a friend told me I was really like a godfather (Ninong) here, hoho)

Not for anything, we all know that Santa Claus is one of the famous figures during Christmas (I got a simple joy to share about my Santa Claus experience soon), but in the Philippines we got a bunch of uncles and aunties, our parents’ college buddies and officemates that could satisfy what we wanted during Christmas from “Santa Claus.” Better replacement indeed =)

Time to visit, if not hunt, your godfathers (Ninong is the Filipino term) and godmothers (Ninang is the Filipino term) during Christmas, you get to see these people during this season, they’re excited to see you also and how you’ve grown since the last time they’re able to be with you.

Yes, it’s part of the Filipinos tradition, through the unwavering support of our parents to bring us around, all day, sometimes even days, just to complete the list the people who owe us some Christmas presents.

I remember my mom listing down the people we need to visit the entire day. She has a “to-visit list” for me, and for my sister too. Amazing Race? Yes, it started in the Philippines, talk about 20 houses to visit a day? We can do that in the Philippines! All for our longing to see our godfathers and godmothers, and of course, our much awaited presents. And the entire day I would ask my mom, “Ma, san na po tayo pupunta?” (Mom, where are we going next?)

Then she would mention names of my godfathers and godmothers I actually didn’t mind, I was just hoping that it keeps coming and it only gets better and better.

Managing expectations:

Two things every Filipino Kid expects when getting inside his/her beloved godfather/godmother’s house –

1. The Christmas Tree with lots of gifts under it, eyeing for the biggest present out there, with high hopes – that gift’s for you.

2. Or nothing’s under the Christmas tree, either yours is inside his/her room. Or it’s monetary! And the famous line: “Pacencia ka na ian ha hindi na nakabili si Ninong ng regalo” (apologies ian, I was not able to buy you a present) then he would suddenly hand over a small red envelope to me with money inside! And in my mind – “yes Ninong, no worries, forget the present every year, this one’s super fine! Hoho”

and more than the actual Christmas gifts, it’s the reconnection during the visits that brings simple joy. You won’t be spending the entire day in one house for sure, but quick as it seems, once a year, you share with your Ninongs and Ninangs much awaited stories, much awaited observations as to how you’ve grown up and the achievements you did all year round proudly shared by your parents and most importantly, much awaited love.

The Filipinos’ pursuit of their godfathers and godmothers during Christmas! – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,088: The Filipinos’ Christmas Gift-giving!

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Because Christmas is also about giving!

Whenever Christmas comes, expect that there are a lot of gift giving activities everywhere in the Philippines. Companies, schools, organizations – ready to share what they have to those who have less.

Filipinos visit orphanage and home for the aged to share time, resources and love. Filipinos visit these people who were left behind by their own families. Because we want these people to feel the essence of Christmas through our presence, that much as Christmas is about a well spent time with your family, during this season, it bonds even people who are unfamiliar with each other, one great magic this season brings.

We come to orphanage and home for the aged as strangers, after some hours spent with these people, we leave these institutions with smile on our faces. We leave these institutions with this simple joy, that we were able to share ourselves with them.

The Filipinos’ Christmas Gift-giving! – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,089: The Philippines’ Christmas Cool Breeze!

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Time to bring out your jackets! Christmas in the Philippines becomes an opportunity to bring out your collection of coats and jackets!

One way to really feel the Christmas in the Philippines, literally, weather becomes colder, especially during nights.

The simple joy of realizing it’s cold, but not too much that it pains your body (like the coldness in other countries). Just the exact coolness the country needs to remind the Filipinos, literally that – hey, It’s Christmas, weather’s cool already!

So it motivates everybody to bond more, to go out, and feel the Christmas season. When you get out during nights, you would see a bunch of friends, or families, each wearing their wonderful jacket. Everybody’s enjoying the coldness together, laughing their hearts out.

Not a white Christmas for sure, never will be, but such coolness of the weather is somehow enough to feel that yes, it’s a wonderful season again, then add the wonderful Filipino smile, and everything else in between. That what makes the Philippines’ Christmas celebration really special.

The Philippines’ Christmas Cool Breeze – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,090: The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Playlist)

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After the venues and caroling gears, what is caroling without the famous Christmas playlist?

As to how many songs your group must sing really depends on the owners of the house where you are currently showcasing your wonderful voices, customized musical instruments and most of all, your prepared playlist.

So what are the common songs we would often hear?

“Whenever I see boys and girls selling lanterns on the street…”

Back when I was a kid (just some few years ago), with my playmates in Paranaque, that used to be our signature song – “Christmas in our Hearts.” And even before we reach the fifth stanza of the song, the simple joy’s being handed over already – our Aguinaldos (Aguinaldo is the Christmas Caroling reward – usually in the form of money) plus some candies, Simple joys! And after receiving these simple joys, of course there’s our thank you song..

