Monday, November 26, 2012
Bringing back Christmas
by Maria Kathrina Lopez Yarza
November 26, 2012
Somewhere in the City of Mandaluyong is an area impassable to any vehicle.
Our neighborhood located at M. Vasquez Street is not as attractive as the other communities. There are a lot of small houses here that are cramped together. Within the area is a small compound called Green Years Apartment or GYA. This is where my friends and I have lived since we were young.
When we were kids, we would always look forward to celebrating Christmas with games and a party that starts from the morning of December 24 until the eve before Christmas.
It was the idea of my late grandfather, Lolo Pete, to hold a Christmas party for the kids not only inside the compound, but for all the kids in the street. It started long before I and my friends were born.
A CHERISHED AFFAIR
It was in the early ‘70s when Lolo Pete asked Tito Caloy, my dad’s brother, to take charge in organizing the event. In order to raise funds, he held a bingo bonanza in the community and asked the help of the municipal government. Hence, the Dec. 24 affair became a fiesta for the kids with lots of games and treats the whole day while the simple Christmas party in the evening became a gift-giving event.
To the kids of M. Vasquez Street, Lolo Pete and Tito Caloy were our Santa Clauses who made us happy every Christmas eve. Tito Caloy, together with some of the neighbors continued the tradition even after Lolo Pete was gone.
When my friends and I became teenagers, we started getting involved in the event preparation and organization until we were old enough to do everything on our own. Organizing ourselves as the GYA Peeps, we embarked on the work that include composing letters, seeking help from local officials and some of our neighbors, and holding fundraising activities.
Sometimes we even use the little money we have in our pockets to add to the funds we need. We also began holding a yearly cake raffle, garage sale, and a bazaar to raise more funds. Because of this, we have learned to maximize whatever budget we have.
We made the event more fun by making a 12-foot Christmas tree complete with a seven-foot Santa Claus display which I painted myself.
Remembering how those parties have given us so much happiness over the years, it became our goal to revive that tradition again and allow the kids in our neighborhood to experience the happiness we felt when we were their age. More importantly, we want to experience the spirit and joy of Christmas. It is our way of instilling in them the true essence of sharing and of living their childhood lives to the fullest.
CONTINUING THE TRADITION
After being diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), I was still active and it didn’t hinder me from doing my normal activities. I was still able to organize the event with my friends, party with the kids and do my usual hosting stint.
But 2005 was the worst part of my battle. I was confined in the hospital for a long period and underwent another major brain surgery. I also acquired pneumonia, and my health suddenly deteriorated. That year, the Christmas celebration in our neighborhood still pushed through as planned even though I wasn’t able to participate. I was just lying on my bed in silence.
The following year, I was still so sick. But my friends and I decided to continue the tradition because we do not want to disappoint those children who were looking forward to another Christmas activity. So we had a simple gift-giving on Christmas Eve.
The year after, we were all so busy that we couldn’t organize the party. As a result, the once fully-lighted up compound suddenly became a dull and blue Christmas.
This year though, we realized that we must continue reaching out to the children again. We want to set a good example, and to pass on the tradition to the younger generation. So after six years, my friends and I have decided to bring back the Christmas spirit in our neighborhood and in the hearts of the children.
A GYA Christmas feast will be a whole-day event full of games, food, gifts and a big party. This time, we are planning to start the day with a feeding program. We want to treat the kids with a hearty breakfast so that they will have sufficient energy to enjoy the day’s activities. In the evening, a Christmas party will be held with lots of food, games, prizes and surprises.
In behalf of my GYA Peeps, we are seeking your support so we can make this event more successful and meaningful. Two days after we announced the upcoming event, over a 100 kids already registered, excited to experience the fun, joy and fellowship that this season brings – the GYA way.
You can donate candies, cookies, cupcakes, canned goods, noodles, juice in tetra packs, coloring materials, new toys or anything that you’re willing to share. You can reach me at 0906-3360757 or 0923-5219600.
I strongly believe that “it is through giving that we receive.” We may not be materially rich, but in our hearts we have tons of love and happiness to share this season of giving.