HAVE you ever wondered how Filipinos celebrate Christmas when they are far from their family and friends?

In Vancouver, people celebrated with co-Filipinos who met up with a Filipino Facebook group. The admin of the Facebook group Carmela del Rosario, Carmen Botona and the rest of their volunteers, were able to put up a Christmas party together with her friends. They were able to gather prizes from businesses that target the Filipino community.

The event was held in a popular Catholic Church in Vancouver, Canada called St. Patrick's on Main Street. If you go to church in Main Street especially on Sundays and pre-Covid, you will be glad to know that a lot of parishioners are talking in Tagalog. One would feel right at home. This church is located at a very central location in Vancouver.

The night of the Christmas party was a night of good timing. That week specifically, there were relaxed restrictions and people were given a go signal to gather as long as the venue is only half capacity. The Christmas party was held at the Church's gym. When I went there, I actually got lost as I went to another Filipino party being held in the Church grounds too. I went inside the function rooms where it was all decorated in pink. As I begun talking to one of the men there who sat on the same table as me, I discovered it was a Bicolanos get-together for those supporting Leni Lobredo's presidential candidacy. What are the odds that there is another Filipino party on the same night, in the same church location? As I got my bearings, I proceeded to find the other party that I was supposed to attend.

When I entered the right Filipino party, I was greeted by Filipinos manning the reception table. I put in a donation that served as the entrance fee although not officially as the donation was to join the 50/50 game. This is a game that is popular in Canada. The person who is drawn at the end of the night will take home half of the collected amount.

There were businesses put up make shift "booths" after the reception table to showcase their flyers, and products. There was also a photo booth sponsored by a Filipino-owned optometry clinic. There were other colleges that sponsored some prizes for the raffle prizes that night.

What is a Filipino party without glorious delicious food? I brought my potluck of Filipino pansit, which is only one of the many other donations the party organizers received. They set up a buffet where people got to take a little bit of everything -- from lechon, menudo, lumpiang shanghai, pansit and even pinakbet! For desserts, there were puto cheese, kutsinta, and my favorite buko pandan.

This party had a great turnout and I am sure I am not the only one who went home with my belly full. The night went on with more raffle prizes, singing in between, some business spiels from the sponsors. I definitely felt like I attended a holiday party back in Manila with the singing, the music, the raffle and the delicious buffet spread.

You can take out the Filipino from the Philippines but you can never take Philippines out of the Filipino. Mabuhay and Happy New 2022!

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