INSTEAD of opening the presents he received, the first thing Earl Winston Teves did when he woke up on Christmas morning was to visit the cemetery to offer prayers for his dead relatives.
The 13-year-old did the same thing last year, going alone without his parents and siblings who were sharing hot cocoa and leftover cake for breakfast at home.
Holding three kalachuchi flowers tightly, Earl walked to the public cemetery in the mountains of Tabuelan town. The cemetery is some two kilometers away from his house in Barangay Mabunao.
“Kaning mga buwaka kay gikan ni sa kahoy na gitanom sa akong lolo sa bata pa iyang mga anak. Paborito ni niya, pero wa nako daghana og ibot kay tig masuko to (These flowers were from the tree my grandfather planted when his kids were still young. Although these were his favorites, I did not pick much because he might be upset),” he told SunStar Cebu.
It was Christmas Day last year when Earl first thought of visiting his relatives’ graves.
Their extended family was in a festive mood since they only get together during the holidays.
When his mother and her siblings began sharing their own childhood memories with his cousins, Earl had learned that his late grandparents used to enjoy the yuletide season even when they had little in life.
In fact, the tree from which he picked the flowers he offered in the cemetery was planted one December almost 40 years ago.
His mother, mirth clear in her eyes, recalled how they used the tree as their version of a Christmas tree since their carpenter-father and farmer-mother could not afford to buy a tree from the store.
Instead of series lights, garlands and colorful balls, Earl’s mother and her siblings would put up paper chains made of recycled newspaper as alternative decor.
Despite their austere decorations and a feast of roasted native chicken, hanging rice and fried fish, the whole family was content and happy.
Presents were also simple and needed no wrapping paper.
The six kids were asked to fall in line to receive hugs and kisses from their parents as Christmas gifts.
It was then when Earl realized that Christmas is about being grateful for one’s family, whether they are dead or alive.
While his grandparents have passed on, it doesn’t mean they can no longer enjoy the spirit of Christmas.
The grade eight student said that while he may be too young to remember any fond memories of his grandparents and other dead relatives, they should be remembered not only during All Souls Day.
“Pwede man gud muduaw bisan ug kanusa, dili na kailangan maghuwat og kalag-kalag. Nakahuna-huna man pud ko ba nga malipay sad siguro akong mga apuhan ug mga uyoan og naay muduaw nila og musulti og Merry Christmas (You can always pay respects to the dead anytime. I thought that maybe they will be happy if someone will visit and wish them a Merry Christmas),” he said.