Spirit of Christmas lives on despite financial challenges

MEANING OF CHRISTMAS. For Cebuanos, “the true richness of Christmas lies not in materiality but in the perpetual growth of joy shared within families.
MEANING OF CHRISTMAS. For Cebuanos, “the true richness of Christmas lies not in materiality but in the perpetual growth of joy shared within families. SUNSTAR FILE

Emanuel Yu, Intern

AMID these overwhelming economic uncertainties overarching the Philippines, where the very fabric of financial stability seems to be falling apart, the resilience of the Cebuanos weaves a narrative of strength, unity, and unwavering determination to preserve the essence of the Christmas season.

As Charlie Relativo, a 29-year-old caretaker, with a smile that reflects both the weight of his past struggles and the courage to stop at nothing, shares his story, it becomes clear that the simplicity of his words uncovers the complexities of his journey. “Akong pamilya… mao ra nay ang pinakaimportante nako karong Pasko (My family... that’s the most important thing for me this Christmas),” he says with a sincerity that echoes the sentiments of many Cebuanos facing similar challenges.

The essence of Christmas, for Charlie and many others like him, transcends the glittering lights and the material abundance often synonymous with the season. It finds its roots in the intangible yet profound connections molded within the family unit. Despite the chaotic waves of unemployment that have rocked his boat in recent years, Charlie’s commitment to preserving the sacredness of the season remains unshaken.

Collective determination

“Lisod kung wala kay trabaho unya naa kay anak, naa kay asawa. Wa’y kwarta lisod (It’s tough when you don’t have a job and you have children, you have a wife. No money, it’s difficult),” he continues, offering a glimpse into his past experience of unemployment faced by many others.

In light of this report, one might anticipate a chorus of responses like, “I’m not celebrating Christmas this year.” Yet, understanding the narratives of other Cebuanos, an evident contrast emerges, showcasing a collective determination to hold onto the spirit of the season. There aren’t many changes in how people continue to honor and enjoy the global celebration even when faced with financial complications. It’s important to consider that Filipinos strongly recognize the birth of Jesus and the preciousness of life that envelops households during this time of year.

SIMPLE PREPARATION. Geraline Bisabis, 56, says they will prepare either spaghetti or cake which they will eat after attending Simbang Gabi.
SIMPLE PREPARATION. Geraline Bisabis, 56, says they will prepare either spaghetti or cake which they will eat after attending Simbang Gabi. EMANUEL YU

“Same lang gihapon (It’s still the same),” says Geraline Bisabis, a 56-year-old who helps at her family’s sari-sari store, describing her celebration this year. “Mag Simbang Gabi… gamay lang ihanda, as in spaghetti or cake (We will attend Simbang Gabi… and make small preparations, as in spaghetti or cake).”

Family-centric

In another sari-sari store, Ramon Tarosa, a retired 81-year-old, continues to assist his wife run it. Regarding his budget for his family’s celebration, he says: “It depends on our financing -- how much money we can save and spend for the family. Simple only; ‘nang maka-afford mi (what we can afford).” However, to him nothing much has changed compared to the previous years. “Everybody [is] happy with the family,” he says with a wide grin.

HAPPY FAMILY. Ramon Tarosa, an 81-year-old retiree, says the important thing this season is for the family to be happy, regardless of the preparation.
HAPPY FAMILY. Ramon Tarosa, an 81-year-old retiree, says the important thing this season is for the family to be happy, regardless of the preparation. EMANUEL YU

Engaging in conversations with these individuals and listening to their stories, it becomes clear that for Cebuanos, the true richness of Christmas lies not in materiality but in the perpetual growth of joy shared within families. It thrives in the simplicities of wholehearted conversations, quality time spent together, and sitting down to share a simple meal – fortified by the indomitable spirit that shines more brightly in the face of adversity.

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