New distinctive Christmas lanterns with 16 white rays spreading out from the center are now being installed on streetlight posts in Manila. Makati’s business district is now all lighted up at night by Ayala Land, an annual tradition. Caloocan’s Christmas lanterns at the giant posts holding up the elevated rails have lighted the city’s avenues for sometime now.
We have been hit by one disaster after another in recent weeks, but in spite of it all, we are now seeing Christmas trees standing in front of malls and in public parks. Many homes have set up their traditional Nativity Scenes of the Baby in a manger, surrounded by his parents Mary and Joseph, while shepherds and the Three Kings look on.
In less then a month, it will be Christmas in the Philippines, the most cherished tradition in the country. It is essentially a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ, but it also a nbig public celebration. And in this country –long known as the only Christian country in Asia, until it was joined a few years ago by Timor Leste — Christmas is welcomed comes as early as September and the celebration continues until Three Kings in January.
This has been a year of disasters like no other, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic in March, infecting and killing thousands and restricting all normal activities, pushing many people deeper in poverty and the country into recession. Holiday celebrations and religious traditions, among them town fiestas, Santacruzans, Holy Week, Independence Day, Undas, have had to be set aside. But we have survived the COVID-19 pandemic much better than many other countries.
We have also just been hit by a series of storms and typhoons, floods and earthquakes. But our spirit has not dimmed in the face of disasters; our people have simply built back their destroyed homes and gone on with their lives.
The pandemic is still with us. We will not immediately benefit from the vaccines that have been developed; the richer countries with the money to pay for them will get them first. Hopefully, we will get our share in the middle of next year.
But now it is the Christmas season, a holiday that our people have been celebrating for over three hundred years. In just three more weeks, we will have the Simbang Gabi. And nine days thereafter, it will be Christmas Day.
We have survived the worst effects of the pandemic, We will have Christmas to further sustain us. And we will celebrate it with even more fervor this year.