It’s Christmas and we are not at all in the spirit. Our little tree is bright with lights and our paper wreathes are doing their best but it is not enough. Frankly, I am just a little homesick. I want a snow storm and robust voices caroling “Jingle Bells”, not nasal intonations of “Jeengell Bels” carried on warm breezes.
Tonight we went to the neighboring town of Angeles to attend midnight mass. The enormous old Spanish cathedral was jammed to, and beyond, the open doorways with Filipinos aged from the cradle to the grave. There was a limited number of seats, so nine tenths of the congregation was standing or squatting on the filthy floor. Some were passing the time of day, some were intent on their rosaries and others were just looking at the tawdry flower be-decked altars to various saints. One poor old crone near us chanted her beads, monotonously but with
raucous fervor, changing neither tone nor expression.
“Gold,” muttered one of our party, “to American Tobacco.”
Outside the church natives swarmed around the various baskets of decaying fish and fruit. Babies slept unnoticed on the ground while their mothers smoked long black cigars and gossiped with their neighbors. Many of the crowd presented the revolting blood-red lips and teeth that come from chewing betel-nut –some of them, indeed, were busy stuffing their mouths with it, following with the standard chaser of white powdered lime and a leaf of the samat tree.
I suppose the scene was perhaps not so dissimilar to that in Bethlehem the night the Christ Child was born, but I vastly prefer the clean, snow clad picture to which we have become accustomed.