Sunday Lifestyle

Once upon a Christmas village

LOVE LUCY - The Philippine Star

There are boxes of gifts that I ordered, stacked in storage, waiting to be wrapped. My supply of paper (it is plain this year, a batch each of red and navy, textured and nice) has arrived. The grosgrain ribbons stand neatly in rolls, also at the ready. I ordered sturdy brown boxes, too, that I know I will have a happy time filling with all kinds of pretty. I just need to find the time to get down to it. Today, the first Christmas present of the year was delivered: a clear glass jar filled with delicious meringue. We have been eating it for dessert after meals, with tea and stories.

This year went by so fast, and I pray for a December that will seal all the 11 months that were, beautifully. I look forward to the coming days; I hope they are languid, love-filled, frenzied maybe, too, but kind and beautiful in every way that matters. I will allow myself to enjoy all those long meals with kith and kin, not rushing through any of it, lingering instead around the table filled with warm bodies for a remembrance of stories, both past and present. I would like for each moment to be steeped in gratitude, for all that was, is, and also all that is yet to be.

Tonight I passed by Ayala Avenue, with all the beautiful lights.  It made me so happy, I felt all choked up with tears that did not quite wish to fall — maybe because they came from a happy place; I cannot say for sure. They just pooled around my eyes, making the evening look misty. You know you are all grown-up when Christmas lights make you feel all tender and sentimental. I listened to Christmas songs from my playlist, and I remember all the happy Christmases I’ve enjoyed. I remember Lolo Tingting and Lola Carmen and all the get-togethers that resonated with laughter and food aplenty. I remember Mommy allowing me to help her wrap gifts even when I was little still and my work, crooked here and there. I remember Lola Linday making Christmas angels out of styrofoam, and then dressing them up with strips of velvet and sequins here and there. They were all very pretty. She would then hang them on walls, and give some as gifts. I remember making ribbons and balls for the tree, and shredding white soap so that it could be my pretend snow in the Christmas village I loved setting up. I had a Christmas village when I was yet single, and I married a man who loves it just as much. It has been two years since we last set one up. There is no space for it this year. But who knows? Maybe one morning very soon we will wake up and decide to find a place for it. Just because.


Food. It is the favorite backdrop of every memory. I know the reliable favorites will make an appearance several times in the course of the holiday season — Ulcing’s lechon (still the best, call 0919-3613291 for orders), orange cake from Bellini’s (913-2550), white cake from Costa Brava — it was Gretchen who taught me to decorate it beautifully with an assortment of fresh berries (call 896-1267), Torta Espanol from Margie. The latter has a very charming story attached to it. It is said that torta is best eaten when it is about a week or two old. But because they smell and taste so good it never lasts that long.  And so in the olden times, the women would bake it and keep it on the highest shelf for safekeeping, just so little hands would not find it. Margie’s Torta Espanol is buttery but light, and not cloyingly sweet. It will be a hit on any Christmas table. You may call 0917-8242296 for orders. And if you want steak, premium quality, you can order by the slab from Joyma (call her at 0906-2606754). We order ours from her and make it into all sorts of dishes — as a roast, salpicao, tapa, teriyaki, burger.  Order in advance as she flies them in. Then there is caramel and chocolate cake from Big Al’s (call 0917-5765906). They never disappoint. And Roshan (0917-8336286) is always a classic, forever a favorite. Her Lemon Torte and her gift baskets and hampers of bars and cookies and my favorite ginger biscotti are happy things to have and share. Peninsula has a delicious cake, too, called King Oscar. It will be lovely in any feast.

I know the days ahead will be a happy journey — of wrapping gifts with fruit cake and milk by my side, giving and receiving, sharing, being. Starbucks has brought back my favorite Toffee Nut Latte for the season, and I am collecting stickers because each year, I always want their planner. As I write this, the kitchen is busy. Helen is making polvoron, from a recipe that Juliana and I came up with a few years back. It will be wrapped in happy colors, and I will bring a big tray of that to a dinner I am attending tomorrow — the first of many such Christmas get-togethers.

December is here, time (and people) are suddenly and thankfully more gentle, and yes, all is well. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.












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