Remembrance of overseas Noche Buenas past


BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro

Pioneer OFWs nostalgically recall pre-COVID Christmases sans quarantine, face masks, QR scans and social distancing.

“We would close shop at Christmas so everyone can go home to the Philippines,” says accountant Inday Majuelo at SP Castro & Associates, a consultancy firm set up after Pinoys built Brunei Sultan’s palace in record three years.

“Excellent Taste caters, or Aling Senang, who used to work with Inigo Zobel, cooks food. Top prize: a return air ticket to Philippines. Staff, friends and guests party at Chempaka or Ysfa Apartment. ”

Former Filipino Association President Raul Santos starts celebrating Christmas in Brunei from 1984 when his family arrives. A parol decorates his house on Jalan Muara. British, Danish, Bruneians and other guests feast on bilaos of kare-kare, inihaw.

“You can feel Christmas in church in the 1980s,” says Claudio Pereria, engineer. “We don’t serve chicken because it is always available.”
On Christmas eve 1984, international catering serves beef, chicken, fish, fruits. “A lot of monkeys, snakes, pythons and monitor lizards cross the always flooded street when it rains at Gadong Village,” says Crisanto Medrano.

Up Temburong mountain in 1992, Rudy Yago and wife Eppie hear on Ra-dio Veritas the 6pm Sunday mass. They exchange Christmas gifts with in-digenous Ibans and Dusuns around decorated Christmas tree.
December 16, 1991

Papa, why did your vacation become November, not December, so we are together on Christmas? Papa, when will you come back? Papa, you know, a while ago, someone pressed the doorbell. I know they were going carolling so I closed the door as fast as I can. Ton-Ton laughed aloud and giggled. Papa, Merry Christmas. Love Thea

Dearest Papa, I wish we will be together on Christmas. We want you here. I want to grow by your side together with Mama and my sisters and brothers.
See you in 1992. Love, Thelzey

Dearest Papa, I wish you are here at Christmas so we will be happy. We will have a Christmas card for you. Love, Ton-Ton

22 Dec 91
To my beloved, You’ll be reading the letter on Christmas eve. The following day is our second Christmas away from each other. How I wish we will spend next Christmas together.

It’s a heavy burden to be far away from someone you love. Specially dur-ing occasions like this.But they say this is an improvement. Something has to be sacrificed in return for something good. Love and kisses, Ma and Kids.

25 Dec 91
I had my first Christmas gift, your voice, you speaking to me over the phone. You just don’t know how much happiness you’ve given me. For Noche Buena, we had Pato quezo de bola (small Edam cheese ball costs P180), fruit salad, barbecue (Gee Jay roasted). Glen donated 21/2 gallons ice cream. I asked Bekay to cook sotanghon. Grapes, apples and oranges will come on New Year. This is what you wish for us – that our noche buena table be full of food-goodies. Love and Kisses, Ma and Kids.

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