High-end bags, Casio watches, Apple phones, these are all anticipated as Christmas comes to a close. Working abroad, it can fill pockets, but can’t fill the love and spirit that is missed by overseas workers during the holidays.
Every December, my brother, from Singapore, asks each of us which gift we’d like to receive. Each of us delightfully replies with either the latest phone or the trendiest bag in the market. I’m not close to my brother, but it pains me sometimes to ask for luxurious objects when he could be using that money to go home and spend the Christmas with us. However, those sentiments never passed my lips nor did I even type them as a Facebook message. Come Christmas season, boxes and paper bags pile up under our Christmas tree with the tag “From Kuya” and each of us get to open them with anticipation, after opening them, my family members take pictures of these gifts and post them online with the caption “Thank you Kuya/Anak” tagging my brother on the post. Upon seeing that, I know my brother’s heart flutters; After all, it is the season of giving.
My brother has never been an expressive person but I know how much he longs to celebrate the happiest season in the Philippines with us. I know how much he misses the Noche Buena, especially my mom’s banoffee pie and I know how much he misses our secret santa game.
Whenever he calls on skype on Christmas eve, we can see his face brimming with excitement, but behind him is an empty living room, no Christmas lights, no pies, no celebration, all but a dark and empty room with his Filipino room mates whom I know are feeling the same. It’s no use asking him how he is, because deep down, we all know the answer.
How insensitive we must be to have let this continue for five years, requesting expensive gifts and all, but never have we requested his presence as a gift, when in fact our completeness as a family is the best present one could wish for. We were blinded by our greed for these material gifts and only took our own happiness into account, but never his. The completeness, the presence of our OFW families, are rarely sought, always overlooked, but in reality, that presence can never compensate for even the most high-end bags, sturdiest Casio watches, and the latest apple phones. Upon realizing this, I already know what gift I’m requesting this December.