Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Fireworks

Christmas to me is a mishmash of religious and cultural moment, a great deal of fun piled on top of an uplifting story that must be taken on faith by those of the faith. By mishmash, I mean a glorious concoction of memories and traditions and stories and spiritual awakening.

I've been to Bethlehem. It exists. It is a grubby little town in the middle of a pile of rocks that today people fight and die for, because not all of them believe the same story. They don't have bamboo in the West Bank of Israel, so most of the houses are made of stone. They have lots of that. The old and the new are shabby, worn places. But heroes seem seldom to be born in large rich homes.

Jesus is a historical figure, rather like Joseph Smith, I suppose, who led 10,000 Mormons in covered wagons across the Great American Plain to Utah. Clearly, people trusted him with their lives, and believe he is close to God. A lot of what is attached to Jesus is mostly allegory, I suspect, or incidents embellished for the lessons therein. But it is meaningful for the importance people put on it. The first of the gospels was written something like 30 years after his Jesus' death. I've long suspected that maybe the recollections were a bit fuzzy or patched together "as best as I can recollect". But that does not make them any less profound.

The birth date of December 25 is pure fiction, as is the way Jesus looks in this glorified painting or that. His dark skin has been sent to Bello's for lightening. I also know that when I go to Hell, the destination Proud Pinoy and Pastor Earnie are convinced I am heading, I at least know I will have some hearty companionship, for John Clease and the rest of the "Life of Brian" cast will be there. Clease is among the funniest men on earth, and his "Fawltey Towers" BBC series is among the funniest cheap television shows ever done. A handful of quick-witted people and a set.

"The Life of Brian" is a parody about the life of Jesus. The wrong Jew . . . Brian . . . is picked as the next Savior, and the cast slapsticks its way all the way to the cross, upon which Brian and his compatriots break into a delightfully cheery closing song. If you can get this movie, buy it or rent it. But I warn you, it is not for those who take their religion seriously. However, the more you know about the incidents in Jesus' life, the more meaning is attached to the riot of satire that is the life of Brian.

Santa and Jesus. Now there is a pair of characters joined at the Christmas tree, along with angels and elves. What a happy crowd they make.

The Salvation Army dings bells for dollars and the Catholic Church bongs mass for souls. Somewhere in the distance, loud Christmas music is spreading the joy.

Red and green are the official Christmas colors. And white, of course.

Never mind that our part of the world never gets snow and the holiday pine trees are made of plastic.

Orange is for Halloween, the anti-Christmas Holiday. It's for voodoo and magic and why am I writing about that? Superstition and fairy tales are where you find them, I guess.

We had fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve. The little lady coughed up P 4,000 to buy some roman candles that were really wimpy, fizzling off two red blobs each, and some outta-sight rockets that shot up like professional fire-works, exploding above the house in reds and purples and whites. I'm amazed at this stuff. The biggest had 25 mini-rockets packed in a 5 by 5 cluster, like anti-aircraft rockets. Light the fuse and run. Every explosion went off like it was supposed to, with the finale being a beautiful waterfall of white crackling firecrackers. No one lost any fingers, arms or eyes this year, and the tin roof of the house did not burn.

The fireworks were made in the Philippines.

We should put those people in charge of the legislature and we might get the HR and Divorce bills passed. Or at least let them defend the Spratleys.

Surrounding that celebration was about three days of eating and people visiting in search of food and a gift. Every relative who can imagine a box on the family tree crawled up the National Highway to the rich niece's place. Not to mention the carolers who seemed to arrive at the most inconvenient time, and sang loud enough, if not always on key . . . and not exactly for the joy of it. Ulterior motive was behind the caroling . . . caroling for cash.

The Philippines is the reverse of the U.S., where caroling spreads the joy of the season to others. Hmmmm, when did I write that Filipino brains were installed in reverse ? I guess it takes money to get them turned around. (Or they have to be turned around to get money??) Chickens and eggs forever . . .

We also had a Christmas morning gift bonanza for the kid, who doesn't quite understand Santa but welcomes what he brings, mostly toy trucks and books. Anybody trying to touch his goodies is in for a snarl, "leave my stuff alone". He will be a great consumer as he gets older.

We are "haves" in a land of "have-nots". It is both a blessing and a draw on the heartstrings.

But one gift lights up a kid's eyes, so it is easy to pass the joy about. The parents are happy with cash.

The Filipino way is a family way with the Church as backdrop. Food is the center of the occasion. It's a rich and joyful holiday, even for people without much money. I think there is not as much depression here as there is in the U.S.

People who don't have anything don't have high expectations.

Not so far to fall I suppose.

Time to mosey down to the fireworks store. Gotta restock for New Year's eve.


  1. Always look at the bright side of life (whistles).

    I stopped buying fireworks/ firecrackers. I just don't see the value anymore. While my ancestry dictates that I have to "ward off evil spirits," I don't see the point of burning my hard earned cash -- cheapskate 'til the end.

  2. Joe,

    You don't need to go to hell. All you need to do is open your heart to God Almighty who loves us so much that he sacrificed his only son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins.

    Do not despair dear brother. There is hope even for the likes of you. We will never give up praying for you.

    God bless.

  3. "I think there is not as much depression here as there is in the U.S.

    People who don't have anything don't have high expectations." - JOE

    Now I understand why I am depressed some of the time because I expect too much of myself thinking others would tap it that can make me important.

    Since Filipinos do not expect nothing anymore, they have fallen and reached the bottom and cannot claw out of the muck, they become happy for just being alive and knowing that they'll go to heaven because God said "it is easier for a poor Filipino to pass thru the eye of the needle than a wealthy Filipino".

