SNIPPETS OF LIFE IN SYDNEY: Missing Christmas in the Philippines

They could not imagine the length of friendships Mapette and I have maintained through the years. They appreciate the recognition and acknowledgment they receive from their Mom’s friends and wonder how we have kept and nurtured these friendships. They start to wonder whether they could form such long-lasting friendships.


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It is only two weeks before Australians go to the polls. Based on recent surveys, the Australian Labour Party (ALP) is ahead of the Liberal Party (LP). However, as in previous elections, the ALP has not won the elections since Keating was defeated in 1996. Some keep their fingers crossed, hoping that this time, it will be different. ALP voters hope that these surveys translate into votes on polling day.


Election issues include the economy, tax, Iraq, national security, education and child care, health care and indigenous vote. It seems the LP has an edge over the ALP because they represent a stable and proven leadership, whereas the ALP are neophytes in the political game and most have been accused of maintaining ties with the Unions. Kevin Rudd has also been accused of doing the “me tooism” (repeating the same or almost the same policies as the Liberals).


We will just have to wait and see on the evening of the 24th whether Australia will have a Labour or Liberal led government.


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Christmas is just around the corner. Malls and shopping centres have started their Christmas displays and sales. Christmas trees have now been set up. The Queen Victoria Building has put up their four-stories tall Christmas Tree covered with gold bows, Swarovski crystals and lights. It’s an amazing tree to watch.


Despite all these trimmings and the carols playing, Christmas in Sydney is different. Some Filipino groups have tried carolling and “simbang gabi,” but there is always something missing. It might be because I am too used to celebrating Christmas in the Philippines where despite the hardships, people have time for each other. Probably it is also the sense of belonging which makes it more meaningful to celebrate Christmas there.


I feel nostalgic thinking about the children in the streets moving from house to house singing carols, even though mispronounced most of the time, to the accompaniment of tambourines made of bottle tops (tansan), or cans with pebbles and do-it-yourself drums made of big cans. Even though we fall prey to groups who keep coming back for more, we do not seem to mind, we are happy looking at children having fun.


In Sydney, we are confined to the celebrations of our extended family. There are times when the whole family cannot even come together because couples have to accommodate both sides of their families and priorities have to be made as to whose side comes first. In cases where people do not have extended families, it becomes a gathering of friends who do not have relatives.


We have all the options from a seafood menu, to the traditional ham and turkey or Filipino food. We can either go to a barbecue, go to the beach or have it at home. We go to mass, exchange gifts and go home. That’s Christmas celebrations here.


There are times when I feel like telling everyone in the family to have a simple celebration (which we do most of the time, anyway) and just give the money to a good cause, but I could be spoiling the fun for everyone. Ever since I have been exposed to the abundance here, I feel a sense of guilt in indulging myself on these occasions, or maybe I am just growing old?


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There’s an interesting poem sent by Agnes, “The Development Set .” It is recommended reading. It explains how some of us in the development field feel about the work we do.


(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews' effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries.  Eleanor M. Trinchera of Kidapawan City is a resident of Sydney and is now working with a non-government organization)