An overflowing buffet, endless laughter, fun games and a renewed fellowship. These are just one of the wonderful things that happened in last night’s Christmas party among us, Filipino expat teachers in one of the international schools here in Jakarta.
It was the last phase of the Mid-year examination fever and lots of us were almost done with our marking loads. A rough and fast week it was and before I knew it, it was Friday again, time for another solitary weekend in my apartment. These solitary weekends, however, have slowly come to its end. Last week, one of my colleagues, Ms. Rose invited me to attend the Catholic mass in a nearby Stella Maris Church in Pluit. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions that had turned out well. I just came home from a shopping session in Season’s City in Grogol, my legs tired and my wallet beginning to experience its ‘starvation’ (LOL), and while I was on my way home, I texted to my friend that yes, I am going to attend mass with her the following day, months of not getting inside a church. It was also very timely as I seek some answers about my career path.
The week after that, talks about the upcoming party started as Regina (I called her by her first name as we were close friends. Of course, everybody in school called her Ms. Regina) made rounds in assigning secret code name for each of us. This year, we were named after famous Filipino love teams in the showbiz industry. I am then called Angelou de Leon, a TGIS teen star in the late 90s who briefly got adult roles but then went on to just being a regular cast in soap operas. In turn, I got the person with the code name ‘Nadine Lustre,’ who of course, is considered one of the hottest stars on TV today in the Philippines.
When you go to a Filipino party, expect lots of food. Lots and lots of it, I tell you. It is one thing that binds us after a tiring day in school, or even after a rift or misunderstanding—food. There were some tension of course this year, some rumours here and there, last year, I posted a rant in the group chat as I got irked with some jokes of the group. Oh no, it was one of the most embarrassing yet freeing post that I had.
All those tension dissolved last night as we gathered inside Ida’s flat in one of the upper floors of the posh Seaview condominiums of Greenbay Apartment and somehow, renewed our fellowship as colleagues/friends for another year to come.
I was one of the few who arrived there around 5pm, and with me are three boxes filled with mini Cornetto ice cream, my contribution for the party. I also brought with me the gift for my secret Santa, a denim cap which I bought earlier. More and more people arrived as the 4pm one-hour mass ended and more food came in the table.
The buffet consists of two trays of chicken macaroni salad, Ms. Rose’ leche flan (yum!), Ryan’s coffee jelly, the fried chicken will never be absent in the group, Ms. Marissa’s baked squid, Mr. Hector’s pork adobo (which I could not eat since I vowed to become to vegetarian), Reg’s bangus, shrimps, trays of siomai, pancit (Filipino noodles), two trays of chop suey, Ms Tina’s martabak, there were also servings of the Filipino version of fruit salad, diced orange and green papaya, and a Harvest choco cake. Ms. Joan came in and she and her husband also added one box of Jco donuts that added to the carbo-loading, sugar rush bonanza that night.
While waiting for the others, we busied ourselves eating krupek brought by Ms. Tina. Thank god for that, I was starving the moment I stepped in and saw the food on the table. The first batch of games started after Ryan came in with an extra table for the buffet, and more people came in. At first, we played the flipping the cup game, something that our students in school effortlessly do. When it was my turn to do it, I found out that it was not effortless at all as I have to make sure that the cup should stand upright after flipping it. Our team lost in that game. And then there’s the party-friendly Pinoy Henyo game, a guessing game wherein four pairs were made to compete. In the end, Alex and Ryan won with Alex guessing the word Pasko (Christmas) after 9-effin short seconds of guesswork.
Dinner came and everyone was hungry by then. I squeezed in amidst the hungry crowd. On my plate are spoons of macaroni salad (the chicken and bacon strips scraped, its fate to the waste bin), a handful of shrimps (Yum!), veggies, some rice, pieces of lapis cake and kue, and some macaroni again and shrimps for the second round helping!
Then came the exchange of gifts. It turned out that I am Ms. Roselie’s secret Santa. Actually, I had a feeling it was her behind the Nadine Lustre code as her wishlist consists of stuff that can be used for running—she wished for a running shirt or a running cap. The one who got my name is Crestly. I was expecting that he will buy a shift for me, though.
There were still lots of leftovers when the party ended. Some of the males in the group planned to extend the party and had some drinks later on that night, and maybe brought some of the leftovers in their drinking session. Everybody was free to bring food at home. I brought with me, two Jco Donuts, a slice of the Harvest cake and shrimps, which turned out, perfect for my cravings in time of my monthly period (Girl issues, you know).
I finished the night reading the last 100 pages of Wuthering Heights and getting kinda frustrated with the helplessness of Cathy and her cousin, Hareton to escape from Heathcliff’s iron hand. Worse is, they have to wait until he dies for them to attain complete freedom and rights to their land. u
Injustice, helplessness, fatalism—these dark thoughts, of course, are the farthest in my head as I felt the satisfaction of my tummy the whole night while I was enjoying my thoughts going back, remembering each happy moment of the party. A few hours more, while writing this, it is going to be another weekend again at work. Busy work. But that can wait. That has to wait and be forgotten, for now.