    Since 94,000,000 squabbling, back-stabbing, emotional Filipinos has nowhere to go they sing in unison, "Don't Worry, Be Happy".

    Filipinos will be happy if they can bring down wealthy Gloria Makapal-Arroyo, the crowned Cheap Justice Corona, benign0 and the rest of the wealthies and that includes their idol, ERAP-para-lahat-pantay-hERAP.

    Filipinos are happy if they can bring down someone to their poverty level.

  4. Filipinos do not expect much anymore. Their expectations is food on the table and tuba under the mango tree.

    Their happiness is photos with the councilor or the mayor that stole money from them. Or, some pep talk from the church that they are blessed regardless of nothing. That it is not only wealth that brings them to heaven. That if they have wealth they have to share it. It is inculcated in every Filipino mind that sharing of wealth is not voluntary but an obligation. That wealth cannot be brought to heaven and when they all die and turn to ashes nobody can know if they are wealthy or poor.

    Gosh, these brain-washings from the church is causing Filipinos not to expect anymore but taught them to be happy with adversity.

    Our neighbors expect to give them money and chocolates and food whenever I come back home. They started lining up at my parents house. Peering thru the windows. I feel like a star. If I do not give, I am a bad person because God said "share the bounty and God will multiply it" ! REALLY ?

    There is this church in Orange County in California that peddles "if you put in one dollar God will multiply it". My brother is so into it. He believes it. Yes, they are "wealthy" because his wife is a nurse working two shifts. YET, this church in Orange County filed for bankruptcy. The church is sold. Prayers not answered. I HOPE THEY ARE HAPPY LIKE FILIPINOS.

  5. Mariano,

    The percentage of Filipinos going to heaven would most definitely be higher than the percentage of Westerners going to heaven.

    The irony here is what Westerners see in Filipinos as their weaknesses are actually their strengths. Their concept of success is sadly so materialistic that it truly saddens me to think that a person would measure his self worth based on his wealth and success. What a tragedy.

    Let us pray for the Westerners. May God give them the strength to see beyond the illusion of materialism.

  6. Having said that, here are the reasons why Filipinos will never progress:

    1. Filipinos expect wealthy Filipinos to share their bounty according to the scripture of God;
    2. Filipinos do not work hard but expect something from the wealthy Filipino;
    3. "Wealthy" Filipino becomes not wealthy anymore because that Filipino shared his wealth to the poor expecting it to multiply and once it multiply he shares it some more until there is nothing to multiply anymore;
    4. Filipino dies, turns into ashes and skeleton, no distinction between rich and poor they look all the same WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH?
    5. Wealthy Filipinos cannot bring their riches to heaven, WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH?
    6. "it is easier for a poor man to pass thru the eye of the needle than a rich man" WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH?
    7. Filipinos always say this, and thanks to the church, "they may be wealthy but we do not know know their problems" WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH IF IT IS A HEADACHE?
    8. Filipinos always say this, and thanks to the church, "Wealth is good but comes with big headaches, live simply god will take care of the rest" WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH?

    The church inculcates mediocrity. Why bother work hard and strive? It's a headache. Huge problem. Why bother at all when all hardwork is eventually given to the lazy-in-waiting for the bounty from God?

  7. Mariano,

    Why bother about getting rich for a 77 year life span when an infinite life in heaven (or hell) awaits? Your life on earth is just a blip on the radar, an afterthought, or a drop in the ocean compared to the life you will live with Jesus in heaven. Filipinos get this because they are smart. Many westerners are so clueless.

    My question to you, Mariano, is do you get this?

    If not, just accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I pray that you see that the choice between this short physical life is insignificant compared to what follows.

    God bless.

  8. Pastor,

    77 years of torment and poverty is too much to bear. I want to go to heaven and at the same wealthy before I pass away ... THAT WOULD BE LIVING A FULL LIFE.

  9. Pastor, I'm not sure how excessive suffering is a better standard for life than excessive materialism. On one had, I agree that acquiring things for the sake of acquiring them is actually a barren life, but on the other, begging is not exactly doing much of God's work. I personally think two qualities of humankind set people apart as "worthwhile" or heaven-bound: (1) they grow intellectually and spiritually, (2) they give to others. Those who acquire things as benchmarks to prove to themselves that they are growing often fail because, as you suggest, materialism alone does not do much for the soul.

    I think a man of Christ comparing Westerners to Filipinos and finding Westerners coming up short on the Godly scale is a little bizarre. Indeed, the quality of religious study and depth of spirituality in the United States makes the superstition and beggar-praying done in the Philippines look shallow, indeed. Most Filipinos don't even read the bible.

    I frankly see little difference in spiritual depth between the divorced, car-buying, sex-mad, boozing American and the down-and-muddy illiterate Filipino rice worker with 10 kids, no food, and no way out. There are millions of each in America and in the Philippines, so you have plenty of uplifting work to do without comparing people, one against the other. I suggest that you leave that kind of dirty work to us sinners so you can tend to the flock anywhere, anytime, with a non-judgmental heart. You know . . . like Jesus did.

  10. Pastor Ernie,

    Kung gusto ni manong joe pumunta sa impyerno bakit natin siya pipigilin? honga sabi mo kailangan natin mahalin ang lahat ng tao kasi sabi ito ng diyos. pero kung talagang gusto ni manong joe na magpakasaya sa impyerno hayaan natin siya. ginawa mo na ang lahat para sa kanya. sa ibang tao mo na lang ibigay ang oras mo kasi sinasayang mo lang ito kay manong joe.


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