Surviving Christmas by opting for less

WITH Stephanie and Patrick Dye, and Peter Vergara--my American niece and nephews.

WITH Stephanie and Patrick Dye, and Peter Vergara–my American niece and nephews.

WHAT do you know? It’s Christmas day! I can’t recall a more relaxed run-up to Christmas than this one.

Friday’s dreaded “Carmageddon,” the start of the last weekend before Christmas, might have been a dud, but I think I still would have had enough reserves of goodwill to allow me to plod on until the New Year had it transpired.

Like most Metro Manilans, I was so deathly afraid of that day that I decided to finish my business in Makati early before heading to Alabang to beat the rush-hour traffic—which during Christmastime in this mega city tends to start as early as 2 p.m. and end way past midnight.

RECENT Thanksgiving dinner with family in the US

SAY turkey! Recent Thanksgiving dinner with family in the US

Collective fear

That collective fear seemed to have done everybody some good. Not a few people stayed home, while those who couldn’t either wrapped their affairs up (perhaps, including their gifts) early or stayed within a certain radius to wait out the traffic. Well, it worked!

The only dampener in my holiday calendar was the unexpected and, of course, unwelcome breakdown of my car’s alternator. I wrote about the same problem a little over a year ago.

The new alternator did its job without much fanfare for more than a year until it showed signs of conking out in early December. Like last year, the dreaded battery icon on the dashboard lit up anew.

HOW can we reduce speed when we're already at a standstill?

HOW can we reduce speed when we’re already at a standstill?

And since I already knew what to do, I promptly turned off the AC and headlights, and the pesky icon vanished. But it couldn’t have gone on that way indefinitely. I had to address the issue head on if I were to travel long distances and brave bumper-to-bumper traffic with the AC on.

Rather than avail myself of the pricey alternator provided by the “casa,” I, with the help of a mechanic-friend, scoured “Sofia Street,” Bacoor’s version of Banawe, in search of a cheaper alternative.

Cheap alternative

From P80,000 (that’s how much Honda charges for a new and supposedly “original” alternator), I was able to get one for a measly P12,000 including labor at one of the shops lining Sofia—a haven of cheap surplus and slightly used car parts: from steering wheels to headlights, passenger seats to side mirrors, axles to alternators.

MECHANICS at "Sofia Street," Bacoor's version of Banawe, replaces my car's busted alternator with a new one.

MECHANICS at “Sofia Street,” Bacoor’s version of Banawe, replace my car’s busted alternator with a new one.

How long will it run? God knows. I’d rather not think about it. I hope long enough until I have enough money to buy a new car.

In hindsight, I have come to the conclusion that the main reason for my relaxed state of mind this season is my less is more approach to Christmas. And that involves everything—from buying gifts to attending parties.

My colleagues and I at Inquirer’s Lifestyle section, together with several columnists, publicists and contributors, had our Christmas party last Monday, Dec. 22.

An hour or so into the party, while I was co-hosting the event, I realized that it was the first ever party I attended during the Christmas season.

Three days before Christmas

FRIENDS and colleagues from the office led by Inquirer Lifestyle editor Thelma San Juan (in shades of blushing pink) during the recent Lifestyle Christmas party. As far as I know, there are no Villains here. Just, ahem, Heroes.

FRIENDS and colleagues from the office led by Inquirer Lifestyle editor Thelma San Juan (in shades of blushing pink) during the recent Lifestyle Christmas party. As far as I know, there are no Villains here. Just, ahem, Heroes.

Imagine, it was already three days before Christmas, and I hadn’t attended a single party until that evening. Did I miss out on anything by choosing to be more selective?

DOESN'T my relaxed aura show?

DOESN’T my relaxed aura show?

If you count monstrous traffic jams, wasted time, huge gas bills and the hassle of thinking what to wear to this and that event, then I probably did miss out on many things—in a good way.

To be more exact, I was spared from needless trouble by keeping myself scarce this season.

When it comes to gifts, I limit them to a few key individuals. I always make sure to give my colleagues at Lifestyle a token during Christmas as my way of saying thank you for big and small favors and acts of kindness they did to me.

Like most of you, I value my job because it gives me self-worth and brings food to the table. And I wouldn’t have done my job as easily and as effectively if it weren’t for the support and encouragement of my colleagues.

SELFIE-ING my way through the gridlock.

SELFIE-ING my way through the gridlock.

I also allot a number of tokens to household staff and friends at home and in the office I regularly deal with.

As early as August

I start buying gifts as early as August to avoid the rush. To lessen the pinch, I also do it in batches. And even if my tokens are small, useful items, I try to put some thought into the process by carefully matching each gift with the recipient.

Such a basic and seemingly easy process can take up a lot of your time and energy when you’re in a hurry and have a million other things to do. The trick is to start doing it early.

I follow a similar principle when it comes to buying clothes. Since I have enough clothes, shoes and bags to probably last me another lifetime, I no longer feel the urge to hit the malls to buy more as soon as they start playing Christmas carols.

Unless there’s a sale that’s too good to ignore, I usually stay away from malls during December. And if ever I do some last-minute shopping, I usually schedule it during weekdays.

MY parents and I: we've got each other

MY parents and I: we’ve got each other

What about at home? I have a confession to make. Gift giving during Christmas has never been a tradition in my family. The times we gave gifts to each other in the past were few and far between. And that hasn’t changed even now that my two siblings are abroad.

Together forever

It doesn’t mean that we love each other less. But since we’re together most of the time during the year, we probably never saw the need to give each other extra gifts during Christmas.

In my case, the gift giving is year round, as I buy my elderly parents stuff I feel they might need. I don’t see why I have to wait until Christmas to give them presents wrapped in colorful and glittery paper.

I don’t expect any Christmas gifts from them either. That fact that they’re still around in their twilight years guiding and inspiring me through good times and bad is gift enough. No box and wrapping paper, no matter how big and fancy, can contain such a huge, priceless yuletide present.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

CHRISTMAS, ideally, should be raw and unrehearsed.

CHRISTMAS, ideally, should be spontaneous and unrehearsed.







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