Christmas 2017

Some parts of the United States have seen significant snowfall early this season. Even in places that rarely see snow, like Atlanta Georgia and Texas had some snow this December.

But not here in Iowa. We have been dry the whole month of December. Though 2 days ago we had some dusting of snow. The snow fall was so little that they melted few hours later. I thought we missed our chance of having a white Christmas this year.

Then this Christmas eve, snow came to our area. We’ll have another white Christmas after all!

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Like the anticipated snow fall here, the coming of the Messiah was long-awaited by his people some two thousand years ago. Yet when he came, they missed it! Only the unsuspecting shepherds came and some wise men from far away foreign land.

Today, I hope we don’t miss the reason for this season. And it’s not the snow.

Merry Christmas every one!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Iba Namang White Christmas

Habang ako’y nagda-drive pauwi kagabi ay aking napuna na may mga butil-butil ng niebe (snow) na lumilipad. Matagal-tagal na rin namang kaming naghihintay ng snow, kahit na hindi ko paboritong libangan ang mag-shovel nito. Sabi kasi sa aming weather forecast, maaaring magkaroon daw kami ng 1-2 inches ng snow. Yey, White Christmas!

Pagbangon ko kaninang umaga ay dumungaw ako kaagad sa labas. Kakarampot naman pala ang snow na bumagsak. Ang kuripot naman!

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Dahil konting-konti lang ang aming snow (above photo), siguradong malulusaw at maglalaho na ang lahat ng ito bago pa mag-Pasko. Sang-ayon ulit sa aming weather forecast, wala na kaming  snow fall bago mag-Pasko dito sa Iowa. Mapupurnada yata ang aming White Christmas!

Nainggit tuloy ako sa mga lugar dito sa Amerika na maraming snow ngayong Pasko. Noong nakaraang araw lang, ay pinadalhan ako ng aming kaibigan ng photo na kuha niya mula sa Morristown, New Jersey (photo below). Parang scene sa Frozen ang dating.

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Sa Morristown, New Jersey ako unang napadpad at nanirahan dito sa Amerika. Tatlong taon din akong lumagi doon. Dito ko naranasan ang aking kauna-unahang White Christmas, na noon ay nakikita ko lamang sa mga pictures. Dito ko nasabing para akong nakatira sa loob ng Christmas card.

Nang ako’y bata pa at naninirahan sa Maynila, hindi ko inakalang ako’y makakaranas ng White Christmas. Nagkakasya na ako sa mga dekorasyon namin sa aming classroom sa paaralan ng mga Christmas tree na pinuno ng mga bulak para magmukhang may snow. Sa bulak lang masaya na ako.

Tapos sa klase kakanta kami ng “Dashing through the snow” at “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas.” Ano ba naman ang malay ko sa snow at White Christmas? Alam ko lang noon ay “dashing through the flood!” Kinakanta rin namin ‘yung “Frosty, the Snowman.” Pero ‘yung Frosty alam ko at gusto ko. Ito ay isang brand ng ice candy noong bata ako. Masarap siya!

Taong 1991 nang nakaranas ako na pumuti ang kalsada sa Maynila. Pag-gising ko isang umaga at sa pagdungaw ko sa labas, ay nakita kong medyo maputi ang aming paligid. Nag-snow sa Maynila?! Pero nang aking kilatisin, hindi ito snow, kundi abo pala! Abo mula sa pagsabog ng Mt. Pinatubo.

Taong 1994, aking nilisan ang Pilipinas. Hindi para makakita ng snow o maghukay ng yelo, pero para tugisin ang aking mga pangarap sa buhay.

Ngayon, makatapos kong maranasan ang marami ng White Christmas, iba na ang gusto ko sa Pasko. Ibang puti na ang gusto ko, hindi snow. Puti, tulad ng puting buhangin sa beach ng Zambales.  Puti, tulad ng kesong puti sa loob ng bagong lutong pandesal. Puti, tulad ng bagong kaskas na niyog sa ibabaw ng puto bungbong.

Umulan na lang sana ng bagong kaskas na niyog. Samahan na rin sana ng pag-ulan ng puto bungbong at bibingka. Teka, masakit yatang mabagsakan ng bibingka!

Hay, nami-miss ko na naman ang Pilipinas.

Sa lahat ng mga Pilipino sa iba’t-ibang lupalop ng mundo, ano mang puti ang pumapaligid sa inyo – maging ito’y snow, o kaya’y abo at lahar, o puting buhangin at malinaw na dagat, o kaya’y disyerto, o mga puting semento, o kaya nama’y mga kumpol na bulak, o tambak ng puting basura, o kaya’y maging bagong kayod na niyog – kayong lahat ay aking binabati ng Maligayang Pasko!

 

 

Christmas 2015

We are experiencing a seasonably warm December right now. In fact we have more rain than snow this month, that we had flooding in downtown Des Moines these past couple of weeks. Yesterday it felt weird that we even had a thunderstorm, with lightnings and pouring rain this late in the year. Is this Iowa winter?

Come to think of it, if it has been cold enough, with all this moisture in our area, this could all be snow!

