A Storm, Songs, and Some Pesos.
Last week we experienced a Typhoon-For-a-Day here in Calbayog City (see my last post Christmas Season Typhoon), and just a day after the storm passed, the Christmas caroling season began. In the Philippines, usually beginning on the 16th of December, and for 8 days, children, teens, and even some adult groups will go door-to-door in their villages with hopes of receiving small donations to help their cause. The smaller kids usually spend their hard-sung money at sari-sari stores on the candy and other goodies cause, while the teenage vocalists might save their money for school supplies, projects, or phone loads. Some of the more organized adult groups gladly accept donations and may donate to a local cause or charity. In any case, tonight is the last night of caroling and while many of the caroler’s numbers have dwindled over the last few days, tonight figures to be a busy night. After all, there are free pesos at stake.
Last year, we came to learn that we may have been handing out “way too many pesos” and as a result, we were probably the most visited house in the village. So much so that some groups hit us up multiple times. It wasn’t until my wife recognized several of the teens from earlier in the evening that she realized there was some “double-dipping” going on. So this year, my wife asked the young neighbor girl across the street to assist us with all the caroler’s and in handing out the pesos. We now have an “insider” working for us and because she knows most of the kids in the village, she will easily know when the repeats show up. Last year, some of the more ingenious kids would merge forces with another group and then re-group with a different set of faces, which made it difficult for my wife and I to recognize all the knivery that was going on. But now we have the upper hand! Little “Bernaline” is our informant… our spy of sorts, and is quick to identify the repeat vocalists. Within the first hour on the first night of caroling, the word was out…Can’t hack the foreigner’s house this year! We also cut our donations down to match what most locals were giving, which isn’t much, and that also reduced the total number of groups during the evenings. We are not “easy pickins” no more. I’ve been saving my extra pesos all year (cover photo) and I don’t plan on busting this budget! This is our third Christmas Season and while we are still learning, we are still making adjustments. We reward Berna for her sincerity with a few pesos and a meal to remember before she heads home afterwards. She has become a valuable asset in our little song-filled world.
The other night, Berna showed up for caroling duty early and brought along her good friend Francine to assist her at the front gate this night. While waiting for nightfall, Berna asked me if we had any games to play before the caroler’s came. I enthusiastically took the opportunity to break-out the game of “Twister” that we purchased and had shipped over here for the kids to enjoy. It has only been used a couple of times by the kids in our family, and has been on the shelf for over a year. It has never been seen by these two youngsters, so I had fun teaching them how to play and watching the excitement and their enthusiasm – and all the laughs and giggles – in playing this classic game. After about 30 minutes, they were both worn out, tired, and will probably never play again… now that they know how strenuous the game can be. We’ll see.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we have a big family dinner planned. And as tradition here has it, everyone will eat, sit around and talk, laugh, enjoy each others company, have fun, and eat some more…and all (most) will stay up until midnight, to celebrate the arrival of his birthday, their King, Jesus. For me, I usually will turn in when I’m tired…or when the grog runs out, whichever occurs first. I don’t make it all the way to many a “midnight” these days. After all, I’ve seen Santa plenty of times!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Retired in Samar