Random Holiday Updates

Around ManilaForeign Service Life
December 13, 2009

I’ve had some fun holiday-related experiences recently that I thought I’d share with you…been running short on time to blog lately, but I’ll try to do better next week!

1.  There are lots of holiday work parties taking place right now, as you might expect.  The thing that’s crazy about Filipino holiday parties is that every one has an elaborate song/dance competition.  No kidding.  Everyone gets up in groups to perform and then it’s usually judged.  And this is no half-ass attempt – they seriously practice for days.  Pretty cool tradition, if you ask me.  I can hardly imagine the boycotting of holiday parties that would ensue if the U.S. adapted a similar tradition!  HA!!

2. We’ve been pondering what Christmas present to get Rudy for quite some time now.  The thing is, he doesn’t really seem to need anything and when I try to question him regarding it, we don’t get anywhere.  One day I came up with a brilliant idea though.  You see, Rudy lives with his wife, daughter and their two grand-daughters.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if he could take them out for an afternoon of family fun??  We came up with the idea of dinner and an IMAX movie at the Mall of Asia.  We knew McDonald’s was a big treat, so off I went to get a gift certificate.

That’s where I started running into problems.  Gift certificates are practically unheard of here.  After getting a series of “no, mum, not available” I asked to speak to the manager.  Oh, it was possible, all right – and fabulously convoluted.  In order to get my $10 gift certificate, I needed to place an order one week ahead.  Someone on staff would then drive to McDonald’s Manila head office to pick it up.  Next I’d be texted that it was available for pick-up and could come over and get it.  Unbelievable, huh?  It was the only way to get one though, so I did just that.  I sure hope Rudy enjoys his family outing!

3.  As for Norma, we had a better understanding of what her needs were.  Specifically, I knew that she wanted to go and visit her family down in the provinces.  It had been 9 years since she’d seen them and they’d never met her daughter who is almost 3.  I knew she had looked into boat and plane fares and that she couldn’t afford two round-trip tickets for she and her daughter.  Nick and I talked about it one night and decided to contribute 75% of the cost of the plane tickets.  We also did the booking for her to ensure that it happened.

It was pretty amazing to see the tears streaming from her eyes when we told her what her present was.  So much gratitude for something that only cost us $80……We booked the tickets for a 10 day period in January that coincided with her daughter’s birthday.  My favorite part of the story is that when she called and told her Dad the news, he said they were going to kill their best pig, lamb and chicken in honor of their coming!  Now that’s going to be one heck of a celebration!

I am feeling so thankful this season for the plentiful resources that we have to share.  I learned some powerful lessons about giving in the aftermath of Hurricane Ondoy.  I was truly humbled by the Filipinos who had lost a majority of what they had and willingly gave half of their remaining posessions to their neighbor in need.  Now that’s selfless.  It’s been so rewarding to show our gratitude to the Filipinos in our life that we’ve already come to love.  I see much more clearly now how much abundance Americans truly have (even in these hardest of times) and will never take the gift of my citizenship for granted again.  We are truly blessed!

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