BOOK REVIEW: A Child’s Treasury Of Philippine Christmas Stories

by Rose Cruz Churma

This is one of the rare publications that contain Christmas stories that revolve around Philippine settings, traditions, culture and history.

Although published close to three decades ago, it still resonates with today’s readers with its tales of love and forgiveness, sharing and friendship, and the power of imagination.

When I was growing up, I spent holidays in the province—the Christmas break was one of them.

Back then, the countryside was not yet “electrified” which would come about only in the 1970s.

Unlike today’s kids with access to television and other devices that are sources of entertainment, our link to the rest of the world is the radio. An alternate way to keep us entertained was storytelling.

When Christmas rolled around, the stories that kept us entertained—as I look back and try to remember—were a retelling of stories from the West such as those by Charles Dickens and the more recent ones like Santa’s red-nosed reindeer.

The interesting part was that my mother would give it a Philippine setting, the characters have Filipino names and behaved with Philippine nuances.

This book, to some degree, has done the same, except the stories are originals and depict situations that can only happen in the Philippines.

As noted in the book’s introduction:

“Christmas in the Philippines is like a tall glass of halo-halo—made with Filipino sweetened beans, pinipig, kaong, saba and nangka, Chinese gulaman, Spanish leche flan and American ice cream—it’s colorful to look at and delicious to eat.”

The Christmas season is the longest in the Philippines with the start of the “ber” months—as early as September—one can see Christmas decor in the malls, streets and in homes.

Filipinos have adopted the American traditions of Santa Claus and hanging stockings but also of the Spanish Three Kings—who only bring presents to good kids.

Then there are the mano po traditions with one’s ninangs and ninongs, grandparents and elders who would give aguinaldo in crisp peso bills.

In some parts of the country the panunuluyan is still practiced, or a Christmas street drama. Most homes also have a belen after the French creche except the figurines are dressed like the Filipino farmers in the countryside.

Each part of the country has its unique traditions and this book tried to incorporate the Christmas rituals and traditions from different parts of the Philippines.

The authors stress that the stories are not folktales but are works of fiction “inspired by the happy, colorful bits and pieces that make up a Filipino Christmas.”

One of my favorites is the last story “The Christmas Bell” set in the town of Santa Maria in the province of Ilocos Sur, where I had once visited and admired the architecture of the town’s ancient church.

This is the story of a little boy named Pepito who was chosen to be the bell-ringer for the season at the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion—one of the most beautiful old churches in the Philippines.

The church was built atop a hill that overlooks the town, and in the course of the narrative, the traditions such as the misa de gallo are described.

Another story that resonated with me was “The Aeta Christmas Baby” when refugees from the Pinatubo eruption in 1990 celebrated Christmas Eve by staging a panunuluyan—a Christmas Eve street play, where in this case, the refugee center became the stage and the refugees were the characters in the play.

As the refugees volunteer for the roles of Mary, Joseph, innkeeper, shepherds, angels and other assorted characters, they are pressed to find one young enough to be the baby Jesus.

The role went to Maeta, an orphaned young Aeta, who lost everyone and everything to the volcano’s eruption, and somehow stumbled into the refugee center that was set amidst the lahar that covered the Zambales landscape.

Mother and daughter authors Lin Acacio Flores and Annette Flores Garcia’s children’s stories have appeared in various publications.

Lin Acacio Flores was awarded two Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for children’s fiction and a Honolulu Magazine-Parker Pen Award for adult fiction. She lives in Maui, Hawaii.

Albert Gamos, the book’s illustrator, is a seasoned artist who has won numerous awards and has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to children’s book illustration and design.

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ROSE CRUZ CHURMA established Kalamansi Books & Things three decades ago. It has evolved from a mail-order bookstore into an online advocacy with the intent of helping global Pinoys discover their heritage by promoting books of value from the Philippines and those written by Filipinos in the Diaspora. We can be reached at

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