THE OTHER DAY, I found myself in Megamall buying a present for our Christmas party in UP Likhaan. The gift should be within P100 price limit. For my manita, I got a set of four cute coffee shakers for P109. Not bad. The gift looked elegant, and as I have always made sure when I bought presents, it should be something the receiver could use, not perishable or consumable. It should have a practical purpose. While in a cab on my way to UP, I wrapped it with a fancy paper with blue and silver linings with ‘Maligayang Pasko’ beautifully written on it. When giving gifts, I would usually do the wrapping except in circumstances when I really have no time. Nevertheless, I would inform the one wrapping of my preferences about ribbons, colors, etc. I personally would write the note. I want the presents I give to be personal.

While on my way, the cab driver noticed me wrapping the gift, saying: “Party ba, sir?” I answered yes. He asked again: “‘Dami ‘atang tao sa mall ngayon, no? Bilihan ng regalo e.” I told him that I waited in line just for the P100 worth of a gift. Then, he quipped: “E minsan lang naman ‘yan sa isang taon, sir. ‘Di naman araw-araw. Ako nga mula November, inunti-unti ko nang bilhan ng regalo mga anak ko. Kahit, ‘yung mura lang.” I got curious and so I asked: “Lan na ba anak n’yo, manong?” He smiled and said: “Pito ho. Medyo mahirap nga e. Pero gusto ko mabigyan kahit ano lang. ‘Yun bang babagay sa bawat isa sa kanila. ‘Yung isa mahilig magdrowing, binilhan ko nu’ng pangkulay, yung marami-raming kulay. Matutuwa ‘yon. ‘Yung isa naman pala-aral, kaya binilhan ko ng libro, ‘yung mura, sa Recto marami.” The driver’s story was actually long but I hat to get off at the UP Faculty Center.

Somehow the driver’s tale reminded me of the opposite, of how indifferent many of us have become through the years when giving presents. In fact, we are slowly ceasing to personally hand our gifts to the receiving person. And there is an increasing number of courier services that cater to delivering presents to friends or loved ones celebrating whatever in their lives. LBC, for example, delivers flowers and other gift materials. Some couriers even deliver pastries, cakes, etc. nationwide! These delivery services do the work as replacement for personal presences—which I always think would never suffice the real verbal greeting, the warm embraces, and the moments of togetherness.

I remember when we were still naïve little kids in the primary school, we used to give our loved ones hand-made cards for occasions like Valentines Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Teachers’ Day, and, most especially, Christmas. I remember how we rummaged around for pieces of cloth or dry leaves or seashells, coloring pens, and used cartons for our greeting cards. Personal touch meant burning paper edges with ‘katol,’ composing messages that later we would carefully impress on the card with the best of our lettering skills. There was no need for any courier delivery. We would slip the card into the bag or planner of the one whom we wished to give it. A little wait and time will tell when the recipient had already read the card.

The driver’s story only tells us that it takes a simple effort to make things heart-felt. Even in the frenzied humdrum of our everyday lives, we still have time to make things personal. “Minsan lang naman ‘yun, sir,” the driver reminds me.

Once a year, we celebrate this special season of Christmas. We fill our homes with decors and carols, nativity sets and candy canes; we go to Misa de Gallo and attend Christmas parties; we greet each other ‘Merry Christmas’ with glee. It will surely be more memorable and worth celebrating if done with such a personal touch. On Christmas Eve, we shall be kissing that cute image of infant God laid on a makeshift manger; we shall be kissing this Child with personal prayers in our hearts. It maybe worthwhile to include in our prayers a humble request for us to be a little—just a little—more personal in our dealings in the years to come—to be a little more personal as love is always a personal thing.

Maogmáng Paskó po saíndo gabós!


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