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

With my playmates in my grandmother’s place, we used to have a different set of songs:

“Sa may bahay ang aming bati, Merry Christmas na maluwalhati…” (To the houseowner our greeting is a glorious Merry Christmas!)

“Tuwing sasapit ang pasko, bumibili ang nanay ko..”  (Whenever Christmas comes, my mom buys….)

And after receiving our reward, we would sing: Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo (you are all so kind), thank you!

Reality bites…the most painful thing to happen during a caroling?

That while you’re singing such feel good Christmas songs, with all your enthusiasm, someone from that house suddenly shouts – PATAWAD! (Sorry).

So how does Filipino kids make fun of such a disappointing reply? Louder than the way they sounded earlier, they would sing:

“Thank you thank you, ang babarat ninyo (you are all stingy), thank you!”

It sounds bad and mean I know, but if you were a kid, that’s only a way of making fun after a rejection.

And then the kids move on, with hopes that the next house they are about to share they’re wonderful songs wont be as hard as the earlier one.  That whenever they stand in front of each Filipino home to share their wonderful Christmas songs, they’d be rewarded, not because they’re really good in singing and their songs were superb, but because it’s Christmas, and it’s enough reason for the owner of the house to share a little of anything for these dedicated carolers.

The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Playlist) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,091: The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Musical Instruments)

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Need not to buy or look for real musical instruments, in the Philippines, a lot of items you probably thought should just be sent to trash bins could be used as caroling gears!

In #7,092 simple joy, I was comparing my caroling adventure with playmates from two different places – caroling inside a Subdivision and caroling around the Barangay. Time now to appreciate the simple joys when it comes to creating customized musical instruments!

The good thing about my playmates in our subdivision, they had musical instruments toys, so logistics hadn’t been a problem. We got tambourine and drums, instantly! No sweat, not much preparations, not much thrill too.

The resourcefulness I learned from my Barangay playmates, no financial capital! Need not to buy those toys, just a combination of human capital and social capital…

Together, we would use empty milk cans – put a plastic on its mouth, seal it with a rubber band, and poof – instant drum! The drumstick? Barbeque stick is okay!

What more? We can also make a tambourine! My playmates and I would go to a Sari Sari (Variety) Store and collect empty soft drink crowns scattered around the store, we’ll flatten it, put a hole in the middle, and put it all together in a galvanized wire (“Alambre” is the Filipino term) and there it goes, instant tambourine!

When everything has been created, it’s time for sound check and rehearsal! Yes, we would even assess the sound of our milk can drums to know if it blends well with our wonderful voices. Sometimes, the thickness or even thinness of the plastic that was used could affect the sound, and it takes a well-experienced caroling playmate to know the beauty of its sound, and that well experienced playmate will be the one to add more rubber bands or totally change the plastic.

And with all those instruments up and running, be it a ready made toy drums set or a customized tambourine, the Filipino kids are ready to sing their hearts out and bring the warmth of Christmas – right in front of the Filipino homes.

The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Musical Instruments) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,092: The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Venue)

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If there’s another reason why Filipino kids really look forward to celebrating Christmas, it’s because of this simple joy, their Version of Christmas Caroling!

And as early as September, you will encounter Filipino Kids approaching your home , singing their excellent track of Christmas songs…

I grew up in two different places, in a subdivision (when my Dad and Mom were still together, somewhere in Paranaque) and in one of the Barangays (smallest administrative division in the Philippines) in Pasig, when I was brought by my mom to my grandmother’s place. By experience, let me share the simple joys of conducting a caroling in these target markets, a comparison of the Barangay and Subdivision potentials:

Initial action:

Barangay-  Just focus and listen if there’s someone inside the house, listen if there’s a television currently running, or  if the lights were on, or the voices of the family members.

Subdivision – There’s doorbell my dear,so press it and wait for the maid to come out – and yes, she has standard instructions – if her boss gave her a budget for the christmas caroling, then no worries, you just have to sing in front of her. OR if her boss is currently inside, then you have to sing and she will approach her boss.

Your track of Christmas songs:

Barangay – you need to complete the entire set of songs your group has prepared. Sing as loud as you can, sing every Christmas song you know, they need to feel and see your group’s dedication, and for some who will make fun of you, they will even look for some actions, or even dancing. Sometimes they would show a bigger amount of money, and with that, you have to sing whatever song they will request.

Subdivision: just a few stanzas would do, english please, no sweat, the lowest you can get is 20 pesos.

Assessing your target market:

Barangay: My friends and I will assess the houses, sometimes we even check it with other groups as to how’s the business doing in such houses.

Subdivision: ain’t skipping any house, every house in a subdivision offers endless possibilities, the potential is just so huge =)

Funny how kids in the Philippines learn business assessment at such age. Take it from me. more to come about this simple joy. watch out!

The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling (Venue) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.