Without Noche Buena tonight, families count other blessings

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Monday, December 23, 2013

ON Christmas Eve, while most families huddle at tables filled with food, Isidra Resureccion, her husband and three children will be busy selling candles at the St. Joseph National Shrine.

Their Christmas Eve has been like that for the past four years.

For Resureccion, 48, and other candle vendors in Mandaue City, the holidays do not mean time off from work.

“Wa man mi pampalit ug noche buena, mamaligya na lang mi ug kandila (Since we can’t buy food for our noche buena, we might as well sell candles),” said Resureccion, a resident of Sogod, Cebu.

They arrived in Mandaue last Saturday and will not be returning home until after New Year.

They sleep on the sidewalk, side by side with other candle vendors from far away towns, and wake up to the loud ringing of bells for the dawn mass at 3 a.m.

In their trade, there’s not much time to sleep. They lie down on the sidewalk right outside the church’s gate as late as midnight.

Like Resureccion, her husband and three daughters, ages 11, 12 and 14, chase churchgoers to sell candles. They sell candles in Mandaue during weekends.

On weekdays in Sogod, they earn by farming corn.

Rosalina Brigoli, 49, will also not celebrate Christmas at home. The candle vendor, also from Sogod, is accompanied by her youngest daughter.

“Manghinaot na lang gyud mi nga naay muhatag ug pinaskuhan sa mga mamaligyaay kandila sama nako (We can only hope there are people who will offer Christmas gifts to candle vendors like me),” she said shyly.

More than 100 candle vendors, many of them from northern towns, mill around the St. Joseph National Shrine these days. Brigoli, who has been selling candles for 18 years, said she only earns about P200 every day. Like Resureccion, she plants and harvests corn in Sogod.

Brigoli, a single mother raising five children, said she does not wish anything this Christmas except good health for her and her children.

Both typhoon survivors, Resureccion and Brigoli said they hope to earn enough to repair their houses, which were damaged by the typhoon last Nov. 8.

Despite having no meal to share on Christmas Eve, Resureccion said she thanks God for keeping her family together this Christmas.

“Mao ra man gyud na ang importante nga magkahiusa ang pamilya ug maayo ang panlawas (What’s important is that my family is together and we are healthy),” she said.

Though she yearns for a noche buena with her family this Christmas, Resureccion said she will just content herself by watching happy families go to church and the bright and lively Christmas lights at the plaza.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 24, 2013.

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