Chapter 41: Christmas Times

One thing we found out early on when we moved to Enrile was that we had many relatives and neighbors. Of course, we were in the Abbariao family, and Tia and Junior lived in the same house we did. Vicente, her brother, lived three doors to the south with one daughter, Belen, and her husband, Tony, and six children. Belen and Tony were teachers in elementary and college levels respectively. Another of his daughters lived just north of them. This was Ensing whose husband was Abus Anog. Ensing and Abus were farmers. They had five children. Another family lived right next door to the south of us. They were Rufino and Margarita (Itay) Luna, a relative of Tomas Luna, the man who built the house we lived in. Rufino and Itay had eight children. Two of them lived away from home, but the youngest six were still there and those were the ones we got to know well. Rufino was a carpenter, as were most of his relatives.

The family who lived directly north of us was Berting (Bert) and Lovina (Vila) Mabazza and their family of three boys. Bert was a soldier in the Philippine Constabulary and Vila was a high school teacher. Their neighbors to the west were Bert’s parents, Santiago (Agu) and Lucretia (Lucring) Mabazza. The older Mabazzas had a large family, but only three of their children lived in Enrile.

To the west of Santiago lived their son, Junior, and his wife, Belinda, and eight children. Junior owned a jeepney and earned his living by traveling between Enrile and Tuguegarao as a jeepney driver. The original jeeps were surplus US Army jeeps at the end of WWII. They are now elongated. The entrance is at the back. There is a bench running the length of the jeep on each side. Each side holds 6-9 passengers. The seat on which the driver sits accommodates two more beside him.

There is an opening about two feet high above the back of the bench on each side. There is a rolled up canvas above the opening that is let down when it rains. There is a rack on top of the jeepney that holds luggage or cargo, and sometimes passengers ride up there. It has a specific route, and people get on and off as they need to.

This large extended family of ours meant a lot to us at Christmas time, and so we took it upon ourselves to see that we gave every one of these a small gift at that time just to let them know we loved them. All the gifts we gave over the years came out of our own pockets, and those of our friends, not from the STEP mission money. When the children were small, we made animal pillows for them. Our two house girls and some of the older neighbor girls helped do the handwork on these, and they were really cute. Another time, we made doll dresses so we could dress dolls that I had purchased at garage sales in the States. I got the older girls and the mothers to help in this project. When we got the church established in Enrile, we had Christmas programs each year. The church gave each child a gift, so we did our share in making bean bags for the children the first year. We made doughnut holes to add to the refreshments, that year, too.

Other years, we gave such things as sample bottles of body lotion, shampoo, curlers, cheek rouge, and nail polish for the girls, and soft balls for the boys. One of my cousins in the States gave us a large selection of Avon samples one year when we visited her on furlough in Turlock, California, so we gave these to many leading women of not only Enrile, but also Piat and even some of the vendors that we bought things from in Tuguegarao. We gave men’s Avon to the men, too, and body cream, shampoo, and other things to various groups of people. We were busy getting familiar with many people in those days and needed to show our appreciation to them for the many ways in which they had helped us through the year.

While we gave gifts to the children, we gave to the parents things such as calendars we had purchased from the Philippine Bible Society book store in Manila. One time, we gave knives to the men and scissors to the women. Another time, we gave hats to the men and handkerchiefs to the women.

Early on, when we were visiting the Selbys in Aparri, we learned that it was their practice to give simple gifts to the people in their community, including the folks who worked in the municipal hall and others who served the town in special ways. They said these folks had been a blessing to them all through the year with their services, and they felt they wanted to show their appreciation. We decided we would do the same. So when we moved to Enrile, we also gave gifts to the employees at the municipal hall as well as people in the police department, the health department, post office, and others. These were simple gifts, but ones they appreciated. One time I remember making sugar cookies to go around to all of the neighbors plus the municipal hall people and the group there, as well as to the ladies who sold vegetables down at the little town market we had. Another time, it was popcorn balls, but once was enough for the popcorn balls, because that was a big sticky job.

Other times, we gave apples to everyone—great big Washington Delicious apples that were very juicy. Several times we got chocolate bars on half-price sale, so we got enough for everybody to get one. One time, when we had just come back from furlough, we gave tennis shoes to our neighbors and church members. Another time, we brought back baseballs, volleyballs, bats and other kinds of sports equipment to give to the schools that were in great need of such things. We even brought back the hoops to go with the basketballs. Whenever we went home on furlough, we were always looking for something the people back there would appreciate receiving, and that we could afford to take to them.

One ladies’ group in particular comes to my mind concerning the money we had to do these things. I had been invited to speak to these ladies down at Wilmington Christian Church. As I spoke, I was so excited about telling them what we did at Christmas time for our friends and neighbors that they got into the spirit of it, too. The next Christmas season, they sent a check in the mail for an amount that almost paid for the whole batch of gifts we gave out that Christmas. They have done it every Christmas since then, too, even though their group was not so big for a while.

For the neighbor folks, we always put up our Christmas tree, a six foot artificial tree with tiny lights all over it and lots of ball ornaments, tinsel and decorations we have picked up over the years. This we put up in our living room, of course, and invited the neighbors in to see it. It was the only one like it, and they really appreciated it.

One time when on furlough, we happened to call on a couple from University Christian Church. They were just in the process of moving to Texas, so were not at home. They had left behind a whole box of old decorations for the trash man to pick up. However, we got there first, and when we saw the treasure trove, we realized how grand those things would look on our Christmas tree in the Philippines. We quickly picked them up and put them into the trunk of our car, all excited at what we had found. Even to our last Christmas in the Philippines, we still thrilled at the decorations we got that afternoon. Bob and Coralea Kiefer never did really know how much we appreciated having gone to see them, but finding all of those things instead that day. No doubt, the Aparri Bible Seminary is still getting the joy from that tree and those decorations, since we gave them to the school when we left.

The first time we put up our tree, we invited Tia to come up and see it. It was night, and that’s all the light we had on in our front room. She came upstairs, and when we had her sit down, she just stared and stared at the tree. We believe she had never seen such a sight in her whole life. We had put on all of the decorations and lights, and then we had also added tinsel that moved and glowed and sparkled in the wind coming through the windows. It was like a fairy dream to see.

Starting then, and every year after that, we invited the neighbors up to see the tree, sing Christmas songs, have a little program with the children reciting whatever they had learned for their school Christmas program, and then to give them their simple gifts, and have refreshments. It was quite a jolly affair and everyone was happy. Oh, yes, later on, there were some kids who felt they were “too big” to come up, but when the other kids persuaded them, they came up very bashfully, joined in on the festivities and had a lot of fun, too.

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