Christmas is always the most fun time of year in the Philippines. It begins in September and builds until Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve meal.
Each year that we’ve been here in the house we built, we’ve given gifts to the families that live on our road. They’re all relatives of the original land owner who divided the land into lots years ago. They’re all friends, too.
I buy the men booze. A bottle of whiskey, a bottle of rum or a large-size bottle of the popular Spanish brandy that seems to be everywhere at this time of year. The ladies get sweet red wine or a sparkling alcohol-free beverage.
The kids get toys. To me, toys ARE Christmas. The children here are mostly always happy with whatever they receive but to me, parents buy underwear; Kuyas buy you TOYS!
Toys, Toys, Toys
I love shopping for toys. We don’t buy specific gifts. Anything too specific would be hard to pair with children we don’t know. The children are all under 12 years so generic gifts like toy trucks or dolls work best. My wife takes care of the gifts for girls and I suggest the gifts for boys. To tell you the truth, it’s pretty easy for me to pick out toys for boy. My secret is to choose the ones I want to play with!
Our local mall clears out a big space on the main floor outside of its doors and sets up a Toyland. They have a few artificial trees, some decorations, and, of course, wrapping paper and gift bags, but the bulk of the space is dedicated to toys.
There are literally piles of toys. They have shelves and shelves of stuffed animals, dolls and everything else but in the middle of that are wooden pallets with stacks of cars and trucks for kids.
One of the things I like to do is go down the aisles and check out the knockoffs. Knockoffs? Yep. Because we’re close to CHina here and because many families can’t afford expensive gifts, there are a number of off-brand imitations of popular toys.
One year I saw a “My Small Horse” that looked just like “My Little Pony”. Another time, a memorable one was a package marked as a Spider-Man toy that had a Batman character inside.
Here are a few I found this year:
Halo? Hello? Halo? Hmm. Seems legit.
I thought this was a really weird thing to try to tie-into Frozen. No one got hurt in the movie, did they?
I wonder how many of them they sold?
It’s not The Little Mermaid! It’s just A little mermaid.
Don’t look at the photo on the box! Nothing to see here!
One of the oddest things on the shelves this year.
Clearly, the picture on the box is Barbie but the doll has brown hair. And she’s called “Beautiful Girl Mei Shang”.
So what’s that badly typed burst on the right that says 3+ for the age and then “Dr eam Bobbi”? And what’s up with the Fresh Strawberry thing? The girl is selling fruits and vegetables on her cart but no strawberries.
I’m very confused.
This is all fun but the part I really enjoy is giving the gifts. This year, we had quite a surprise ourselves.
A couple of days before Christmas, my wife and I were walking to the main road. She stopped to tell some of the children that we had gifts for them and “come tomorrow”.
When we arrived back home, though, it resembled a scene from the Pied Piper. Word had spread of the gifts and as our taxi bumped along the dirt road to our house, it was followed by all of the neighbor children!
They all got their gifts one day early but that’s okay. My wife told me that one of the mothers said the children all tore into the gifts and were playing all day with them. That makes me very happy!
Wherever you are, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas – or whatever you celebrate at this time of year, even if its just visits with family – and I wish you all a safe, prosperous, happy and healthy New Year!