Saturday, December 12, 2015


CHRISTMAS parties are here. For two days in a hotel, our group of academics was cooped in a training to generate research proposals.

Since clear glass panels separated our venue from the hotel lobby, I noticed how, throughout the day, different groups approached the elevators to reach the upper function rooms. The groups had one thing in common: every member was dressed to party.

If it’s harder to find a free cab these days, it may be because people are on their way to parties. The yearend bash held at the office, where in- and out-trays were cleared hastily for lunch buffet, seems to be out.

Gauging from the heavy traffic in and out of the hotel elevators, many company parties to celebrate the closing of the year are held in hotels. What seems even more popular is for these parties to have themes.

When our group moved to the veranda for our get-together, our next-(function) room neighbors followed an “Arabian Nights” theme. We felt a bit like kids gawking through the glass at the sight of women poured into diaphanous harem pants and tiny bits of cloth glittering with tinsel.

The choreographers guiding the different groups rehearsing their party presentations may have been more inspired by Disney and Hollywood in recreating Arabia. Not in sight were traditional wear like the “abaya” (long black robe), worn with a “hijab” (scarf covering part of the head and the back of the neck) or “niqab” (head covering that leaves only a slit for the eyes).

Mingling with the Filipinas were foreign males in Western clothing. The theme should have been “Harem Nights”. The following day, the lobby was full of folks in safari clothing. I placed my bet on “Out of Africa,” with “Jurassic Park” and “The English Patient” following closely. I felt as if I had wandered into the sets where many movies were being filmed all at once.

A communal people, we enjoy Christmas parties. Other cultures may see a company party as an indulgence that can be dispensed with. One expat was invited to a Christmas get-together by his Filipino counterparts. The invitation shocked the visiting executive, who knew of the mother company’s directive to do away with yearend parties as an austerity measure.

In another export zone locator, employees were expressly prohibited to post any selfie or photo taken during the office party because the main headquarters and the rest of the global operations, except apparently in the Philippines, were cutting down on costs.

After Yolanda’s devastation, employees of a multinational company were split between those who wanted to divert the party budget to relief distribution for typhoon survivors, and those who felt the traditional get-together was a well-deserved reward for the whole team. In compromise, the Yolanda aid was sent to Leyte and the staff shared supper with a karaoke showdown after.

It briefly crossed our minds to don flimsy fantasies for next year’s get-together. But after we remembered our manners and stopped staring at our Arabian neighbors, our group settled down to dinner and then competed fiercely in the parlor games to win polvoron and other sweets that were certainly going to add to our waistlines and cholesterol levels.

Before the year ends, I wish you, dear reader, may share a meal with those you’ve shared the journey this year.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s December 13, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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