By Richa Noriega and Allysa Nievera
Amid the warm and festive celebration of the Yuletide season, several people living in the cold, damp streets of Intramuros shared their stories on how they have celebrated Christmas through the years.
For Mary Rose’s family, Christmas was just a “normal” day.
At the age of 23, Mary Rose lives with her five children and husband Merlin, 37, has been living in the streets of the former Spanish enclave for the last 10 years.
And just like any Christmas Day, Mary Rose said her husband Merlin was at work as a pedicab driver, catering to the hundreds of visitors and tourists who come to the storied walls of Intramuros, especially during holidays. And on the side, Merlin sells umbrellas to his clients.
Despite the heavy rains and strong winds due to Typhoon Ursula, the family of Mary Rose celebrated a simple Noche Buena with her children after receiving packed meals from kind-hearted motorists, who just drove up on to them on the sidewalk of Victoria Street to offer their simple Christmas gifts.
Mary Rose said that her five children were overwhelmed by the gesture, and couldn’t but continuously reply with their cheerful “thank you” to the people who passed by to give them food.
But when you ask Mary Rose what Christmas means to her, the young, yet jaded, street dweller could only say: “Parang normal lang po (It’s just a normal day).”
And it is also in these street dwellers’ little corner of Intramuros that the usual warm homes, and tables full of ham and queso de belo, are erased by their reality of having only wornout monobloc chairs to sit on, old umbrellas over their heads as roof, and an empty stomach to show for in this season of indulgence for many Filipinos.
Take the case of 63-year-old, Nanay Haidee who has been living alone on a short stretch of Real Street in Intramuros since 1960.
And for her, Christmas is neither the time of giving, of thanks, or of joy – but only a time to be sad.
“Malungkot, syempre,” Nanay Haidee said, almost as a matter-of-fact, when asked how she will be celebrating her Christmas this year.
Foremost among her loneliest memories was when an adopted child no longer returned to her after he went to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to possibly find work.
“Eh sabi niya mag-aaply siya sa OWWA kasi ngapunta rin dito ‘yun… kelan lang nagpunta tapos hindi na siya nagpakita,” Haidee said. (Earlier this year, he went there because he said he will apply to OWWA, but he never came back again.)
Despite Nanay Haidee’s struggles, she still looks forward to the year when she could finally spend a more joyous Christmas. And her most fervent wish is to just be with her children and grandchildren anew.
“Sana magsama sama kaming mga apo ko tsaka yung anak ko ‘yun ang wish ko lang,” she said with a hopeful smile. (I hope my grandchildren and son will get together, that’s my wish)
Indeed, Christmas on the streets of Intramuros is a far cry from how others celebrate it this season. However, Christmas becomes a beautiful season for them because of good Samaritans who share their blessings by means of giving food and other things that would make this season more meaningful.