Paskong Pinoy is truly like no other. Here, Filipinos abroad turn misty-eyed, waxing nostalgic at memories of Christmases past: the chilly morning walks to Simbang Gabi, the puto bumbong and tsokolate, the Christmas carols, and the hearty Noche Buena of ham, quezo de bola, and sweet spaghetti.
Missing home “You just never get used to it,” shares May Reyes, head nurse at the Al Qassimi Hospital-Sharjah in Dubai, and a single mother of two. “The homesickness will always be there. As a mom, namimiss ko yung pagluluto ng pang-Noche Buena, waking up my kids for the mass, dressing them up, and seeing them shrieking with delight over their Christmas presents,” she reminisces. “Now all I can do is send them toys and money for clothes and food. Buti na lang may Internet. I can chat with my kids and see them on the webcam,” she adds. “Since my kids live with my parents, I am assured that they are well taken care of and that they are taught the same values like I was. My kids look up to their lolo and lola as well as my other siblings for guidance, comfort, and attention..
“It is a common practice among Filipino absentee parents to relegate upbringing to the nearest of kin, in this case, either the grandparents, aunts and uncles, or even the yayas or caregivers,” observes Augustus Añonuevo, a social psychologist and author of Coming Home: Women, Migration & Reintegration. “This somehow assuages the guilt of the parents and gives them a feeling of security that their children are properly raised. However, extended families, surrogates, and material things can never compensate for the emotional care and support each of us basically needs. The absence of a parent during the holidays is certainly not easy to deal with.”
A study conducted by ATIKHA, an NGO involved in psychosocial intervention for OFW children, reveals that the kids either feel longing or the opposite, which is alienation from their parents. This is something that may pose behavioral problems in the future.
Wendell Gaa, a culture and information officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs who is based in New York, illustrates a different picture of Christmas from his own first taste of it abroad.
Click here to read more stories from Pinoys celebrating Christmas abroad.