By Gel Santos Relos
Oh yes, we Filipinos remember our love-at-first-sight experience with snow---young and old we went out in the cold with arms wide open trying to catch the snowflakes, tongue stuck out to taste this unending supply of “kinsaskas na yelo”…Throwing snowballs! Making snowman! Picture! Picture!---We just had to immortalize this moment for our photo album and for facebook!
Reality checks in when we ceased to be tourists and started to try to survive each day and night in the freezing winter--- and day in and day out all we had in our mind would be the humble yet warm and comfortable existence we had back home in the Philippines!
The breaking point—the sub-zero temperature aggravated by wind chill. Sanay tayong mga Pinoy sa 80s, 90s, na temperatura, bakit tayo kinulong sa freezer? We end up being anti-social most of the time. We'd rather stay home, with heater set up to the 70s, watch TV (TFC, of course) instead of shivering to our bones! You are lucky if your power doesn’t get cut off, or if your cable and satellite doesn’t conk out because of the snowstorm!
At tayong mga Pilipino, sanay tayong maligo ng dalawang beses araw araw sa Pilipinas. Pero dito sa America, lakasan ng loob at tibay ng dibdib ang kailangan para maligo, kung hindi ay mauuwi ka sa wisik-wisik! You hate to admit it, but really it seems like you have to choose between your usual hygiene practices or your survival! Nanunuot talaga ang lamig sa buto!
And what’s with this bundling up? Sanay tayo sa Pilipinas ng nakakamiseta lang at nahahanginan ang kili-kili! But here, you find out the hard way that it is imperative that you wear layers and layers of clothes---your undershirt, then the shirt, then the sweater, then the coat, then the scarf, muffler, bonnet, ear muffs, face mask, etc etc etc! And cotton just won’t work! You need to withstand the itchy feeling of wool or afford the cashmere. And when you go in and out of the house or the mall or church, you have to “unwrap” yourselves, carry all those load, then put them on back again when you go out! At higit na mahirap kung may baby ka, lalo na kung mag-pupu ang sanggol!
During winter, everything looks gray, gloomy and depressing. The leaves are gone---many new immigrants, especially the lolos and lolas think they are dead! Sanay pa naman tayo sa Pilipinas na palaging mainit ang sikat ng araw, buhay at luntian ang mga puno sa buong taon! You can’t walk around not only because it is freezing cold, but also because the grounds are slushy wet and messy, and worse---can be icy and slippery. Mabalian ka pa ng balakang!
And the worst part---during snowstorm---you have several feet of snow that you have to shovel just so you can get the car out of the garage and the driveway to go to work, bring the kids to school, go to church…Hindi birong magpala ng yelo—masakit sa likod at sa braso! And your car---you need to wake up really very early to start the engine..and when you are lucky enough to leave home, it seems to take forever for the heater to do its work! And yes! You just have to recite all your prayers and novenas as you are driving because you see right before your eyes cars swirling around on the icy slippery road! And when there is a snowstorm, there is zero visibility--you just better stay home and be safe. Even the federal government gets paralyzed by the blizzard, turning Washington DC into a ghost town!
Yes---if only we can limit the snow to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just for the romance of it, just for the ambience as we listen to Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas”...dagdagan mo pa ng fireplace para mas photogenic ang dating sa kodakan!..But alas! That is for Mother Nature to decide. And so when you just can’t take it anymore and wish to shout out loud, “Ibalik niyo ako sa Pilipinas!!!”…Just hold on to that image of the Philippines, and all the memories you made in the company of your family and friends back home to keep you warm inside.
And what if you have no choice? Remind yourself that we Filipinos are very resilient people, we also adapt well to our new challenges and situations. Ask our kababayans living in the Midwest, the East Coast, even Canada and Alaska! Tuloy pa rin ang ikot ng mundo! The beauty about where you are is that you experience the four seasons and all the magic and charm (and challenges) that come with them. Parang buhay hindi ba? Pana-panahon lang yan. So if you feel like giving up in the cold of winter, remember: “This, too, shall pass!” The good news? Winter will very soon give way to spring, and it will be warm again!
(Post-script: I am proud to have survived winter in New Jersey for one year and in Minnesota for four years! Kudos to all Kababayans in the Northeast, Midwest, Canada, Alaska, and all other places freezing cold and snowy!)