DEC. 22, 2018



Filipinos Celebrate Pasko and Gift-Giving


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Cruz grew up in Baguio, a mountain city that the Americans founded at the turn of the century. She recalls how Christmas was as a youth. “The centerpiece of the holiday decor was the Christmas tree. In the beginning, we could still get a small pine tree but that evolved into bamboo trees stripped of its leaves that my Dad would create when the “-ber” months rolled along. We built a big bonfire on Christmas eve and enjoyed the cold mountain air outside, bundled up with layers of sweaters. We exchanged presents on Christmas day and as the day progressed, my parents’ godchildren and assorted relatives and friends would visit at intervals, and the kids would do the mano po Ninong and Ninang and receive their aguinaldo.”

Cruz recalls her last Christmas she had spent at her parents’ house before she and her husband left for Hawaii to start a new life. It was December 1976, one of her most memorable Christmases.

“I tried to permanently imprint the sights and sounds of that last Christmas in my memory bank—the laughter and scent of sautéed garlic, onions and patis, the off-key songs from the neighboring kids as they did the traditional caroling, the look that my grandma gave me as she tried on the green shawl that we gave her that Christmas.”

Sending Remittances to the Philippines

A unique Christmas practice Filipinos do that most other ethnic groups in Hawaii don’t practice is to send money to family and relatives back in the mother country.

Sending money remittances is an extension of western gift-giving practices during Christmas. But it goes deeper than showing appreciation during the holidays for some families. When someone leaves the Philippines for the U.S., there is an understanding that the person leaving will help the family left behind as best they can. This expectation is more pronounced among families who struggle financially.

Why is there such an obligation? In the Philippines, it’s common for families to make financial sacrifices for each other. An elder sister or siblings often will help a younger brother and sister to pay for schooling and school supplies. An uncle might contribute to a niece’s much-needed medical expense. The examples are endless.

When suddenly a member of the family has the opportunity to live and work abroad where opportunities for making a decent income is better, the immigrant never forgets the family he left behind or all the ways they’ve helped him personally, or helped his father, mother, sister, and on.

So when Christmas time comes along, it is a perfect time for the immigrant to show his appreciation and send back money to them.

Grace Larson of LBC Maui, a money remittance company, said “It’s our Filipino culture to help out or send out support to struggling family members to pay for food sustenance, tuition fees of nephews, nieces or younger siblings.”

Larson also said it’s not just Christmas time that Filipinos send back money to the Philippines. Sometimes, people send monthly between $500 to $1,000 a month, or more, for other reasons such as to build a dream house in the Philippines or to invest in real estate.

Larson explained how people can send remittances. “To send money for a first time, you are required to show two validated identification cards like a passport, driver’s license, or green card.

“On Oahu, you can go to places where they remit money such as Western Union, Moneygram, Walmart or smaller paces like LBC Mabuhay Express.

“You can also access the internet to send money through companies like xoom or remitly. On the application form, simply provide information on who will receive the remittance and your own information as the sender, and how much you will be sending.”

Mercedes Soriano is owner and an authorized agent of Golden Sunrise General Services, a money transfer company. She said Hawaii residents usually send about $100 to $300 for family during the holidays.

Giving the gift of money back to relatives is like “giving back love,” she said.

Besides the methods of sending remittances as Larson described, Soriano said that transfers can also be done from bank-to-bank.

“You just need to have the name of the bank, account holder, account number, and type of account of the person you want to send money to,” said Soriano.

Tips on using money remittance company

Before sending a money remittance, it’s advised to do research on the company you plan on using, ask family and friends who regularly send money abroad what is the safest, most trusted company or bank, and the most reliable way to send money (deposit into an account or cash pick-up).

Senders should shop for the best combination of low fees and best service. If timing is important, consider a company that can transfer money fast enough and cash pick-up locations nearest to the receiver.

Senders should also be aware of scams such as receiver’s fraud (people who claim money that wasn’t destined for them, agent fraud (agent embezzling money), or fake rogue websites that misappropriate funds.

Inform the receiver of money when you will be sending the transfer beforehand and coordinate a time for the receiver to check if funds have been received as soon as money is transferred.

In the Christmas rush, it’s advised to always be aware of possible scams and to take precautions.

Have yourself a merry Filipino Christmas

Pasko traditions are still thriving in Hawaii. There are variations and adaptations to Pasko traditions with the local-Hawaii culture as well. Noche Buena dinners, for example, are likely to include local cuisine besides traditional Filipino dishes. Someone might bring along to the potluck a sushi platter or assortment of poke. The dessert spread could also have coconut haupia cake besides bibingka, which is all fine as the blending of culture and cuisine is very much a part of Hawaii’s Filipino tradition as well.

Ethnic practices will be preserved during the holidays, whether they be religious practices (misa de gallo) or rooted in social need (remittances) or values-based (putting family first).

Let’s all remember to enjoy and be grateful, and to remember the reason behind the season, Christ’s birth. Have a Merry Christmas.

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