It’s time to bring joy this Christmas

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As I See It

By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Christmas time, as a tradition worldwide, is the time for people to rejoice, have fun, bond together, reunite, and enjoy each other’s company. Let’s not forget, however, that this is the time to renew our relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord with Simbang Gabi, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve activities. Actually, it’s a reflection and recollection of what we did and received during the year and what next we can do in the coming year.

Many believe the Christmas season started when the “ber’ months came. So basically, I started the season on September 1, 2018 during my birthday. That day was a blessed day that signaled the Happy Holidays of the season and it was that day my wife Delia put up her Christmas tree and decorated it with village people and other Christmas decors.

While others say it is the most expensive time of the year with all the gifts under the tree not only for our family members but for relatives, godchildren (inaanak) and friends (BFFs), there are ways to celebrate it the frugal way… and still retaining the Christmas spirit.

Instead of buying expensive gifts, for example, buy things that are cheap and useful the whole year round. After all, it is the giving that matters… and receiving is just a gesture of thankfulness.

The joy of giving should be the prevailing spirit this time of the year. And, instead of lavish parties or get-togethers, do potlucks and serve inexpensive low-carb food.

Giving back to the community is what The Global Urdanetaninas (TGU) are known for this Christmas season. The non-profit organization is based in Southern California but its reach is global with membership all over the world who claim their roots from Urdaneta, a city in Pangasinan. Foremost of the giving back to the community projects are the scholarship program, the Help the Kids program or Handog Pamasko, and the Medical/Dental services or Alay Pangkalusugan.

The annual Handog Pamasko to indigent kids from indigent barangays duly chosen/recommended by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) started in 2014. The first barangay recipient was San Vicente with about 250 indigent kids as beneficiaries. In 2015, about 366 kids benefited from the program, all coming from barangay Lananpin.

Then in 2016, about 500 kids were recipients from barangay Badipa. For 2017, there were 350 plus kids from barangay San Jose Leet and for this year, TGU president Yvonne San Juan Sera is considering barangay Sugcong as the recipient barangay, although this is dependent on the situation due to many activities lined up at the end of the year and early next year needing much attention from the non-profit organization. All the recipients were treated with Jollibee lunch, gifts, plus a lot of entertainment/parlor games courtesy of the Help the Kids Program of TGU.

In her article entitled “Christmas Spirit at TGU”, Norma Torres Agulo, chairman of the HKB at that time (the current chairman is Fe Gonzales Sepulveda and her predecessor was Dr. Clare Adalem), she said, “The spirit of Christmas is about showing our gratitude for what God did for us. We remember His birth by giving each other gifts, worshipping Him, and being especially conscious of the poor and the less fortunate. In so many ways Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for most people. For what is joyous and wonderful for some can be very sad and difficult for others. At TGU land through the Help the Kids Board (HKB), the spirit of Christmas is about sharing some of our blessings to the indigent kids of our hometown, Urdaneta…”

The success of the Christmas for Kids program and previous Handog Pamasko were made possible through the hard work and dedication of TGU-Urdaneta coordinators under the leadership of Ramil San Juan, Dr. Fe Sumera-Ranada, Dr. Belinda San Juan, Elpidio Angeles, Jr., Atty. Wreigh Paris, Jeanie Hall, Dr. Clare Adalem, Maria Lourdes Quimson Reyes, Eduardo C. Pagador, Vicky Gravela, Dr. Fercima Ranada-Benitez, Sonia Fe Quesada, and Alfredo Lapena with the able support of TESDA Secretary Gen. Sid Lapena and Gen. Jesus Fajardo. Thank you ladies and gentlemen for sacrificing your time for your loved ones and families just to be able to do this noble cause.

Bringing joy this Christmas knows no boundaries! TGU’s HKB Pamaskong Handog is now on its 4th year. The board pledged that the joy of giving will shine for as long as there are kids needing their assistance, so this will be an annual activity of the global organization.

The Medical/Dental Services or Alay Pangkalusugan held three years ago was held in Barangay Tulong with about 350 kids and adults benefiting from the program. Due to the success of the community health program, TGU hopes to conduct another one next year.

As to the scholarship program, currently, the non-profit organization has a total of 24 scholars. The first scholar graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and already a registered nurse now working in a hospital in the United Kingdom (The University of Derby and Burton Hospital). Also, another six graduated recently and six graduated this June. The rest are in their freshmen, sophomore and junior years. Thank you so much for the sponsors who are making the program possible until the scholars graduate their 4-year degree courses. If not for them, the poor but deserving scholars could not go to college and earn their college degrees. Indeed, TGU’s scholarship program is the antidote to poverty!

Meanwhile, the first-ever TGU-sponsored Multi High School Homecoming featuring all graduates from the Urdaneta Community High School (now the Urdaneta City National High School – UCNHS) and its barrio high schools; the Our Lady of the Lilies Academy (OLLA); and the Divine Word College of Urdaneta (DWCU) will be held on February 1-3, 2019 at the newly-renovated Urdaneta Convention Center. TGU president Yvonne San Juan Sera said the overall coordinator of the affair is Dr. Belinda San Juan duly assisted by TGU-Urdaneta chair Ramil San Juan and its coordinators.

On the first day (February 1, 2019), there will be mass concelebrated by alumni priests at 7:00 a.m. to be held at the UCNHS Oval Track Grounds to be followed by a Grand Motorcade around the city from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. In the afternoon, there will games and wellness activities, reflexology and massage sessions courtesy of TESDA. There will be Zumba dance sessions, ball games – inter alumni competitions in basketball and volleyball and native games such as Laro ng Lahi (sipa, piko, trumpo, Chinese garter, etc).

In the evening, there will be Let’s Share your Voice Night/Talent Show and the singing will be accompanied by two bands. There will also be stalls serving sorbetes (ice cream), kakanin, pansit, and juices.

On the 3rd day, the celebration will culminate in a Tree planting “Magtanim ng Puno para SA Magandang Urdaneta” in the morning at 9:00 a.m. which will simultaneously be done in UCNHS, DWCU, and OLLA campuses and in the Catablan landfill. At 5:30 p.m. onwards will be the Grand Alumni Fellowship Night with a Hawaiian theme (anything colorful, printed, flowery, and the like). Music for the night will be provided by the Retromaniacs to be held at the newly-renovated Urdaneta Cultural Center. The night will be filled with a lot of fun and frolics.

Let’s enjoy the Christmas season and prepare for the coming New Year!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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