Fat again | Inquirer Opinion
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Fat again

12:05 AM December 24, 2015

I killed and ate Santa Claus. But don’t fret. I’m not a cannibal.

My mother said I used to be fat. I was born fat, but as I grew up, it turned out that I was destined to be skinny, not a fatso. This went perfectly with the decline of my sight. The same happened to my faith in Santa. It grew thin until it became thread-like, which I could barely see with my no-glasses eyes.

I remember when my mother suggested that I write letters to Santa and hang stockings on our windows. Looking back, I cannot believe how I fell for that trick, because after we wrote the letters, my mother vanished into thin air. Of course, she went to the mall to buy “my wishes.”

Night came. Drowsy from the noche buena, I climbed into bed and cocooned myself in my blanket. Santa might be late because of the traffic, my mother said. Little did Santa know that I was an insomniac, I thought. Then I saw an adult’s shadow approaching our stockings and filling them with chocolates.

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At first I thought it was a thief because I had heard of cases of burglars disguised as Santa to fool children “home-aloned” by their parents. I stealthily took a broom and hit “Father Christmas” until she squealed, revealing that she was my mother, just done with laying a toy robot under the Christmas tree and putting a new goldfish in our aquarium.

Anger surged in me, the child that I was. Tears fell from my eyes, and I bellowed the word “fake.” I did not even care that my mother was also crying while uncloaking the Santa attire and getting rid of the pillow on her tummy. She granted two out of three wishes—a toy robot and a new goldfish. But of course she could not grant the last—bringing the absent father who, I realized later in my life, should have been the Santa that night.

Starting from there, the fat bearded old man in red with sacks of gifts and a reindeer-drawn sleigh became but a figurine for me. I stuffed my gray cells with the belief that people just rationalize the existence of such a childish image, and I grappled with interrogatives. How could an old man live in the North Pole with a factory of gifts? Who is Santa’s mailman? How could the reindeer defy gravity? Most of all, how could he fit himself into a sizzling chimney?

I became a scrooge, turning the TV set and lights off whenever I heard the voices of children caroling. If caught, I had these choices: a) giving them piso; b) chanting the word “tawad”; c) demanding difficult songs; and if the kids were persistent, d), telling them that singing for money is an insincere way of celebrating the occasion. After all, our godparents were nowhere to be found. I was also frustrated in the Misa de Gallo as I soon discovered some religious hypocrites (prayerful inside, profane outside), and some who were simbang lugaw, simbang bibingka, simbang landi, simbang tabi.

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Can the belief in Santa save the country from poverty and corruption? Can it even help us choose the right candidate? An atheist friend once raised this thought: Christmas is for Christians and, contrary to the common belief, it’s not the occasion that everyone’s entitled to celebrate. A sociology teacher observed that people in crisis are more likely to believe in “invisible things” for they need something to cling to.

I still remember how a childhood friend named Naomi lost her mother to cancer. The last time we talked, she said that as a child, she would wake up every Christmas night to catch Santa because she believed that Santa took her mother away. She often cursed the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

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Her grandmother told me that one night, the father who had been abroad donned a Santa costume on his return. It just so happened that the mother went into crisis after kissing “Santa.” The father called for an ambulance and carried his wife to the hospital still wearing the outfit.

I cannot forget the fire, caused by defective Christmas lights, which took away the lives of two children. Aling Belen told her surviving daughter that Santa had taken her siblings to the North Pole and that amid the smoke, she saw Saint Nick’s silhouette. Mang Lito, the husband, claimed that it was not Santa but Jesus who came to collect the children, the same image in Daniel 3:14-29.

Santa was also the image that my other childhood friend, Joy, associated with the white-bearded foreigner with whom her mother was having an “affair” through the webcam. But of course, the neighbors knew that the affair was nothing but business. I just hoped at that time that Joy was not involved in it.

And there were way too many Santas but no one on whom to gamble my faith. Until one Friday.

On my way to a mall to buy a gift for our party, an old, bald and coughing Santa-ish guy wearing a shirt and “Puruntong shorts” sat beside me in the jeep. A kid came and distributed donation envelopes while singing “Santa Claus, may Facebook ka ba?” To my astonishment, “Santa” clapped his hands to the beat of the song to match the kid’s tambourine. He even turned himself into a conductor, using his black umbrella. To everyone’s surprise, when the song ended, he gave the boy P500 plus an ensaymada. He showed the same energy when he left the jeep with a cheery “Merry Christmas!”

Going home, I realized that I had forgotten to get myself a new umbrella. I decided to buy one in a market. I approached a boy and when I was about to pay for a red umbrella, he called me “Santa,” smiled at me, and said, “Thank you po talaga.” The word “talaga” (really) meant something. I asked him why.

He told me how he needed the money to put his grandpa in a home for the aged. He said his grandpa had become senile and was roaming the streets; there were times when he would find the old man at the jeepney terminal near the mall, coughing from the fumes. In fact his grandpa—wearing an orange shirt and carrying a black umbrella—had wandered off at that time. “I lost him when I had to find change for P1,000,” the boy said. “I found him later.”

A connection came to me. Perhaps it was just me who assumed the connection between this boy and Santa. But it was an epiphany. I just found Santa, not in the North Pole, but in me, and in the hopeful and hardworking people of every day.

I ate Santa and he has remained inside me, along with my faith in Jesus who’s probably the shaved and thinner version of him.

I was blind but now I see, was thin but now fat again.

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Kristoffer Aaron G. Tiña, 20, studies communication arts at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

TAGS: Christmas, Giving, Santa Claus

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