Of course, the rich are spending Christmas in great style and perhaps with a big bang, with expensive gifts and luxurious parties. They travel abroad and buy branded jewelries, perfumes and luxury items and throw parties left and right. They send gifts to the powerful and the wealthy people in government and in high society, to judges, prosecutors and the police. They’d prepare red envelops with cash, in crisp thousand peso bills or five hundreds, for godchildren who shall line up to kiss their perfumed hands. They have giant Christmas trees and multi-colored lanterns that consume a lot of electricity. The rich can afford all these and more.
But how about the poor? How about those who can hardly afford three meals a day? How about the homeless who just sleep in sidewalks where they beg, sell flowers or cigarettes, or, even steal at times and hold up the rich, if the circumstances call for it. How about the farmers who live in far-flung hinterlands, the fishermen who dwell in seasides and riversides, the laborers and the casual workers who do the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs? How about the tenants who still await for the redistribution of their landholdings? How about the sacada workers in sugarcane haciendas, the Muro Ami child laborers, the beggars, the sick and the physically and mentally impaired?
The minimum wage-earners would have to contend themselves with the barest minimum, a kilo of rice, a can of sardines and some noodles to be drowned in water. Their thirteenth month pay is barely enough to pay for their accumulated debts. Many of their kids would go around and do some improvised caroling activities, with empty cans and old guitars made of coconut shells and some strings. If they are lucky, some well-off relatives or masters would give them some ham or meat and bread. The poor’s Christmas is largely entrusted to the charitable work of some kind souls. And yet, many of the least among our brothers and sisters do look happier than some of the rich and famous.
Nowadays, many politicians, using public funds, would ostentatiously splurge on expensive Christmas parties in five-star hotels and topnotch restaurants. They would give away expensive gifts pretending that the money used to fund these activities are coming from their own pockets. Christmas, to the rich, is also a big business. The giant malls and entertainment centers usually make a killing, as they cater to the season’s spending and buying spree, and as they exploit our culture of lavish spending and mindless giving during the Yuletide. Toys and clothing are being sold everywhere, and people buy and buy, shop and shop until they drop.
The poor who live under bridges or in squalor of dust and mud inside the squatters’ areas, euphemistically called urban poor settlements, can hardly make both ends meet. Many of them have to make a living, selling whatever empty cans or cartoons, or scrap iron and bottles are thrown into garbage cans and picked by them all over. Some kids would even pick some thrown away food items coming from fast food chains. These street children compete with rats, flies and ants in eating whatever morsels of foods that the rich must have thrown into the thrash cans and garbage bins.
Christmas to the poor is special because people seem to be more generous and are inclined to give more. Other than that it still the same struggle to survive. In fact, December is more difficult for those who just sleep in the sidewalks because the nights are colder and they don’t have protection from wind and rain, and flood. The children are prone to bronchopneumonia and gastro-intestinal diseases. They cannot even afford food, how could they buy medicine? Many of them are not registered. They do not exist insofar as organized society is concerned. They are the scums of the earth, the street urchins, the burdens of civilized society.
It is a great irony then that the reason for the season came into the world as a poor child who was born in a manger. Today, Christmas is dominated by the rich, the powerful and influential. It is a big business. The city celebrates the season with a series of bang. The poor continue to suffer and bear the burdens of survival. It is sad that Christmas comes and Christmas goes, without the rich and the poor realizing the true meaning of it all. Sana naman, maging iba ang Paskong ito.