‘Muling makita ka, at makasama ka…’
“Pasko na naman, ngunit wala ka pa…”
Our group poured our hearts out as we sang this most nostalgic Filipino Christmas song to a group of fellow overseas Filipino workers gathered around a table in a restaurant.
A woman in the group took out a handkerchief from her sling bag to wipe the tears from her eyes. Her friend who was seated next to her wrapped her arms around her, trying to console her friend from what I assumed were mixed feelings of homesickness and happiness.
This is a common scenario whenever we go caroling among our kababayan in restaurants and in their homes, in the foreign country we are in.
For years, our organization has been doing this throughout the season of giving, so we can become a channel of blessings and reach out to Filipinos both here and back in the Philippines.
All donations we receive are used to hold concerts for a cause, medical missions, sports festivals and relief goods distribution, to benefit fellow Filipinos who have been laid off from their respective companies and consequently have no means to support and provide for themselves.
Likewise, we are able to extend our help in the Philippines through chosen charitable institutions that conduct the same programs, especially those that help out victims of natural calamities.
This mission is like striking two birds with one stone: We put smiles on the faces of our kababayan while helping them at the same time.
On several occasions, a family would sing with us as the lyrics of “Himig ng Pasko” and “Pasko na Naman” filled the air, and children would dance to “Jingle Bells.”
A couple dining out would hold hands and flash a joyful smile at each other as they listened to the sweet melody of “Perfect Christmas.”
Or a group of Filipino company workers would start recalling their childhood caroling experiences, past Christmases with their families and those Christmas celebrations they had missed.
Filipino nurses, engineers, accountants, construction workers, teachers and even students would sing along with us in unison, and the scene becomes a picture of a united Filipino community.
In the midst of this beautiful portrait of a joyous Filipino family, some break down, while others try to hold back tears.
Nevertheless, everyone is overwhelmed by the feeling of being at home again, if only for a fleeting moment. Many of them have not been able to celebrate Christmas with their families for more than 10 years.
Looking at them, I can’t help but miss celebrating Christmas with my family, too. It has been a while since we had noche buena together, and since I last saw how excited my parents, siblings, nephews and nieces were as they pried open the gifts that had long been kept under the Christmas tree.
Their grateful smiles and laughter always reminded me to thank God for giving me the best gift — my family. And it has been a while since we last prayed together around our simple dining table on Christmas Eve, thanking God for His greatest expression of love, which has kept us intact through thick and thin.
For our fellow OFWs thousands of miles away from their families, hearing Christmas songs in our native tongue brings back the precious moments they have shared with their loved ones, and reminds them of the very reason that brought them here — to give their families the gift of a better future.
“Muling makita ka, at makasama ka sa araw ng Pasko,” says the last line of a favorite carol — and even as the last note fades away, the glowing smiles on the faces of our fellow OFWs seem to be unfading.
Every Christmas carol reminds OFWs of their long absence from the lives of their loved ones back in our homeland, but, more importantly, it also reminds them of the eternal presence of hope — that one day, no matter how long they may have to wait and sacrifice, they will sing these songs again with their families when they return to the place they call home.
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Apolinar T. Malabayabas, 26, works in an international school abroad. He enjoys putting smiles on people’s faces.
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