Sunday, December 15, 2013


DIVISORIA or Baclaran? A television news program challenged two of its reporters to prove which one offered better, cheaper buys for Christmas gift-giving.

The angle isn’t new. Yet I found the segment interesting because of the reporters taking the “challenge” to make the best use of P500.

Instead of the usual ladies, two male reporters competed in impressing their news anchor in the studio (as well as the TV audience) with the loot of their shopping at Divisoria and Baclaran.

The Divisoria reporter showed about a dozen items. With each purchase, he named the member of his family that would be its recipient.

Among the clothes and accessories was a clutch of rosaries made of wooden and colorful beads, costing P5 each. This is the type that features only one decade and is worn as a bracelet. It made an impression on me that he called the rosary a “praiselet”.

The Baclaran reporter did not seem to think much of his colleague’s shopping. He had fewer items. He was quick, though, to defend their “superior” quality. He also said he chose each item for a specific newsroom colleague with a “special need”.

He waved a cute face towel that he got for only P50, half the price of its mall counterpart. Since he knew the news anchor was “too busy” to shop, he said he picked a towel she could use for wiping her face.

The camera caught the anchor making faces. In all her decades in the profession, this broadcaster is known for her ageless complexion. Was she flexing facial muscles fried by studio lights or demonstrating what she thought of the male reporter’s “thoughtfulness”?

From experience, I could have told the two men that gift-giving is a minefield. Be as personal with intimates. However, when one is not very close to someone, choose something useful and stay safe.

An “extra-strong” deodorant or a packet of slimming tea seethes with undertones. Better give a mug, which only reveals the giver’s lack of imagination, not a death wish.

At all cost, preserve peace this season.

With each year, I think Christmas would be better without gift-giving. No stress, no six-months-before pre-Christmas strategy planning and execution. No hurt feelings, no disappointment, no fasting when the January bills come.

Instead of buying, why don’t we give something we no longer use to someone who will appreciate it? (Think “Ang hindi na ginagamit… (Ibigay) mo na!)

Among friends, our novels get recycled this way. I’m wondering when a book of mine will come back to me, with new scribbled marginalia or a love letter left in the pages. At least with old paperbacks, you are absolutely safe from selfies and twerks.

Why cannot we give anything but those bought from a mass merchant? Like, for instance, something made from scraps or pulled out from imagination. (How many people in my circle would appreciate a poem from me? Or even forgive me for attempting one?)

This is wishful thinking, of course. Christmas wish lists will always be with us. The challenge is to make the gift resonate with everything that no language is articulate enough to put into words.

The Divisoria reporter may have chosen the rosary bracelets for their friendly price. These beads I see on many wrists.

My friend Ibiang gave me a bracelet with pale-colored beads, made in the workshop of Quezon potter Ugu Bigyan. You could say we go a long way back, from the days when protesting meant more than just signing an online signature campaign.

Will the Divisoria reporter give away the “praiselets” as aguinaldo to his godchildren? Will he take the time to go through each bead with them? My late father gave my sister and I our first rosaries. We mumbled, stumbled and raced to see who could finish first reciting a decade.

Today, when I pray the rosary, I remember my father, who curbed his impatience through the silence imposed by reciting five decades. May all our gifts resonate beyond the giving this season.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 8, 2013 issue of "Matamata," Sunday editorial-page column

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