I know it’s not just here in the Midwest that we are experiencing the relatively warm weather, but also in other parts of the US. Some friends of ours in New York City even posted in Facebook that it was 70º F today there. I guess there will be no snow in Central Park this Christmas.

Experts said that it is El Niño, the periodic warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, accounting for this phenomenon. Or is this global warming?

It’s not that I am complaining, for I’ll rather have a warm day than freeze, but my children have been wishing for snow for Christmas, just like the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” And they may not be the only ones who are praying for snow.

Then today, on this Christmas eve, it came. Santa Claus? No. Snow!

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We will have white Christmas after all.

From our family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas!

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

 

White Christmas

I am dreaming of a white Christmas. Not!

A warm Christmas maybe. A brown Christmas will do. Or better yet, a green (as in tropical!) Christmas.

I agree a white Christmas is so beautiful and iconic. Until you realize you need to shovel that pile of snow in your driveway in the subfreezing temperature. And there’s nothing beautiful in the bitter cold unless you are a polar bear.

But whether it is white, or brown, or green, or red, or even pink, that is not important. For Christmas is not about snow or colors. It is about the birth of a Redeemer, that though my sins are like scarlet, He made them as white as snow.

In that sense, it is a white Christmas after all. Have a blessed Christmas!

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(*photo taken last winter)

I’m Dreaming of a Warm Christmas

The following article was published in Manila Standard Today on Dec. 11, 2010, in their Diaspora section.

I wake up; our bedroom was freezing. I rise and crank up the heater so I can at least feel my toes. I clear the frost in my windowpane to take a look outside. It has been snowing all night and the snow has not relented, blanketing everything, surrounding us in white. The snow in the ground was getting deeper, so I decide it is time to shovel and clear up our driveway before we get buried inside.

As I put my thermals, sweater, parka, hat, muffler, snow boots, and gloves on, I hear Bing Crosby on the radio singing: “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I use to know.” My mind wanders.

I first heard “White Christmas” many, many years ago while growing up in the streets of Manila. I had no idea what a white Christmas was then, but it did not stop me from singing that song. I like the part “to hear sleigh bells in the snow” even though I had no clue what sleigh bells were. Now I understand why the Philippines can only dream of a white Christmas — unless our planet Earth go into another ice age.

White Christmas (image from hubpages.com)

The first time I experienced snow was quite memorable. I was so excited to see snow coming down from the sky that I ran out of the apartment with barely a jacket on. I like the way it felt and tickled my face and tongue as it gently falls. I scooped up a handful from the ground with my bare hands and made a snowball. Not too long after, though, I started shivering and my hands turned to white and then blue from the biting cold. I had to run back inside for shelter. But it was a beautiful sight to see when all the ground is white, glistening under the moonlight, and reflecting the Christmas lights. That was the first time I felt like living inside a Christmas card.

Not too long thereafter, I experienced my first blizzard. It did not stop snowing for a couple of days until the snow was almost three feet deep. It buried our town. I was stranded in my workplace for 2 days. My wife and I were so ill-equipped for snow at that time. We had no snow boots yet, so we tied plastic bags to cover our rubber shoes when we went out and walked in the nearly waist-deep snow. Then we used a broom and a dustpan to excavate our car which was virtually submerged in snow. It was a good thing that after some time of digging with a dust pan, a good neighbor saw us and lent us a real snow shovel.Still, it took us more than an hour to get our car free.

Now, after years of living in an “icebox” and dealing with bone-chilling cold winter, I am sick of clearing and shoveling snow. I am also tired of driving, or should I say slipping and sliding, through snow, sleet, and ice. Now I feel I should drive a sleigh (only with sleigh bells of course) pulled by reindeers when the road is covered with snow. I even got stuck in the snow once and needed my car pushed and towed. And in days like these, a white Christmas is the farthest thing I’m dreaming of.

What I am dreaming of? I am dreaming of a WARM Christmas! Just like the ones I use to know.

colorful parols

I am dreaming of a place where I can hear the distant church bells ring in the early morning calling for the “simbang gabi”,  where I can smell the freshly cooked puto bungbong and bibingka being prepared at the corner street, where I can see the bright and colorful “parols” and their “kumukutikutitap” lights, where I can hear the street children sing “Ang pasko ay sumapit” while beating their  makeshift drums made of tin can and clanging their  bottle crowns (“tansan”), where I can taste the arroz caldo, kare-kare, and relyenong bangus prepared in our home, where I can share with the joy and laughter of my childhood friends, where I can feel the warm embrace of lolo, lola, tito, tita, kuya, ate, tatay and nanay, where I can…….

The blast of the Arctic air snapped me back to the reality of the present, as I open the door to go outside. Yes, I am cold, and very, very far away from the warm place I always known as home.

I was so homesick, feeling sorry for myself.  Then a thought occurs: being far away from home is the very essence of the first Christmas — when Jesus left the comfort of His heavenly home and came to this lowly planet and spent His first night here on earth, in a humble and cold stable.

On this holiday season, wherever you are, home or far away from home, I wish you a merry and blessed Christmas.