In my country Philippines, the month of November’s last Thursday is just an ordinary day. Being a Christian country, predominantly Catholic, the Thanksgiving is usually celebrated during the town fiesta which falls on the feast day of the town’s patron saint or the parish’ patron saint. In my home town Tagum City, we recently celebrated the feast day of Christ the King last Sunday. When I was young, aside from what I am used to with the Catholic’s practice, Thanksgiving Holiday existed only in the books that I’ve read, those books with an American setting. I have read about the bountiful harvest and good results of safe hunting. I have read about traditional and heirloom recipes that were passed from generations to generation. The turkey roasting techniques, the pies to bake, the vegetables and fruits, lots of food on the table, the dinner with the family, the prayer of thanks.
November 2007, four Thanksgiving Holidays ago was supposed to be my first American inspired Thanksgiving. I was at Saudi Arabia working at a military hospital during that time and we were invited to a Thanksgiving celebration sponsored by the US Air Force stationed in the country. I wasn’t expecting for the traditional set up like the ones I read on the books because I know that Saudi has limited resources for anything that has to do with celebration not unless it’s their “kind” of celebration. Least, I was excited for a real turkey meal and mashed potatoes and gravy. Little did I know, this Thanksgiving will change my life.
I had a hectic duty schedule that week, since there was an invitation for a Thanksgiving party, I wrote my name and gate pass number on the list of the people attending. I was thinking, after months of working and living within the walls of the hospital compound, it would be nice to be out for a change. The place is Saudi Arabia, no one is allowed to roam around and go beyond the gates not unless you are riding the provided transportation service or scheduled market day specially for female individuals. After the security protocols at the check point and guard houses (there’s three check points to be exact) we were finally allowed to enter the compound premises where the Americans, the British and the French were accommodated. They have special privilege with regards to housing accommodations compared to a Filipino expats like me. Inside the compound, the women are allowed to be in their normal clothes and can go around without the abaya.
Myself in an ABAYA and full head cover during my Saudi Arabia time.
Abaya- also known as a Hijab, a customary wear for women in the Islamic country. It is typically made in black cloth worn over the regular clothes to cover the whole body
I was the first one to get off the bus, an American meet us, he introduced himself as Woody and told us where the food was. We ate of what’s left on the table because the party was already at blast when we arrived. There was loud music and to my amazement there’s booze! I was like “this compound really has the privilege considering that we were in Saudi Arabia!” We enjoyed for a while but then it starts to get boring as the US Air Force guys started the bonfire and were burning stuff for fun. I was sitting on a bench with two other Filipina friends and co-workers watching the guys throwing stuff on the fire when Woody approached us again and asked us if we were having a good time. We were obviously looking bored and he invited us to his own unit or his “fortress” as he called it and by that instant the party was moved to his place. For us, that was when the real party started! While everybody got busy having fun, I sat at the end of the bar trying to stay away from the booze as possible since I have to go to work the next day. Work means 12-hour shift at the Blood Bank, a busy department in a laboratory. Being the proprietor of the “fortress”, Woody was behind the bar making sure everyone is enjoying and I was having a conversation with him and other two of his friends. I never thought that it was the start of something new. That Thanksgiving celebration is when I met the love of my life and because of that, Thanksgiving has become one of our favorite holiday every year.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of hearts filled with gratitude. On my end, I am grateful for that day given to me, to us- my husband and I, that our paths have crossed to able to share a lifetime together. The last Thursday of the month of November may still be an ordinary day in the Philippines, but for me every Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated by families, by people loving each other, by hearts filled not just of gratitude but of love. Since then, and every last Thursday of November for the years to come, I always say a prayer of Thanksgiving not only for the bountiful blessings in life, not only for the best of health of my family but also for that particular Thanksgiving day four years ago when I met the person who showed me unconditional love and who showered me with everything that I am forever thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone. May the good Lord bless and keep you and from the bottom of my , I love you WCW.
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