The Mis-adventures of Nick and Sarah’s First Manila Christmas

Around ManilaSocial Gatherings
December 27, 2009

I swear, we tried our best.  There was a solid plan, we stuck to it steadfastly and yet…nothing quite turned out right.  Guess we’ll just chalk it up to that old adage “The best-laid plans oft go awry.”  In order to prevent you from making similar mistakes, we’d like to share the Top 5 Things We Learned:

Learning #5:  The 3D showing of Avatar on Christmas Eve will NOT have tickets available.  Plan accordingly.

Oops.  So much for getting the day off to a good start.  We watched the depressing movie “The Changeling” instead, in the comfort of our air-conditioned condo.  Not quite the same.

Learning #4: Minimize your expectations for the most grand and glorious hotel in the city when paying $50 a ticket for your meal.  The Peninsula’s buffet is still subject to cold food and lack of options.  Don’t go hungry.

A $50 meal here is pretty much the equivalent of a $250 meal in the US, so we were expecting it to be good.  Not so much… thank goodness we had wonderful company and amazing ambiance or I would have been really bummed.  Rudy was right, that is too much money for a meal in Manila.  Guess we should have listened…

Learning #3:When going to mass on Christmas Eve at a Catholic Church in the Philippines, understand the risk you are putting your life in.  Fire codes are non-existent and in the case of a fire, you would most likely perish.

10 PM Mass was crazy and chaotic, in typical Filipino fashion.  We managed to get two of the last seats, but were astounded when we turned around and saw that the passageways were 15 people deep with NO room for exiting.  Add to that the 200 people outside the church and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  And so much for the “English” mass – the entire homily was in Tagalog.  At least I could sing along with Silent Night though!

Learning #2:When people say they “might” come to your open house, it means they mean there’s a 1% chance they’ll show.  Plan food sparingly.

Christmas day was mellow and fun.  We skyped with our families, who were enjoying Christmas Eve in their time zone.  I was surprised to find that virtually bringing ourselves into our state-side family’s Christmases wasn’t nearly as weird as I thought it would be.  Gotta love technology.  We watched everyone open our gifts to them and then opened ours in exchange.  We even shot pictures of each other on the photo screen.  So bizarre.  Happily, I could feel the energy of my sisters through the screen and it was just like being there (almost).  Pretty cool…

We opened our presents and then began preparing for our Christmas open house from 1-5 PM.  We had loads of food and lots of maybe responses (with one firm Yes).  You guessed it, only our good friends Andrea and Brian showed (the firm Yes).  Thankfully, they are delightful company and saved our Christmas Open House from becoming a disaster.

Learning #1: People WILL surprise you.  Delight in the unexpected.

Despite everything that went wrong, I was humbled by the people that really came through for me.  First and foremost, my AMAZING husband Nick, who practically put on a circus for 2 days straight, trying to keep me from bursting into tears.  He was wildly successful and I can honestly say that I didn’t shed a tear for my beloved MN Christmas.  Pretty amazing that I could have such a great time with just 1 other person – it’s incredible how much you come to depend on your partner when you’re in a situation like this.  Thankfully, he keeps coming through time and time again.

I was also profoundly touched when Rudy showed up at our door at 4 PM on Christmas Eve to bring us a Christmas gift.  We know how hard it is for most Filipinos to find money for gifts and we would NEVER have expected a gift.  We were so touched that he took the time to travel to our place (never a short trip in Manila) and get meaningful gifts for us (unique pen sets).  Nick and I decided that was our favorite memory of the two days because it was so completely unexpected.

Also, to our wonderful parents as well, who spoiled us with more gifts than we could have ever imagined opening… a thousand thanks!

And finally, a shout out to Andrea and Brian who have become dear, dear friends and (as mentioned above), saved my Christmas Open House from being a failure.  We are so blessed to have them as friends and already love their little 3 week old Leni to pieces!

The End.  As always, lots and lots of pictures on SMUGMUG.  Peruse them at your own will…

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  1. David Hasselbaink says:

    Guys, sounds like you should move back to Minnesota,(Americas top spot;)obviously not used to South East Asia or the Third world……..nothing but complaining with you yanks

  2. minnesotagal says:

    Guess we’re still getting used to things here. It’s all an adjustment process.

  3. Elise says:

    Sounds like a perfect Christmas that will forever be your ‘first’!

  4. diplowife says:

    Hi, just recently found your blog. It made me smile reading your entry. I’m a Filipina, currently living in Tripoli w/ my husband so I miss X’mas there in Manila dearly.

    Some more comments:
    1. Yes, when getting movie tickets always make sure to reserve seats or avail of them early.
    2.I agree, Rudy was right.
    3.I cannot blame you if you think that way. Me, I always plan my exit strategy. Next time, do what the locals do: Find a nice spot outside where you can still here the homily. I’m sure God won’t mind if you are not inside, especially when everybody else is.
    4. I can relate, we pretty much spent X’mas the same way, which is by way of the internet.
    5. The unexpected things are always the best.

    Merry Christmas to you and your husband, wait ’til you experience New Year’s Eve!

  5. minnesotagal says:

    Thanks so much for your message… we are learning as we go! Always an adventure. Overall we are really enjoying the Philippines – such amazing people! We’re off to the islands for New Year’s. Should be entirely different than our Manila Christmas!

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