Philippine Christmas without music is no Christmas at all. My earliest memories of Christmas are the voices of the immortal Ray Conniff Jr. and Jose Marie Chan playing on the radios. I knew it would be Christmas soon only when I hear Christmas in Our Hearts and Little Drummer Boy on the air because don’t have TV back then. And the best way to experience the Spirit of Christmas is through our beloved caroling.
In our Bisayan dialect we call caroling as ‘daygon’, and for the carolers it is ‘mananaygon’. Our most famous Christmas daygon is Kasadya Ning Taknaa (What a happy moment) and its Tagalog contemporary Pasko Na Naman. Mananaygon comes in different types. There are the group of friends, or belonging to the same community or organization. These carolers are well equipped with guitars, drums and tambourine. They’re sort of professionals because they practiced weeks before the performances. They expect lots of money as talent fee, I mean tokens of generosity for their noble causes. Besides they make sure it Christmas.
The only downside for Christmas music is the way they are murdered/performed by the perennial ever-confident street carolers – the kids. Armed with improvised weapon of choice from tin cans, plastic bottles, stones they sang annoyingly out of tune and causes irreversible damages to the lyrics; “..prepare brim broom ..and heaven anhing cursing ..and heaven and heaven anhing cursing.” Their sole purpose, for the sick fun of it, is to extort some coins in the neighborhood. I can’t even imagine that a long long time ago in a distant galaxy I was a part of this childhood activity collecting coin and havoc from one house to another.
Some of the less fortunate kids, especially in the big cities like Cebu are found singing inside jeeps. Most of them are street kids and out of school youths. It is quite disheartening to see them perform as they hitchhike the jeeps risking their safety and dignity just to earn some pennies. They are often revoked by traffic enforcers because they might cause traffics accidents. Even the drivers are hesitant to let them sing inside the jeep because they are just irritating the passengers than entertaining, notwithstanding the danger to them falling off the vehicle. I often got inside a jeep with them performing, and honestly I don’t think I have given a single peso coin in one occasion ( It’s really not my style of charity to the poor). Until a boy named Pot-pot change the rule.
I was riding a jeep after my last round of shopping during my lackluster stay in Cebu when a young boy stepped inside the jeep. Before I knew it I could hear a small voice singing at the back. It was him. He was singing a tagalog song Sa Araw ng Pasko. His tune are somehow on track yet forced that made me feel aware how much effort this young boy put up to sing the song. His voice was cold and weary yet he kept on singing with some broken lyrics here and there. I don’t even know if he understands every words in it!
His was a voice of innocence.
For the first time in my life I took interest on the street carolers. I felt pity for this child. He looked about just eight or nine years old. He should be at school at that very hour yet there he was inside the jeep, singing, ignored, and tired. But there he was something in his voice that somehow penetrated deep that I’d have to fight the urge not to look back and ignore him. I closed my eyes thinking how blessed I am it’s him, not me on his shoes.
When he finished I took all the coins I had in my pocket and gave it to him and the rest of the passengers did the same – a very rare scene when most of the time carolers are not given any coins at all.
The next day I went home not before I had the chance to help a dear friend and a brand new understanding in the music that surrounds Christmas.