Gen X Christmas in Pasig 1965 – 1985
Christmas was always special in Pasig for this Generation X. Having been born in Pasig and lived here until now. I was witness on how Pasig celebrated the Yuletide Season when it was less densely populated and everybody mostly knew who was everybody. How the season began and how it ended. Recollections of a bygone age when it was simple as compared to today.
To those of my generation and among my schoolmates, it begins the week after All Saints Day. By then we would be collecting bamboo and stripping them into sticks. Our Practical Arts in Pasig Catholic College made us craft the beginnings of small “Parols” or Christmas Lanterns. We already have the patterns, as to the traditional “Star of Bethlehem.” A real star. But these were small. At most 6 inches in diameter and length. We would get the bamboos at the public market, ask for free bamboos from farmers in Pinagbuhatan and basically from neighborhood craftsmen. We would strip these bamboos into sticks, careful with the exact measurements. For Week 1 would have the sticks ready. By the second week we would be busy tying up the sticks and crafting them into stars. All of them carefully measured. By the third week we would assemble them carefully inserting the blocks in between the pentagrams so as to give the Parol its body. On the last week of November, we would be cutting the “Papel de Hapon.” To cover them. The color was blue. All of them the same color and before the week ended, we would be cutting the tails, the “palamuti” and the tassels. We would all submit them on a Friday.
December 1. They would be used to adorn the Pasig Immaculate Conception Cathedral as it is known now. Hundreds of small, blue parols would adorn the inside of the church. We knew that each star was made by each one of us and we knew that Christmas has started. It would also be in time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a grand procession would be the highlight of the Pasig town fiesta. Christmas was approaching. When the Christmas Lights at El Pasig Bakery are turned on, there was no question about Christmas in Pasig. The Fountain at the Pariancillo would then be turned on every night. A wonderful fountain that danced and changed colors would be the centerpiece of the Pasig town plaza. Christmas Lights at the PSBank Building, Dimas-Alang Bakery and most shops along Kapasigan added to the gaiety of the season. The first “Puto-Bumbong” and Bibingka Stalls whistled along Kapasigan as with new toys at the Chinese owned shops were displayed.
The Palengke was full of Christmas related food. Jamon, Quezo de Bola, fruits ranging in variety from grapes, apples, oranges, pears. New arrivals of clothes, shoes, slippers, and more toys. The “Violet Colored” Suman would now be available together with Putong Macao, Inutak and Maja Blanca were sold on “Bilaos.” Chickens in woven bamboo cages were made more available, hogs were tied together with goats which was then allowed in the Pasig Palengke. Shoppers from Taytay, Antipolo, Marikina, Pateros, Taguig, Cainta, and even Makati would buy their holiday needs and would also sell their wares at the palengke.
When Simbang Gabi starts, one can see families walking towards the church by 4:00 a.m. and in the coming days, the pace quickened. Christmas parties and programs would be held in schools. But these were simple affairs, Children would bring their own food and share it among themselves. Everybody gets to eat and the exchange gifts were hilarious since most of us would wrap a box of Curly Tops, Choco-Mallows, Choco-Crunchies, and Chocolate Eggs. We would open them and we would eat them right there and then. We gave our teachers handkerchiefs as Christmas gifts.
Then it was Christmas Vacation. We would run to Scholar and find out what the new Matchbox Cars are and for me, the December issue of Reader’s Digest. It was a time of reading comics and buying kites from Tandang Bilog in San Nicolas then it was off to the “Bukid” for flying kites, climbing trees, picnics and just trying to be a kid. Usually, Carolings would start on December 18. But most of the child-carolers would be home by 8:00 p.m. It would be the adult carolers who would do the more serious carolings after that.
And for the songs, we listened to and played White Christmas by Bing Crosby, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Adeste Fideles, Angels from On High, Silent Night, Silver Bells, Jingle Bells, 12 Days of Christmas, Christmas Alphabet, and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. The carols were taught to us in school and were played on the radio. There were Christmas Specials on TV like those of Bob Hope.
Christmas Eve was spent at home most of the day and going to church. In my case, it was to watch the Christmas Cantata in our church. After church, there were only a few people out on the streets but one copuld hear the festivities at each home during the Noche Buena. Each one was a small family affair, a celebration of Thanksgiving for having another Christmas together. The lights still shone, the Star Parols still hung and a Christmas Carol can be heard being sung or played in each home.
That was how Pasig celebrated Christmas and I remember distinctly that Christmas Eve of 1985. Things were uncertain with the looming Snap Elections of 1986. The country was in crisis back then just as it is today. Just like then, this Christmas of 2020 is muted but Christmas we will still have here in Pasig.