I am cleaning up my cloud when I started seeing photos from the different places I’ve been during the holiday season. Seeing the faces and the smiles of the people I have been celebrating Christmas away from our own families.
Four years ago this week in Palestine 🇵🇸
These are the people I go to church in Gaza every Saturday afternoon. The church is in the old town not far from a mosque and a Coptic church.
It was taken at the priest’s house slash office within the compound. Where we usually gather for simple meals after mass. Apart from the religious, there are three other Filipino, one Ugandan, and two Palestinian with me in the photo.
We all look forward to this mass every Saturday. As you know, Palestinians are Muslims, so having this mass, being part of the minority religion gives the service more meaning as it usually is back home. During the English Mass, we’ll be lucky to have ten people in the church, but the Arabic mass in the morning would have a little over fifty, according to some parishioners that join both services. There are only a small number of Roman Catholics living in Gaza. The majority are Muslims and the Greek Orthodox. I don’t think there are Jewish in there for obvious reason.
Like all in Jerusalem and other cities in Palestine, you will have all religions sharing the space – Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic, and Jews.
As it is with Filipino culture, food brings people together. So the house of HI always brings lasagna that we put on the table and shared with our small group.
The compound also has the orphanage and catholic school in the strip run by the Missionary of Charity. Children with special needs and disabilities are housed in the orphanage. In my personal capacity, while there, I tried to help out a bit and meet the physiotherapists that help the kids daily.
I like to add a disclaimer that my organization, Humanity, and Inclusion (HI), has no religious affiliation. My religious participation in any place I’ve been in my personal belief and tradition.
One year ago this week in Entebbe, Uganda
Last year before heading home to the Philippines, I chanced upon the skinniest Santa Clause, Mickey Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh in Entebbe.
I don’t know how kids around the world would react to see that their favorite Christmas guy and some of their bedtime buddies had lost so much weight when they moved to Uganda 😅
We’re so used to see them or draw them plump, larger than life character that young and older people love but not this lot, and my colleague cannot miss the opportunity. I won’t show my photo with me in it because it looks like I ate all the cookies and didn’t share 😂😂
We know that many children under five all around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, suffered from malnutrition. Seeing these characters, in their skinny form, doesn’t help lift the image to fun and bounty at this time of the year. It takes away the joy of knowing the situation around the world, and something must be done, PRONTO!
Two years ago this week in Arua, Uganda
I am barely a month in Uganda when this photo was taken in front of the house I stayed in for the first three months. I’m with Gladys out mental health technical advisor, and Topista, our house manager, best dressed than the two of us combined.
In the photo, we are getting ready to go to the annual Christmas celebration of the West Nile team. The best team, I think, before they got disbanded, and new people joined in.
The party went on and on, and I discovered the wonder of Ugandan dance and dancers. Staff can twerk, shake their booty, and dance up to the wee hours if you let them. It was a good experience to have as a new member of the team. Unfortunately, this year, no party was happening because of the government’s SOP on the pandemic. Let’s try in 2021.
All these photos are leading to the day Jesus was born.
It’s good to look back at the memories of when I was away from home during the season. The celebration of Christmas is always ideal when shared with the family, but it was not always the case. We are lucky to have good friends to share it by making the distance feels not so far and the celebration is as good as it gets.
Maligayang Pasko at Mapayapang Bagong Taon!