Sira-sira Store: Gifts to-go

IT FEELS as if January happened only yesterday. The beginning of the year opened with firecrackers and lots of promises. Now that it’s December, you get this “wow” feeling when you realize that the year is ending with a journal full of notes about the kindness and the blessings you held in your hand, and the hope that some of the promises of the New Year can still come true in the remaining days of December.

The days are very fickle though. It’s bright and sunny in the morning, and gloomy and rainy in the afternoon. One day your pocket is full of peso bills and the following day, you have only holes in your pocket. Thank God that what never changes is the fact of Christmas.

I want to be the very first to greet you a “Merry Christmas.” Thank you for patronizing my small variety store and buying all the stuff I sell—from fancy cupcakes of nonsense to serious pies of musings about life, food issues, show biz gossip and recipes whenever I remember this is also literally a food column. Thank you for allowing me to be, well, me with my spoonful of nothing-here and a dash of something-really-profound-there once in a while. Seriously, I want to be one of the early gift-givers this year.

My beautiful aunt, Tita Blitte, agreed, saying: “It beats being late. I mean if you’re an early-giver, you can be excused if your gift is not the most expensive in the pile under the tree. It’s the thought that counts. Believe me.”

“So true,” my cousin Dona said. “Why don’t we stick to giving something really from the heart?”

Her husband, Pitong, said, “Better expensive than never, but better early than late.”

Wise guys. Now where was I. Oh, about early gift. I was thinking of giving you gift ideas. Not exactly original, but it’s something you and I can play with. Here’s my version.

Cakes. If you’re all index fingers—“Uncle, it’s ‘all thumbs,’” my nephew Pannon corrected me.

“I know, Pannon. I was just trying to be funny.”

If you’re all ring fingers when it comes to baking, go to Goldilocks, Red Ribbon, Leona, Angelica’s, BreadTalk and Ayala Center Cebu’s other string of bakeshops for a box of heavenly cakes and pastries. Deliver the gift yourself, maybe on the morning of Dec. 24, which is the besperas of Christmas day. Pinoys like to celebrate a holiday one day ahead of time or its besperas out of excitement.

Leg of ham. I remember my father baking Chinese ham for Christmas. He would buy one whole leg of ham, trim off the rind and boil the ham in a bath of pineapple, gin, garlic and other spices. Then he would drain it, score the fat and stud with whole peppercorns before popping it into the oven. So today whenever I have ham, it’s my father’s loving care that I remember, which is what Christmas is all about.

Remembering can make Christmas meaningful this year. You might receive an abundance of food gifts from friends, business partners and sources, and the office, so why not “throw away” some of them to a neighbor who has nothing on Christmas but the hope that someone will remember him.

Food packs. Carefully select what to put in your box or basket of food, making the container reusable, like a plastic storage box, a pail, stuff like that. And please buy brands that you consume regularly, which means the brand must be good. Or you and your officemates might pool resources, using part of your 13th month pay to buy food packs for an orphanage.

One year, my friend Illustracio bought Purefoods products to give to a neighbor, a laundrywoman who had five mouths to feed. She was so happy, she told everyone about his generosity.

We give not because we want to be the headline for good news. The only reason is first the greatest giver. God gave us his only begotten son to be our Savior. Jesus is the ultimate gift, making our human version seemingly puny. But given with a sincere heart, it makes the recipient smile and it honors God that we remember his love and his sacrificial gift for us. That’s the fact of Christmas.

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