Christmas won’t be the same without you… I’ll be home for Christmas… Ang Disyembre ko ay malungkot… One of these lines could be the line that you wish you don’t hear on Christmas day, as it adds up loneliness rather homesickness every time you hear them played over the radio.
Let’s get to the point. How does an OFW celebrate spend Christmas away from home? I’m sure you just noticed the strike symbol that was used over the word “celebrate“. It wasn’t a post decor or anything coz in my own personal opinion, I could never call it a celebration. Simply because, I never got to spend it with my family – for the past 8 long years.
Rewind >>> I left home in October 1999, just two months before Christmas, full of hopes and courage that one day, someday, my family will never get to struggle again – ever. This is why I left the Philippines for greener pasture 8 years ago. I carried a heavy heart with me. For the longest time in my life, I had never been separated from my family. Call it separation anxiety at the age of 23, well, I may just have to agree. Not knowing what kind of life would give me there, the fact that I will be miles away from home for the first time is already killing me. The moment I settled myself inside the plane, again for the first time had already brought me to fear. Anyhow, I said to myself “I’ll be fine”, next thing I’d know I’d be ready for another flight going back to the Philippines.
But that process wasn’t easy at all. I cried a river. Yes, a river and it’s not intended for the sake of exaggerating an OFW story. Counting the days was part of finishing up a 2 year contract. It was harder because it was my first Christmas without my family around me. It wasn’t the same. There were no Christmas carols sung in front of your gate. There was no Media Noche being looking forward to as the clock strikes at 12 midnight. No misa de gallo. Puto bumbong is nowhere to be found down the streets. A tree is dull even with the tiny bulbs lit up. Just myself inside a quiet room. Sure, I had a special someone, but the fact remains that I am away from home, missing the tradition esp the people that I truly long for.
Red apples were there. A plate of heated up food over the microwave was served. A can of soda for a booze. People start to come home four hours later after midnight. Now, you tell me, can you call it a celebration? I guess not. Never.
Fast forward >>> Five years later. I got married, overseas. That was just a month before Christmas. I was happier, well in my thoughts. I told myself, at least, I won’t be alone. I have now a family with me – my husband. That only happened in my thoughts. A day before Christmas, my husband was called on duty. Again, I was left alone at home.
A year later, and a month after Christmas, we were gifted – a daughter. Again, happy thoughts played in my mind, picturing a family gathered on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, it never happened. Either I am needed at work for a special function or my husband is badly needed on duty. A celebration? No. Never. It never happened even until my husband left for another job. We were left in Bahrain a month before Christmas hoping to get at least one seat in the plane. Guess, luck was avoiding me. In short, husband left for work in another country that month, while me and my daughter were left alone in the house where we first built our family. Few days after the New Year, we were able to get a seat. Headed home. It has almost been a year. It has been 8 years ago since the last time I celebrated Christmas with a family.
To date, December 2009, I still could not call it a celebration. Sure thing, I am already home. I’d be able to hear live Christmas carols in front our gate. I’d be able to see Christmas lanterns all over the place. I’d be able to taste my mother’s home made halaya. I’d be able to complete 9 days of misa de gallo. But the fact remains that my husband is left in another country working hard for us – his family.
Bottom line, an OFW spending Christmas away from home without a family is never complete. It is never a celebration. It is never happier than what we used to feel… But yes, I am glad and cheered up a bit that I am home this coming Christmas. Enough to brighten up my day even without my husband’s presence. I’m sure and hoping that one day, I’d be able to celebrate Christmas again as how I used to do it. Complete. With the whole family.
I hope this will happen soon. Very soon.