Christmas Traditions… “Garay”
By Martha Cynthia Tinsay Gonzalez
My mom is from Norzagaray, Bulacan, where people call a tito – tata and a tita -Nana. So growing up it was tata Bert and Nana Miniang, for my uncle and aunt. Oh, by the way I have 8 of them. When my classmates asked me what province I was from, I would say my dad is from Iloilo/Bacolod and my mom is from Bulacan. While I spent occasional summers in Iloilo & Bacolod. I really spent most of my childhood in Bulacan, or as we fondly call our town, “GARAY.” While everyone traveled or went to the beach during holidays. I was in “Garay” with my cousins.
Hence, my fondest Christmas tradition is walking to our relative’s house in “Garay” and collecting our Christmas presents. The presents were not gifts. It was money. We would all line up and kiss their hands “mano,” our tatas’ and nanas’ would dig deep into their pockets or small wallets (more like a coin purse)– and give us .10 – .15 Centavos each. As the years went by, and the cost of living rose- it went as high as .25 cents.
Why does this resonate? Because we would walk in dirt road, across narrow pathways paved with plants and overgrown weeds on both sides, with roosters and hens dotting the way. And at times the smell of pigs in the pig pen wafting in our nose. This we did in our brand-new Christmas dress and shiny shoes. Back then, a new dress and a new pair of shoes was a must for special occasions. And off course, you wore them first to mass before anything else.
I remember, walking home, we cousins would compare our collections and laugh at who was the most “Kuripot” at times the younger ones would receive .5 cents or less what we would call “mamera.” Nevertheless, they were happy and carefree days.