For overseas workers, ‘Paskong Pinoy’ is in the heart
PHITSANULOK, Thailand—Like millions of Filipinos who work overseas, I will not be coming home to celebrate Christmas with loved ones this year. Here in Thailand, where I work as a teacher, Christmas is just another working day. There will not be much time to celebrate because the next day is another working day.
My son, Kairos Luther, and I celebrated our last Christmas in the Philippines in 2010. He was only five years old then. In 2011, we migrated to Thailand to join my husband. Our two teenage children were left behind. For my husband, it will be his fifth Christmas away from home.
Our first Christmas in Thailand was like any ordinary day, because it was midterm examinations time in the schools. At night, we joined some friends for dinner to celebrate Christmas but hurried home because we would have to be up early for work the next day.
Unlike in the Philippines where Christmas is a long holiday—a whole season, in fact, beginning with the “ber” months.
In Thailand, at least, the malls put up Christmas decor for shoppers and this reminds me of home.
Our son insists on celebrating Christmas by putting Christmas decorations in our apartment and singing Christmas songs as early as September. He also continuously reminds me to put gifts around the tree. His sense of Christian tradition does not diminish despite growing up in a Buddhist country
The small Christian and Filipino community here celebrates Mass and goes caroling. Some schools hold caroling activities—not so much as a Christian tradition but as part of English class activities. At my son’s school, a Christian academy, they hold a Christmas Party on Dec. 25 but resume classes the next day. They also exchange gifts, reminding the children that Christmas also means giving.
Parties are held by some groups of Filipinos ahead of time, usually the weekend before the 25th.
The Philippine Embassy in Bangkok holds its annual Christmas party and bazaar early in December to allow the Filipino community a feel of the “Paskong Pinoy” in a foreign country. Traditional foods like suman, biko, puto and leche flan are for sale.
Christmas via Skype
Modern technology completes the overseas Pinoy Christmas. Although physically absent during the holidays, we still manage to have a family picture and celebration—via Skype.
We know our celebration of Christmas will never be the same as it is back home, however hard we try to keep traditions alive. Yet, throughout the hardships of working abroad, it is that vision that keeps us going—the thought that one day, we will celebrate Paskong Pinoy together again.
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