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Oct 02nd
Home Columns JGL Eye Yes, Folks, There Is Santa Claus!
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Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 23 December 2010 09:15




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Yes, Folks, There Is Santa Claus! A Filipino-American Settler in Alaska Found Him in the North Pole


C HICAGO (jGLi) – Christmas normally means a time of reunion and bonding by loved ones.


That’s why you hear and learn about a lot of people going home for Christmas or hearing the popular carol, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”


Just turn on your television sets or access the Internet or page through the newspaper headlines and you will see a lot of people heading to the airports or in the case of the Philippines getting to various bus stations or the seaports flying or sailing home in time for a family reunion during Christmas Eve.


For others, Christmas is also a time to reunite even with non-relatives.


For me, Christmas makes me nostalgic as it takes me back in time. It is like a vignette in the corner of my mind.


I used to observe this phenomenon when I was a kid in what is now Sorsogon City in the Philippines.


A few days before Christmas, I will observe some of our friends from the highlands (far-off barrios) would descend to the lowlands and visit our small wooden home. They would stay with us for the duration of the Christmas season.


I found out that some of them were students of my father, Jose, a public school agriculture teacher in grade schools. They were from some distant barrios, whose families be-friended my father.


And for some reason, they would come to our haunt even if we did not have enough space for them to sleep on.


But during their stay, they would help out in cleaning the house and doing the chores, like cooking with my mom, Consolacion, and my elder sisters, Tony, Dona, Beth and Vicky.




O ur visitors, I noticed, reveled in the sights of people, brightly dressed, passing by in front of our house on the way to the market and the church. And on some occasions, they enjoyed watching the colorfully red-dressed carolers, called “Pastoras a Belen” (shepherds of the manger), who would stop from house to house and would perform a dance number, as kids, like me, would mill around them in amazement and enjoyment.


When the house owner would hand them some donation money, the pastoras would extend their performance with another dance number. If not, the group moved on to another house. Watching them was something the kids, in me, and my younger brother, Ramon (now Ray), also looked forward to during Christmas season.


Perhaps, it was one of the unforgettable sights of Christmas for my impressionable mind.


Since I have never spent Christmas in more than 40 years in my ancestral home after I moved to Manila in the Philippines, I have no idea if there are still pastoras dancing on the street on Christmas Day.


I figure since the barrios at the time and perhaps, even until now, did not have electricity, our annual Christmas visitors probably just wanted to be away from their barrios for a few days for at least once a year and wanted to enjoy a “city life,” although our town at the time was a backward, low-income earning town.


But my father and my mother never complained. In fact, they also wanted the company of people who were touched by the career path of my father. After all, Christmas is sharing, not only of material wealth but also of spiritual love.


When our family moved to Chicago, we still kept the tradition of getting together during Christmas.




B ut when one of my sisters moved to San Diego, California, my remaining siblings are the only ones holding a reunion in Chicago.


And one of my nephews, Ronaldo L. Rey, is going to spend his first extraordinary Christmas this year as a neighbor of Santa Claus. Ronnie and his young family moved last April to Fairbanks, Alaska, about 14 miles away from the home of Santa Claus in the North Pole.


When I called up Ronnie last Monday – five days before Christmas – he told me, “Tito, 20 degree below zero (Fahrenheit) ngayon dito.” (Uncle, it is now 20 degrees below zero here.)


As I write this, three days before Christmas, it is 24 below zero degrees in Fairbanks while it is 28 degrees in Chicago and 84 degrees in Manila.


The good news that Ronnie shared with me was that when they first arrived in Fairbanks last April, they proceeded to the nearby home of Santa Claus in the North Pole. Ronnie and his wife, Contessa, and their daughters, Angel Haven and Ashley, found out that there is really Santa Claus.


When I think of the temperature in Fairbanks, it makes the weather in Chicago feels like spring. And the weather in Manila? A scorching hot summer!


And this spring-like weather that I feel makes me feel like humming and singing, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” as falling snows keep our family indoors and let us enjoy Christmas Eve together. # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (



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