BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro
Christmas parties postponed. Caroling banned. Balikprobinsiya discouraged.
Avoid pandemic superspreader risks: 4 am Simbang Gabi, masked; Zoomigos, Zoomigas meet in virtual talk-see get-togethers.
Some 11,708 Filipinos in 82 countries are COVID-sick, according to Department of Foreign Affairs.
More than 683,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are applying for COVID cash assistance, says Department of Labor and Employment.
Some 333,697 OFWs have been repatriated since March, says National Task Force against COVID-19.
Yet, over 100,000 prefer to stay to work more days in job sites, DOLE adds.
During pre-COVID times overseas, “our (Christmas) celebrations seek to ease homesickness among our kababayan away from home this time of the year when they should be celebrating with their loved ones,” says former Labor Attache Dr. Elizabeth Recio.
“While everyone is busy lighting candles, crowding around the evergreen tree, and opening gifts, our five-pointed star is dedicated to health care professionals who can’t come home during the holidays and make the best of the situation attending to the needs of their patents, the recipients of medical service,” says Chris Mamuyac, graphic and visual arts artist.
“We come up with a bright lustrous star made of empty IV bottles, syringe plungers, gauze, gold and silver paint, bamboo glitters and light bulbs,” adds John Mark Montero Samson, RIPAS Hospital nurse.
Lanterns are made of dried leaves, plastic shopping bags, coffee sachets, sea shells, tin cans, cartons, plastic bottles, junk toys, drinking straw, compact discs, says Ynez Acosta of Pasko ng Pinoy Parol contest organizer Filipino Association supported by Philippine Embassy.
“The Christmas spirit lies in the heart that shares love and comfort to our fellowmen. We think of the festive food we serve, bibingkang galapong and puto bumbong, the rich food, the doctor’s after Christmas sermon, the nine-day novena we attend while shivering without breakfast, in cold mornings, the singing of carols and the hanging of colorful lanterns. This is our second Christmas in Brunei and like you, our minds are on the Philippines, with its traffic jams, where the holiday season celebration is long, joyful and meaningful,” says then Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Nestor Ochoa.
Hatid Saya,” the government’s overseas project, brings cheers and wholesome entertainment through roving troubadours, funny people and cultural troupe singing nostalgic songs to Pinoy workers abroad.
“Cultural or entertainment, spiritual or sports are three main events to make Filipinos meet each other,” says then Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Wilhelm Soriano, whose agency organizes the OFWs’ homesick-quencher.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s showtime!” announces Angie Magbanua on her fifth Brunei comeback.
“Those who won’t clap will have a body like mine,” says heavy-weight Marissa Sanchez. Filipino tourists are waterholic on the plane and incurable souvenir collectors on land.”
Teary-eyed, the lonely-hearted audience stands and salutes the singers and their rhythms in the darkened arena glowing candles brighten.
Red and green lanterns and mini red flags wave on stage, sway to holiday season’s carols, patriotic songs’s fervor, and, amid Christmas cheer, drive away homesickness.