It’s Christmas season in the Philippines. It’s true.
Classic American holiday music starts playing in the malls on September 1. There are no decorations up yet – apparently those will come later.
Last Christmas, shortly after we arrived in the Philippines, I actually dressed up as Santa for a family party (see photo at top).
In keeping with the theme, I played Santa yesterday (no costume).
It was over a month ago that I first had the idea of providing some bedding for the children of a local family I had met. Like many Filipinos here in Malay, Aklan on the island of Panay, they are subsisting — living hand-to-mouth — more so during the pandemic.
Christmas season in the Philippines
Out of personal respect, I won’t identify the family specifically. But they could be any family – struggling with poverty in the developing world.
I think my back may have been aching when I first broached the subject. My lower lumbar region can be temperamental. And I’m always sleeping on nice, comfortable, western-style mattresses. I wonder how a body feels after years, decades, sleeping in a hut on a woven grass mat or shredded old clothing?
The mother of the family told me her children would love some kind of mattresses – real beds. She even inquired again a few weeks later. I had initiated the idea. Mom was going to ‘help’ me follow through. Good for mom.
In the intervening time, I had been looking around for possible solutions at the many small shops and businesses near the port in the nearby town of Caticlan. Being the terminus for the ferry boats to the world-famous tourist island of Boracay, there is a decent array of retail options.
But the only bedding outlet had a very limited selection – twin and full sized foam mattresses started at about $70 each.
Those were an option, but seemed impractical for a ten foot square nipa hut. And honestly, I was hoping to keep the expense to around $50 total. I felt certain I could find something. I kept looking.
Santa’s helper: A bargain hunter
The foam padding on the couches in our current rental property was really what I was hoping to find. It’s big and thick and very comfortable for star-gazing on our rooftop. But attempts to locate that kind of ‘raw material’ were fruitless.
I ended up in the SaveMore grocery/department store inside City Mall on Boracay – near where Ellie and I decided to spend a couple weeks alone. They have a huge selection of large mattresses and a few smaller, folding-type pads.
Unfortunately, there were only two of my preferred choice – colorful, thick, folding cushions; 75 x 30 inches. The helpful staff even checked the stock room. I purchased the two and another thinner, but more foldable mat that could be ‘tripled up’. Total cost; under $50.
With my bundle of bedding I started the trek back to the mainland to deliver the goods. I was going over to check in with the folks who are running the hen house and egg farm we recently constructed – so it made sense to combine the errands.
Santa’s helper delivers in September
I was somewhat of a sight, a foreigner (cano) wrestling a large stack of foam padding into tricycle taxis and on and off the ferry boat.
But in about 45 minutes, I made it to the family doorstep. Christmas come early.
Ironically, inside my backpack, I had some other goods for delivery. Gluten-free pasta, fresh feta cheese, and a huge jar of gourmet dijon mustard; items requested by some European friends on the mainland that I visited later. Those delicacies are available at the specialty deli on Boracay. The mustard alone cost more than one of the mattresses.
The contrast in needs, budgets, circumstances, and lifestyles was not lost on me.
But this Santa is happy to help with anyone’s desires. Of course, the Europeans reimbursed me for their order – and gave me a cold beer for my efforts.
Counting down the Christmas season
In the end, it was fun to be the bringer of goods and good tidings. And we are already thinking of how we can best spread holiday cheer and gifts to the very needy people here this Christmas as the coronavirus crisis continues to decimate the local tourist economy.
Hopefully, the kids slept well last night on the new bedding. Mom was extremely grateful – and coyly suggested another way to help the family. Santa will be busy this coming holiday season.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Christmas season in the Philippines starts in September.”
What to read next:
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- End of 2020 travel adjustments for Earth Vagabonds
- Pretty tropical paradise pictures to lift your spirits
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