In some ways this has been the most discouraging Christmas season I can remember. Though I had become increasingly disenchanted with the commercial holiday it had become in the US, somehow that didn’t prepare me for this.

Let me just say that I’m not looking for any sympathy. I’m okay. That’s not what this is about. I’m simply relaying my feelings of this particular season on the night before the big day.

I saw glimpses of this last year but it hit me full force this year. It’s about money. Not in the retail sense. Much more basic than that. It’s about expecting and even more directly, bluntly asking for it.

Filipinos are typically not very direct people. I find, as an American, I am (usually) much more frank and at times blunt. That changes when it comes to money. At least for the beggars. Others are still a bit indirect (think loan) but still find a way to ask.

Somewhere around a month before Christmas the native people, mostly from the mountain areas as I understand it, are allowed to invade Davao. They camp out at gyms and other large complexes. There are a lot of them and they spend their time working at their trade – begging.

This is where the directness comes into play. They don’t ask for your help. They don’t appeal to your sympathies, at least not verbally, but practically all the women have the obligatory baby hanging on them (once they can walk the children are sent out as the first line of begging). No, they simply demand, “Give Me Money.”

I understand that it’s my upbringing and culture, but I can not help it, I can not think of very many things more offensive to say to someone. Call me ugly, stupid, tell me I’m an a**hole, but “give me money?”

I realize this is out of the realm of logic and reason, but it’s possible I might feel an I occasional sympathy if they said please, or I really need to eat, or could you give me some food. Maybe it’s better this way, because I just feel disgust.

So why do I let this ruin my Christmas season? I try not to, but it’s constant. Part of the problem is the subdivision I live in. It’s low-end (though by definition if you live in a subdivision you would certainly qualify as at least middle class here, if there was such a thing) and it’s not gated. It’s close to a town that allows the native people to congregate, so there is nothing to keep them from coming around – all day, every day.

And what else do they have to do? This is what they do, and they’ve been given a free pass for the Christmas season.

Combine this constant harassment with the sometimes joking (often not) asking for gifts, loans, meals, etc. from friends, acquaintances, or just about anyone you’ve ever meet, then it just becomes overdose. That doesn’t even cover  the “caroling” that started months ago. “Advance Merry Christmas (aka Give Me Money)”, is the battle cry of the carolers. It’s really too bad because I’m guessing that at one time the caroling was a really nice tradition here.

As you can see by my (near?) rant, I’m worn out. I will definitely prepare a plan for next year. Possibly borrow some large dogs for the front porch, stay in town, electrify the fence (joke only)…I don’t know. I’m not going to let this get to me next year.

Probably over time I will get immune to it. Just like Filipinos do, to this and multitudes of other offenses. Tolerance is indeed a trait most of them possess. Me, not so much.

All that said, I do see a lot of gifts under the tree at the family gathering. Lots of food, though it doesn’t take Christmas for that. Family is still most important thing here.

Yes, Christmas is still about family, even if you do need to demand someone else’s money to provide it.

Maayong Pasko/Merry Christmas. No, really – I mean it.

Photo credit: shane grady

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