Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Santa Through My Years

I TELL Mom I want Santa to give me the Nikes. She tells me she understands, but asks if it would be OK if Santa would give me the blue sweater instead. She points out the sweater on the mannequin by the window.

We are in the United Colors of Benetton of the old Greenbelt—back before we could call it the “old” Greenbelt. Mom and Tita Chi-Chi brought me to the mall for me to choose what I wanted them to give me for Christmas. And apparently Mom’s a chief negotiator for Santa, as well.

A few Decembers before, we were in Mom’s home province of Antique. Never mind not having a chimney; Santa visited the house. I sort of remember seeing him sitting at the head of the table with my lolo, speaking in the local dialect. I had my head buried in Mom’s lap. I was afraid of Santa.

Fast-forward. After Christmas dinner at Tita Violet’s old house in Diliman, we come back to the Makati condominium we are renting while we’re in town for vacation. Never mind not having a Christmas tree up, nor is there a chimney; Santa had delivered my gift. It was in a Rustan’s plastic bag. I don’t remember if it was the sweater from Benetton but it certainly looked similar. Santa must’ve talked to Mom.

I don’t think I ever truly believed in Santa Clause. I guess I’ve been cursed with skepticism from the second I popped out of the womb while Dad was having his cigarette fix outside the maternity clinic.

I don’t really understand why I chose to try to believe in Santa. I’d be giving myself too much credit if I said it was because I wanted to go along with the game my parents were playing. I sometimes think it was my own way of suppressing the fast maturation that has become an unfortunate trademark of mine.

I used to avoid Santas we’d encounter in the malls. I’m beginning to believe that it’s because with each duplicate Santa I saw within meters of each other, the farfetched dream of his realness was slipping away, along with notions about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Looking back, I find my family’s hiring of a Santa from Antique rather hilarious. It’s kind of pathetic having some poor guy with pounds of clothing on roam around in hot provincial weather in a house where dust roams freely, sticking to amber bottles of Pilsen being coddled by hoards of old drunkards. The things grownups do for kids that couldn’t care less.

My titos and titas never really appreciated me as a kid. Even in dealing with Santa, I’d show the rather grownup quality of negotiating which gift I got from whom.

Now that I’m actually grownup, my titos and titas actually look forward to kicking back with me from time to time. As a kid, I was useless because I never cooperated by acting like one. Now as an adult, other adults enjoy how I can act like washed-up 40-year-olds by talking back and debating social issues over beer and crispy pata.

Before, my titos and titas would be worried if they didn’t have a Christmas gift for their second youngest and most spoiled nephew. Today, they don’t even bother to remember to get me Christmas gifts. OK, this might be a downfall. It kind of makes me wish that Santa was real.
Photos - Noche Buena and Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve. Keepin' it ghetto; Noche Buena in the garage.

Grinched. Fuck Noche Buena; I'm drunk.

Filipiniana. Last year: fancy food and celebatory china. This year: ihaw dinner, no plates or utensils; kamayan!

Girls. My goddaughter Aly, Tita Chi-Chi (not Aly's mom), and Hershey (the dog cum Tita's daughter).

Confused. Aly's getting Halloween and Christmas mixed-up. With her Tita Cory.

Miriam/Ateneo. Cory and I. The only two grandchildren born after Ninoy was shot (I think).

Antique side. The Villanuevas (Dad's side) left early so epal kami ni Dad sa Villavert family (Mom's side) picture.



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