lights, camera, family!

by Melissa

Family is central to the story of the Philippines…  I have been immersed in this truth on various occasions since I last wrote.  In November there was Undas-  All Saints and All Souls Day.  This is the day where everybody goes to the cemetery to visit  family members who have passed on.  There are flowers and candles and food for the dead.  There is music and food for the living too.  The cemetery is alive!  I went too, to visit my Lolo at Lola in the public cemetery in Alabang.  It is ”apartment style” five or six tombstones on top of each other…  On the way we passed tens of thousands of people and a carnival with a ferris wheel-turned-rollercoaster.  My Tita asked if I wanted to ride but I declined!  It was going so fast!

I wish I had pics of this… but I have a strange  complex with pictures that involves some combination of  a) remembering to bring my camera and b) having the guts to take pictures and c) a philosophy of not wanting to live for the future

Sometimes I feel like I purposely don’t bring a camera so I can stay in the moment… And I sometimes get chided for this by friends and family.  But really, it still happened, right, even if you don’t have proof!

On Undas, we did a full rosary in the crowded space in between  the vertical columns of graves.  I was touched somehow that a few onlookers joined us in the ceremony.  Can’t hurt to have a few extra voices join the chorus.

Since then, its been the holiday season.  Christmas here is a two month ordeal.  I have had the privilege of celebrating with the Lantern Parade at UP, my dad visiting, a few spiritual gatherings for 2012 and the solstice, multiple meals with family, and of course the ritual of gift-giving.

With my family in Alabang, just like last year, I played the role of sexy Santa- giving gifts of clothes, games, toys.  This season I also got to do a bit of gift-grabbing during my office Christmas party and also with the Duwendes.   This entailed buying gifts to exchange and then flipping cards to see who can grab the most gifts.  Haha.  I ended up with a pair of blue shorts, a notebook, a malong, and a reusable bag…

I tried to minimize the almost-garbage quality of Christmas too… wanting to participate and yet maintain an environmental conscience.  Its hard to do this with the amount of plastic that emerges here (everywhere) for the holiday season. I guess if you only have 20 pesos to spend, all you get is plastic.  But there is an alternative.  I ended up buying many last-minute gifts (on the 24th) under the bridge in Quiapo.  There are many stalls selling Philippine handicraft made of wood, bamboo, shells, and indigenous fiber.  There’s a tradition here of thrift, making the most of something…   but it seems as though there were few customers on this last busy shopping day.  I added that to my bucket list of things to do in the Philippines:  visit the ports, where cheap goods from China etc. are dumped for the Philippine market.  It really changes everything.

There’s one kind of almost-garbage though that I’m into here: cheap LEDs.  At all the events and public places in Manila, there are always these vendors selling lights.  The kind derived from glow sticks, quite exclusively for kids and stoners.  Lights are a simple pleasure here, and I suppose, I have fallen in their favour.   My favorite being  the slingshot LED parachute that goes 100 feet in the air.  This is my guilty-pleasure 20 peso piece of plastic…P1030422

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