Quantcast
Latest Stories

Christmas is in the heart

By

BARRION FAMILY Arnold Barrion (second left) with daughter Sofia Alexandra (left), mother Ester (center), wife Imelda and son Jesse Lorenzo.

JEDDAH—When he flew home two weeks before Christmas, Arnold Barrion knew he could expect a holiday mood in their house in Taguig City, with Christmas decor already set up by his wife and two teenage children. This would be his fourth Christmas vacation in the Philippines since he came to work in Saudi Arabia six years ago.

Last year, he spent Christmas in Jeddah to be able to take the board examinations for accountancy administered by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) in several cities in the Middle East. It was a blue Christmas away from his wife Imelda, son Jesse Lorenzo and daughter Sofia Alexandra. (But it paid off—he passed the board to become a certified public accountant.)

“As soon as I arrive in the Philippines, it is already Christmas in our home,” said Arnold, who works as a credit analyst at the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah. “It’s routine for my wife and my two children put up  the Christmas trimmings at the start of December,” he said in an interview a few days before his flight on Dec. 12.

Christmas decor consists of a Christmas tree with soft, multicolored flickering lights and glittering ornaments neatly hung or draped on its branches in the living room; garlands on the front door and walls; hanging lanterns or parol made of capiz shells on the porch and on windows and other yuletide adornments at their home in Perpetual Village.

Like any other practical overseas Filipino worker (OFW), Arnold is keen on not spending lavishly to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who tradition says was born in a manger in Bethlehem. The dishes will be Filipino fare—food he has missed during the past months away from the family.

“Christmas is not an ordinary holiday for us. This is the most awaited season. It is for this reason that given the limited time, I make it a point to make my stay worthwhile. This does not mean lavish spending but watching TV together or spending quality time with my son and my daughter,” Arnold said.

“My wife and I will cook dishes, do the laundry together and do household errands for our bonding moments. The dishes on our table are simple, usually the ones I truly miss—laing, sinigang, kare-kare and other dishes with pork. We do not go for extravagant spending.”

As devout Catholics, the Barrions will complete the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi which starts on Dec. 16 and culminates on Christmas Eve, when the family dines together for the traditional noche buena, along with some relatives and friends whom the family expects to come over to their home. Gifts, normally placed under the Christmas tree, would then be unwrapped.

Many cannot come home

Arnold is among the thousands of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia who are lucky enough to be able to spend Christmas with their families back home—either because their

GORILLO FAMILY Cleo Gorillo and wife Melga (left) and daughters Ameerah Mae and Mary.

vacation falls in December or they have made arrangements with their employers to allow them to spend the festive season in their home country.

The majority of the estimated one million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, whose vacation falls in other months, have to spend Christmas in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, does not mark Christmas Day as a holiday. For Cleo Gorillo and his wife Melga, that means spending Christmas Day at their work places.

“My husband and I have spent Christmas together in Jeddah for nine years now. Talking about how we spend Christmas here is quite difficult. It makes me homesick. But it is a reality that we have to face,” said Melga, a dialysis nurse at the Al Bir Kidney Center whose two children are with her parents in Burauen, Leyte.

The  midnight call

“Every year, when the 24th of December comes, we would call our daughters and my family at about 7 p.m. Jeddah time, which is 12 midnight in the Philippines. These are painful moments because when you talk to them you want to touch them, to hug them. It breaks your heart but you really have to face reality.”

Joining friends after work

When Christmas Day falls on Friday, the rest day in Saudi Arabia (which seldom happens), the couple celebrates Christmas Day at home. If it falls on a weekday, they report for work. For Cleo, that would be at the Madinah Press, where he works as a technician.

This year, as Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday, the couple will celebrate Christ’s nativity after work with friends in a Catholic community with whom they have arranged to share food for noche buena.

“That’s about the time when we call our families back home. Cleo will place a call to his family in Villaba (also in Leyte) and then to our daughters and my family,” Melga said.

 

Internet blessings

THE REYESES Liza and Freddie Reyes (standing, left) celebrated last year’s Christmas with friends (seated from left) Pablo Medina, Danny Liquin and (behind them) Delia Liquin, Karen Mejia, Aubrey Rose Indelible and Joy Arciaga at a park in Jeddah.

“Thanks to the Internet, we can now chat with our families. They would show us the food they have on their table and vice versa. This is a time when I miss my mother’s suman latik, her specialty, and the Christmas tree that our family sets up in our living room.”

Like other Christian Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, the Gorillos and the couple Freddie and Liza Reyes have also set up a Christmas tree in their flats. And like the Gorillos, the Reyeses also make a call on Christmas day to their two children who are staying with grandparents in Montalban, Rizal.

The Reyeses wanted to spend their Christmas this year with their children back home but couldn’t. “It’s hard to imagine (celebrating Christmas away from the children), but since Liza got a new job at the day-care center of KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) we cannot take a holiday break,” said Freddie.

They, too, will join friends after work for the noche buena on Christmas Eve.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Christmas , Family , OFW , Paskong pinoy , Saudi Arabia

  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.amarillo2 Mel Amarillo

    The feature article is nicely written, a litany of facts and realities of our brothers and sisters from far away countries.  



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

  • Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US
  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  • Sports

  • Vietnam says it will not host Asian Games
  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • Marketplace