Wednesday, December 24, 2008


CHRISTMAS in the Philippines, one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia, is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season lasting up until Epiphany.
Imagine this. Heartbreaking typhoons, nonstop rains, battering thunderstorms from early June to (most of the time) late November – and over 100 degrees of heat and humid from March till late May... A chronically gasping economy that relies on its “absent” people (or, Overseas Filipino Workers, AKA OFWs) who send the almighty dollar—as in, $17 billion last year (up from 14.7 billion the previous year). (Foreign investments only amount to $7 million in 2008; a good chunk of this money go to the pockets of wholesale government corruption.)
I tried to dial the numbers of my relatives in Manila and Baguio City (up north), five hours ago—but to no avail. I pay Time Warner my 3-in-1 (cable/phone/internet) service on time, roughly $110 a month (excluding some “hidden fee” that occasionally pops in). But they couldn’t help me at this moment.
A week ago, my boss in San Francisco deposited money on my Wells Fargo account (from Bank of America). A week ago. For some reason, the money hasn’t cleared yet. I spent maybe 8 hours each day in the last three days talking to bank tellers (“I am sorry, the manager is not available right now”) and bank managers (“Your boss needs to fax us a letter”). They couldn’t help me.
Last night, at Viento y Agua Café, I read a poem by Filipino novelist Carlos Bulosan about “Life as a foreign language, and how every man mispronounce it,” and a new poem I wrote, “Perfect Man, Imperfect Man.” A few moments of respite.
I wonder what’s happening in a northern Siberian town of Oymyakon right at this moment of Christmas. “The coldest permanently inhabited place on earth.” The lowest recorded temperature there is 71.2 degrees Celsius, the lowest officially recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere. The village has a population of around 800 and is located 690 meters above sea level and lies in a valley between two mountain ranges (the reason for the low temperatures). I saw these people on YouTube, they seem to be happy… like my people back home, at this moment.
Thinking about this, feeling about this… I tell myself, “It’s okay, you are luckier.” There are many villages in my home country where they don’t even have electricity or enough “holiday foods” to share. While rains or war rage outside. But for some reason, they are HAPPY.
Here is a short prose that I wrote years ago, for you beautiful people:

SOMETIMES we need rituals to intercede—mediate or simply act as pesky little go-betweens—when life suddenly becomes a wee bit too functional for occasional intangibles to penetrate the security locks of our convenient lives.
These are the magic moments when cash registers suddenly forget to add and multiply, greenbacks turn pale yellow, Wall Street becomes obsolete, traffic lights turn blue, and microchips fall in love with viruses.
Moments when a child’s angelic grin melts icebergs, a two-line poetry outwits volumes of mathematical theories, a warm kiss dissolves a hundred world wars, a silent flute pacifies nukes, and the mere presence of a Muse changes the tone of day.
So what if it’s Christmas? So what if we dance the rhumba while snow falls, and kids wait for Santa? So what… Sweet rituals like these don’t fit on square room spaces, neither do they read rules or heed time, or measure distances.
They just happen. And when they do happen, reason loses sting and logic fumbles to forgetfulness.
This time, the heart conquers and rules – and definitely – that ain’t meant to be broken.

--Pasckie Pascua
12:09 noontime.
24 December 2009
Lakewood, North Carolina


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