Christmas + Manila = Hell

I’ve just been to hell and back, and I survived.

If you don’t believe in hell — spend Christmas in the Philippines. Stay in Mega Manila and decide to shop for presents from 2PM-onwards on any of Manila’s biggest malls and shopping centers. If you’d like the “Singapore shopping experience” then head to Makati, to Ayala Shopping Center, DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE YOU THE WHOLE DAY, then wait for a cab along with the sweltering masses on any of the numerous taxi waiting areas.

The devils exist — not on the so-called underworld where they cackle and dance amidst the sea of fire and molten lava. In Manila, the devils wear white short jack shirts, carry drivers license and ply the Manila streets as cab drivers. They hide behind kind gentlemen who earn an honest living as taxi drivers. They masquerade as cab drivers, effectively soiling the reputation of the many who never take advantage of local commuters. In Ayala Shopping Center, they stay near the Glorietta 3 exit where they avoid hapless local commuters and instead prey on foreigners staggering home after partying the night away.

As I lined up on one of the numerous taxi bays littering the shopping center earlier, I tried to pass time looking at the people hurrying back and forth, all jostling for their cab. I lined for an hour–and within that hour, only two taxis kindly conveyed passengers from the line. The girl behind me passed time juggling a plastic carrying bed, while a father-daughter duo tried to negotiate from a tantrum. Standing there on the sorry-looking curve, I saw people go from “fresh-faced” to “desperate”.

After an hour, I gave up and decided to walk the distance between Glorietta 5 and Greenbelt 3 where only a few passengers wait for cab (cos most people in Greenbelt 5 own cars! hehe!). Within five minutes, I got my cab.

If you’re the type of person who loves Christmas — the kind who loves picking presents, the cold, Manila pseudo-winter air and the general “goodwill to all mankind” — I truly envy you. What kind of drug do you take? Cos I have a feeling that I’ll badly need it. Nothing about Christmas amuses me, and the general “forced cheerfulness and happiness” of the season grates on my nerves.

Do not get me wrong, I am all about celebrating the birth of our Savior. But what gets my goat is that with the over-commercialism of the season, the message about Christ’s arrival kinda gets lost in translation. Yes, call me the Grinch who made a scene during Christmas but I am not a big fan of the season: the traffic, overpriced goodies, the fakeness of it all… In fact, the only thing I value about Christmas, aside from the birthday celebrant on the 25th, is the act of giving gifts (I love wrapping and giving gifts!). And living my whole life in Manila, where the onset of the Christmas season signals the time where hell takes over the metropolis is enough to make me lose my patience and love for the season.

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