Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let There Be Lights on Christmas/Manila Bulletin

I am astounded by lights! Today, I am even more astounded to be on the front page of the Manila Bulletin. My essay "Let There Be Lights on Christmas" is the headline with a beautiful picture of the Manila Bulletin  holiday festive decor taken by Rudy Liwanag (coincidence?).

Read it here

Let There Be Lights on Christmas
By Army Alcayaga-Granada
What is it about  Christmas lights that make us wonder, that make us dream, that make even the most cynical of us be childlike at the sight of brilliant lights?
I take pictures of lights. It is a little redundant. The Wikipedia, the I Ching of netizens, said “a photograph is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface”.
So I am “drawing light with light”. Many people take pictures of other people, animals, beaches, mountains. Filipinos love wacky poses. I take pictures of lights.
Light, aside from being mysterious, is beautiful. When I stand there, in awe of some Christmas tree swathed with lights, I cannot help but be nostalgic. I have this mosaic of Christmas pasts that dance like a ribbon of music in front of me. Pictures of my memories of Christmas.
The lights are the most awaited element of Christmas. Before we lighted the Christmas tree, my father would utter the magic words, “Let there be light!” And there was light.
I have been rounding the stores for some presents for our never dying ( walang kamatayang) exchange gifts, thinking what can you buy for someone whose identity you don’t really know for two hundred bucks. So off I go into the stores to engage in the highly evolutionized sport we call shopping.  I had to buy something warm for our Baguio soujourn slash reunion anyway.
In Shangrila Plaza, I saw a huge white Christmas tree that was veiled with thousands of lights, tiny, throbbing little things that rendered me stupefied. It says, Christmas is just around the corner. This cliche, nomatter how unoriginal and worn out is never truer than today.
Not only did I get the things that I want, a black Giordano turtleneck sweater for my youngest daughter, and a scarf that matches my aubergine colored pantsuit which is a rage nowadays, I also got pictures of my lights and other Christmassy stuff.
Last year I got to take pictures of Policarpio Street and the city hall of Mandaluyong. It was astounding to see swarms of people gathering to enjoy the lights while eating puto bumbong and bibingka.
Like moth to flame, Pinoys flock to the Christmas lights that literally light up the skies of the Yuletide season.  Our eyes widen when we see the symbols that have given meaning to us, meanings that may be too farfetched but nevertheless, a Pinoy’s comfort trip to the so called nostalgic child that lies hidden in each of our hearts.
If I remember right, come Christmas time in the late 70’s my father would haul us to Cubao to watch the C.O.D. spectacles which included puppets on the rooftop of the C.O.D.building. I guess people remember those days like a dull ache on cold mornings. Nowadays we see that pageantry in Greenhills. Sometimes there’s Cinderella twirling with Prince Charming or Barbie dancing with Ken. Although they are not considered as Christmas symbols, they remind us of the childhood we have lost in the sands of commercialism.
When I was a child, I never questioned the reality of Santa Claus. Many of us waited for Santa when we were young. Hapless and romantic, we believed we could catch him sneaking around with bags of toys on his back. Like light, Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas that one cannot deny.
When I asked my children what they most like on Christmas, they each had an image that makes them smile. The reunions with all cousins and the exchange gifts, the door to door Christmas carolling, the smell of hot chocolate, orange and apple mingling with the cold mornings.
Like what the late great Harper Lee once said,The real Christmas was for the children, an idea I found totally compatible, for I had long ago ceased to speculate on the meaning of Christmas as anything other than a day for children”.
What can we give our children? A well lighted, warm home, a sensible upbringing, and many beautiful Christmasses to remember.

Light is hope, light is life and light is God. A happy Christmas to all.