As we begin the second ‘ber’ month today

Today is the start of the last quarter of the year. Government economists and business managers generally expect improved figures in these final three months, making up for any losses in the middle of the year, so that the year-end figures stand out, reflecting progress in the national economy or in the business enterprise.

To most Filipinos, however, today is better known as the start of the second “ber” month. Filipinos cherish the Christmas season so much that they celebrate it longer than other people, starting in September when we start hearing “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” on radio and other Filipino songs heralding the holiday season. Some streets in Metro Manila already have the traditional Christmas “parol.”

There is still one other important holiday before the spirit of the season takes hold – Undas, when Filipinos traditionally troop to cemeteries all over the land to light candles and say prayers at the graves of departed loved ones. That would be at the start of the third “ber” month – on November 1, All Saints’ Day.

This year, however, after Manila closed all its cemeteries from October 29 to November 4, other towns and cities have followed suit. The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us and it is best to avoid crowds. Thus people will have to carry on with the Undas tradition spread out in the two months of October and November, before or after the banned week.

This is indeed a holiday season like no other. Everything is muted. Many offices, restaurants, and factories remain closed or have partly opened, but only up to 50 percent of capacity, under the rules of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila. In any case, most people remain uncertain about going to public places like malls.

We were not able to observe Holy Week last March as we used to. Graduating students were not able to experience receiving their diplomas in April. The month of May passed without the usual fiestas and Santacruzans. Independence Day on June 12 came and went with hardly anyone noticing. July, August, September used to be busy months for going around the country. And now, it is October and the pall of gloom that has hung over the country for the last seven months continues.

But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal in the human breast. And so we look forward to these coming days of October, November, and December. We hope to see soon the giant Christmas trees in front of malls and hear the music of Christmas in churches, schools, and music halls. Our hopes remain that the pandemic will soon run its course, that when the first day of the fourth “ber” month – December – comes, we will all feel free to step out of our homes and feel the wonder of Christmas after all these months.