Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Road to Christmas

The highway seems like a vast ocean of cars, absent is the graceful waves it naturally possess; it is a stagnant unmoving ocean. I peeked outside and saw that I am stuck in an impossible traffic condition—the Christmas traffic. From Ford to Sarao, from trucks to SUVs, from jeepneys to two-door sports cars, it doesn’t matter what engine you have under the hood, every automobile runs a mile per hour estimate; in this condition everyone is equal. So, to detach myself from this frustrating traffic, I slept. 
I woke up with a smile, but quickly that changed to a furrow on my brows and an irked grin. I am still in the traffic, and the vehicle moved but a short distance. My humor returned when I saw most of the passengers grunting and cursing, hoping an empathic remark, silently hoping to be acknowledged by the others. Conversations changed the mood. Everybody was sharing their stories. I kept silent. Instead, I pulled out Dante’s Inferno and read.
It was 9 o’ clock when I arrived at the mall—my shortcut going from place to place—where people looked like bees and ants in the crowd. I would never, and under no circumstances, would have gone out to shop or even travel at this time of the year. I would peacefully remain in the comfort of my blue-wall room, read a book, watched a film, and slept. If it wasn’t for the schedule I was given, if it wasn’t for my work, this is exactly what I would do.
As I walk around the mall passing stores and kiosks, I felt odd. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the scenery seems to be perforated by frenzy, a spending frenzy that is. Although we have 13th month pay, bonuses, gift giving, and aguinaldos (kids and adults alike) there is a scarcity that hounds the season. There seems to be not enough in spite of the festivities around.
At work, this illusory scarcity has also made an impression, since we would be working on Christmas Eve—all establishments are closed except of course, with 7-Eleven (when do they close anyway? I forgot that joke/fact)—a decent meal should be prepared. But as the discussion took place, it became too dragging; we were unable to decide what to bring. My colleague insists or is somewhat alluding for a more extravagant meal. I thought: how much are we going to eat anyway?
The pigging-out at parties, getting drunk to oblivion, automated exchange gifts, Christmas leftovers, pilgrimage to the malls, buying things that we thought we need but don’t, even the simbang gabi or midnight mass seems to be losing its real essence for it was shadowed by the prospects of dating and goofing around. At this time of the year, the power of consumerism seems too hypnotic, it beckons people to spend, to empty the once full brim as if they could understand the meaning of the season by so doing.    
I am not however, saying that this is wrong for isn’t it that social morals is decided by the many, but what I am implying is that Christmas for some (or the many) has become too artificial. It looked like a fiesta whose effigies became more important than the saint the celebration is about; the skin of the fruit became more revered and enjoyed than the fruit and seed. Then, what is Christmas anyway?
It was not until I was stuck in another dreaded Christmas traffic would I catch or recapture the gist most appropriate in my queries. In the jeep, again I took out Dante’s first book of his Divine Comedy and read. As it was before, I ignored the kindling conversations of the passengers. Their conversation grew more animated after a time, my concentration seems to be out on the book and more to the discussion; I eavesdrop, feigning reading. They were discussing what to give their loved ones this time of the year. An unexpected answer came from an aged dark skinned man—who might be a laborer or a carpenter based on his tired masculine look and calloused hands—spoke. He said, with a hint of hesitation tinged with timidity, “wala akong regalo e.” I don’t have any gifts. He paused then raising the package he got perhaps from his employer, “pero meron kaming tinapay, keso, pancit, salad (fruit), at ham…at kwento.” But we have bread, cheese, noodles, salad, and ham…and stories. Then he smiled with his broad lips taut across his face showing his crooked teeth, with the sparkle in his eyes looking at the other people he is talking to.   
I didn’t hear the next words they uttered. I was filled with awe, more so engulfed by it. How simple that is. Here we are concerned at the trivialities of the season: parties, people to meet, gifts to give, and the grand meal at the table. But here is a man whose anticipation is so common yet sounded so unique and special. Perhaps, his profession pays him so little, perhaps he received but a high school degree yet he understood the season more than the rest of us.
Christmas is truly a time of giving, of sharing—in the Bible God gave, shared his only son, the infant in the manger, the savior, Jesus Christ the ultimate gift. We often misconstrued it for extravagance but isn’t it the time of simple joys, of reunions, of songs, of laughter, and of a birth of new hopes. It is supposed to be more solemn, more soul-full. These are the things that we often forget during Christmas. 
I know that this frenzy will come again next season, even I would be obliged, even mandated by people to spend and participate. On the other hand, come next year, because of this road that I took during yuletide traffic, I would be reminded of those things which are really important. Thus, I believe the verity of these tenets is what provides this time of the year its real meaning, which the hypnotic gravity of consumerism can never provide us with during our lifetime.

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