If it was up to me, I would have been content staying at home with several good books during the holidays. But the rest of the family had other ideas.
For Christmas, the kids and the wife wanted to exchange gifts with each other, so some weeks before we drew the names of two other members of the family to whom we will give presents. Of course we spent the days before Christmas shopping for gifts, and trying as hard as we could to keep the names of those we drew secret. We failed, for on the day after we drew names, we all knew who was to give each other’s presents.
On Christmas eve, the kids wanted to have the usual barbecue, and we also had spaghetti, macaroni salad, and cake. This was I suppose the most lavish a dinner we could treat ourselves to, considering our necessary frugality. Nevertheless, it was a very happy celebration, and we stayed up to view the fireworks that the people of La Trinidad lit up at midnight.
On Christmas morning, we opened the gifts that we wrapped for each other. We had a lot of fun doing so, taking each other’s pictures and acting surprised, even though we already knew what we were getting. Of course there were some of us who were truly surprised, and the ribbing and tomfoolery that accompanied the exchange of gifts added to the joyousness of the occasion.
Later in the day, we went to the beach with some relatives.
As previously decided, we slept overnight at the beach. The kids enjoyed the continuing celebration, leaving the water only to partake of the meals we prepared, alternating the briny sea with the swimming pool. So it was swim and eat, swim and eat.
Meanwhile, their parents were pestered by hawkers of seafood, and after the hard decision of whose shrimp and crabs and fish to buy, several kilograms of the tasty food was bought, which the ladies had somebody prepare for us.
And so it was a breakfast of shrimp, crab and other shellfish, as well as the ubiquitous sinigang na isda. The deliciousness of the meal was punctuated by its happy partaking and the usual picture-taking. One of our kids is allergic to shrimp, and yet she was as happy as the others as we shared the veritable feast.
I chanced upon one fisherman on the beach later that day, as he and his little boy were untangling their fishnet. I dared ask just how much he earns from a night’s catch, and he told me that on average, he catches some P600 worth. Not bad, considering wage earners or the many others who are jobless or underemployed. Perhaps it was a reason to celebrate, for the fishermen celebrated their Christmas night out at sea just so we could partake of the sea’s blessings.
To make our Christmas celebration at the beach more worthwhile, there were of course other people who did not go on vacation as we did. The ambulant vendors of snacks, the storekeepers, the people who rent out tire floaters. Aside perhaps from their greater need, the increased commerce on Christmas eve, Christmas day and the day after must be a cause for celebration, as they for sure earn more on these days as more people troop to the beach.
There was one vendor who went about the beach carrying an assortment of knives, from butcher knives, machetes, to some fancy switchblades and “Rambo” knives with compasses and small flashlights. His wares were an arsenal of deadly weapons.
Haggling with these vendors was fun in itself, and I managed to whittle down the price of a machete from P550 to P200. Nevertheless, the vendor later that day said that his first sale with me was lucky, as those who afterwards brought his wares hardly asked for a bargain. And so while he earned little from his sale to stingy me, he had a boon with other customers. He certainly had another reason to celebrate the season.
The crowd at the beach was expectedly happy, from the local beach urchins to the fancily attired and car-riding celebrators.
The family enjoyed the celebration, swimming, eating and otherwise engaging in frivolities. With the hundreds of pictures we took of each other, it will certainly be remembered.
More so for me, for I was blissfully laid back as I observed all these. Perhaps there are some things that are better than a good book every now and then.