Eight days to go before Christmas

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

Yes!!! And have you attended the simbang gabi? There are now two schedules (the night before, usually at 9:00 p.m., and the early morning at 4:00 a.m. Then on to the sidewalk café or hole-in-the-wall restaurants for delicious family breakfast of a plateful of bibingka and puto bumbong with coffee, tea or salabat. Beautiful Filipino tradition and a big boost to micro and small enterprises! Actually, these delicacies have now become available year-round in many places here in our country, also in my favorite Filipino restaurant, Via Mare.

Additionally, these entrepreneurs have expanded their menu to include pichi-pichi, pancit, suman, arroz caldo, lumpiang prito, fried tofu, champorado, ginataang halo-halo and others. They are usually open very early in the morning until about 10:00 a.m. (or as my favorite neighborhood karinderia owner/cook/server would say, until supply lasts); then open again at 3:00 in the afternoon until early evening or “until supply lasts.” But their supply doesn’t last long. Sometimes, my neighborhood karinderia is done by as early as 9:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the afternoon. Good business. The poor man’s restaurant. Tables are for sharing, which is good for fostering camaraderie and friendship among diners. You can enjoy a bowl of arroz (no meat) with a small plate of fried tofu at P25.00. Very filling and flavorful. I am not sure, though, if they don’t really use MSG. For special occasions, my neighbors go to Jollibee or McDonald’s.

There are all sorts of micro enterprises in my neighborhood. On offer are small gift items, e.g., comb, wallets, messenger bags, children’s dresses, beauty products, skin care, perfume, handkerchief, slippers and shoes from Liliw, Laguna, beautiful plastic flowers, toys for all ages and many, many others. Plus wrapping papers, ribbons, Christmas decors, etc. Divisoria in Sta. Mesa offers complete service and a line of products for every member of the family and even friends. And one does not have to go through nightmarish traffic. Powered by very enterprising mom-and-pop teams.

Christmas is truly a joyful occasion for everyone because it does not only remind us that our ticket to heaven was born in Bethlehem, it also brings a lot of opportunities to be thankful, generous, earn from enterprise, spend hard earned money, give and receive and experience peace and goodwill.

I just came from a pilgrimage to the Holy land. Israel is amazing!! Israelis have turned their desert land into burgeoning communities surrounded by forests, farms and mineral hills. There are even dwarf mango trees and others that are laden with fruits, including bananas. We enjoyed their sweet-sour apples, sweet persimmons, pears, grapes and others. Most of their trees, vegetables and flowers are in greenhouses to better conserve precious water. No water source, so they have perfected the science of seawater desalination. We checked out their supermarket and we found many products that are made in Israel and some imported from the US or Europe. None made in China. Hurrah!!!

We also enjoyed their food – generally vegetables, fruits, bread, yogurt, hummus and chicken. No pork for them, but we had pork at a restaurant serving Chinese food in Tel Aviv. After one week, I kind of miss my pork adobo and sinigang. J

I am lumping Jews, Arabs, Palestinians together and calling them Israelis. Pardon my ignorance, but I think and felt that no matter what political or ideological differences or commonalities they might have, they all seem to mix and work together well. Admirable!

Israelis are very enterprising, innovative and creative. I love their products made from wood, metal, camel leather and ceramics. Their Nativity sets are irresistible. Encouraged by our tour guide and driver to “please help the economy of Israel,” our group of pilgrims bought a lot of religious items, leather bags, Dead Sea beauty and health products, cashmere shawls, bangles and rings (I thought I saw them also in Divisoria and they were made in China!) and sycamore seeds, despite the reminder of our fabulous guide, Mama Ruthie, that sycamores do not bear seeds! They are actually peanuts coated in flour as in our Nagaraya, but the vendors call them sycamore seeds because people believe so. The problem was excess baggage. J

Our Department of Tourism could learn a lot from Israel in the way they handle their tourists/pilgrims. Simple—they are tourist-friendly and they showcase the best of Israel and nothing less, nothing more. No pretenses. No hyperboles, no copycats. Let’s talk more about this next column. Meanwhile, I am already planning to go back to Israel in February 2018. I have to recondition my body for all the walking, slopes and stairs climbing that we did. We surely made more than 0,000 steps per day.


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