Winter is the time where darkness sets in early, but transforms into the season of lights. I can say as I sit here to write this article, that it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I thought after spending 4 years in Florida, the tropical climate that mirrors the Philippines would have the same Christmas feel. It was, in those Florida years that the hot weather, palm trees, and white sand beaches really made it feel like a contrived, artificial holiday season – especially with the American bill of a “white Christmas and yule tide logs above the fireplace.” Florida never felt like the quintessential American holiday season. So I wondered; what will the Philippines hold for the Christmas season?
The answer came to my surprise. But first, let me debunk some of the myths of a Baguio Christmas. CNN wrote an article on Christmas in the Philippines (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/05/world/asia/irpt-xmas-philippines-traditions/index.html?iid=article_sidebar). I however did not find it all to be accurate. Christmas in Baguio is very different. Contrary to CNN, the season didn’t begin in early September but inched its way out in late October into early November before taking full force the first weeks of December. Make no mistake about it, the Christmas season in Baguio is palpable, exciting. There are decorated Christmas trees throughout the city, the streets are lined with lights and decorations, holiday music teeming through every hallway and street corner, and a chill in the air that reminds you of the “white Christmas” of old. The excitement of the city is palpable and it reminds you that Christmas is upon us.
Usually, in the American tradition, Thanksgiving is the ramp up to the Christmas holiday. So I have to admit, a Thanksgiving without football just doesn’t feel the same. But a Peace Corps Thanksgiving made it all worth the while. A large group of about 25 Peace Corps volunteers and friends gathered in Sagada for our Thanksgiving celebration. Though a week late, the excitement and thought of celebrating the American holiday was never diminished, and it was the same – football-less though—we celebrated in style.
Our attempt at cooking a turkey translated into two chickens. I was told that turkeys in Sagada were considered pets, so nobody would sell us one knowing it would be butchered. But chickens were a different story and the brave of our group took the true Peace Corps experience and beheaded the chicken before cooking it over an open fire. This is what I like to call the #peacecorpsway. We also had stuffing, potatoes cooked about 5 different ways, more desserts than you could count, and many other foods from home to make the Thanksgiving complete.
But more than the food, it was a great realization that this wasn’t a holiday away from family. This was a celebration with our Peace Corps family. Though we may come from so many different walks and not known each other before this experience, we are invariably bound together by a common experience and desire to make a difference, that in the course we become family. It’s a Thanksgiving experience, and as we went around the circle saying what we each were thankful for, it was hard to forget that we shared a deep bond being bound by the Philippines. So what better way to celebrate a thanksgiving than together.