As the end of the year ushers in the festive holiday season, Filipinos back home now enjoy the dazzling lights, the smell of puto bumbong during the 4:00 am Misa De Gallo in their towns, and a seemingly non-stop loop of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ in the radio, as well as in malls and various stores during the Christmas rush.
For Filipinos in the UAE, they likewise have the chance to celebrate with their friends and some of their family members they have brought here as the country, in the spirit of unity and tolerance, allows for the celebration of masses and Christmas ornaments put up and decors in selected areas including malls, offices, and public areas. But even then, they still feel the striking difference compared to Christmas when celebrated at home.
The Filipino Times rounds up a few of the most common ‘hugots’ of OFWs who will be spending their Christmas overseas.
“Uuwi or magpapadala?”
Most OFWs are faced with the difficult choice as they miss out the fun-filled Christmas gatherings back home and choose to send money instead. However, there are also those who really choose to head back home during the holiday season to spend their annual leave there as this is the perfect time to bond with their children since they’re also in their Christmas break in the Philippines. However it’s no secret that the expenditures when flying home during Christmas is a whole lot more due to the endless parties, gift-givings and the sudden emergence of your ‘inaanaks’ on Christmas day.
“Inaanak ko pala yun?”
Speaking of ‘inaanaks’ or godchildren, many OFWs are greeted with messages on social media from their ‘kumpares’ and ‘kumares’ to remind them to give something for Christmas. And for many who have lost count, Christmas is that kind reminder of exactly how many children they seemingly have to appropriate some funds or gifts for. However, OFWs and most especially parents back home should realize that the real value of having godparents is the guidance that they should be able to provide for the kids as their ‘second parents’ – something that should be more valuable than any material gift.
“Buti pa ang Pilipinas, may Christmas bonus!”
One of the most common expressions of many Filipinos working abroad is the fact that their friends and family members back home get to enjoy their 13th month pay or ‘Christmas Bonus’ – a full month’s worth of salary that should be sent by their employer on or before December 24 as stipulated in the Philippines’ Presidential Decree No. 851. When OFWs discuss this friends in the Philippines however, many of their contacts easily retort with the huge gap in the salaries that OFWs make all year round, compared to what they earn back home.
“Iba talaga ang Pasko sa Pilipinas.”
Overseas Filipinos simply can’t help but compare that difference between spending Christmas abroad and back home as they witness celebrations on social media. Among the things they usually note in the Philippines is that they immediately see the sights of huge Parols, giant Christmas trees in their villages and iconic places, as well as Christmas lights on each home, with young kids caroling every evening to the tune of “Sa may bahay, ang aming bati…”.
“Miss ko na ang pamilya ko.”
Filipinos working here in the UAE at times spend years, if not, even more than a decade before they have that golden opportunity to head back home. While some are indeed blessed to have started their own families and/or have brought their families from the Philippines to the Dubai to stay with them here, other OFWs will be spending their Christmas at work, alone, or with a few friends in tow to make their Christmas celebrations a little less lonelier.
“Sana maalala nila ako.”
When OFWs send out their remittances in time for Christmas, some families do tend to forget to check up on their moms, dads, or family members who will be staying overseas for the season. Many OFWs just hope for a simple call or a message to make them feel that they’re not alone during what should be one of the most wonderful times of the year.
From Families to OFWs: “Kailan po kayo uuwi?”
This question strikes hard the most for OFWs during Christmas season as families back home yearn for the physical presence of their parents and relatives who have sacrificed and supported them all year round. While some OFWs beam with that knowing smile as they have plotted their annual leave some time the following year, others will just let out a brief sigh, smile and respond with a hopeful: “Wag kang mag-alala anak, makakauwi din si nanay/tatay,”