Monday, December 27, 2010

120 Families Served on Christmas Eve

This is the letter my Mom sent to those who gave donations for our Christmas Eve Drive this year. Mom named it PANSSSSTTT!, because we were to give away Pancit and since we Filipinos love calling each other's attentions with "ssstt". This is the first time we've ever done this, but we've been really wanting to do so since time immemorial. So we finally did it, and with very little time in our hands, we asked a few of our close friends for donations. It was a HUGE SUCCESS. And by next year Mom and I are targeting 250 families in a different barangay.


Dear all--

Thanks to all of you, we got through, Mai and me, with our Pansssst sa Pasko noche buena project.

Here’s the story. . .

Bur first, a short note on a little change we made, or had to make, to save our hides. The idea, as I told you in my solicitation email, was for us to just drive around the streets before Christmas day to seek out people who look like they need a better Christmas eve meal than a pack or two of msg-flavored instant noodles drowned in as much water as their kaldero can hold, call their attention with a gentle sssssst! (gentle lang para di naman bastos), then hand them the noche buena bag. A simple, bare-knuckles exercise.

But it soon dawned on us that it might not be that simple an idea after all, that we might be exposing ourselves to mortal danger if--or more likely, when—we run out of bags to give away and we'd be mobbed by unruly throngs who'd block our way, pummel the car with Manny Pacquaio fists (or, more kindly, stones) until they’d have reduced it to a heap of steel and aluminum and whatever else cars are made of, and make mincemeat of us. With a shudder, we instantly perished the thought. Besides, with neither of us gifted with a taste for landing on the 6pm news, especially in the 'sensational news' segment, (imagine the headline: Mag-ina, kinuyog dahil sa Pansssst! hahaha), we bowed to prudence and junked the idea--but only the driving-around and calling-sssst part--the noche buena gift giving would still push through as planned.

For a few days, our house looked like a mini relief operations site for Ondoy, but we didn't mind. Our concern was focused on one thing and one thing only--how to get the noche buena bags to the families who needed them the most.

Having relegated the ssst-ssst sa kalye idea to the back burner, we thought our best bet was to connect with a church-based org since they have direct access to the kind of families we wanted to reach. So I sought out Mrs. Lourdes “Dess” Bancoy, president of the Parish Pastoral Council at Palmera Heights, after the anticipated simbang gabi on 16 December and laid out our plan to her. Could she point us to where we could park ourselves for the gift giving? w asked. The kindly Dess suggested a home for the aged nearby and two other “houses,” but I explained that institutionalized people, though needy, are assured of a decent meal every day whether they lift a finger or not; our target were families who can’t make ends meet no matter how hard they try, they whom Mother Teresa called “the poorest of the poor.” Dess suggested the “Lower Cuatro” area and immediately assigned Mona, a PPC member, to prepare the “tickets” for 120 beneficiaries and have them distributed by their Social Services coordinators. Quick service, no fuss.

We set a date for the gift giving—8AM on the 24th—and made arrangements for meeting up.

As planned, the original noche buena pack contained a 500-gram pack of bihon, a 150-gram can of corned beef (in lieu of fresh meat), a sachet of Maggi Sarap, and a sachet of soy sauce, all of which cost P52.75. My first estimate for that basic 4-item pack was P55, which would leave a surplus of P2.25/pack. We didn’t want any surplus money in our hands (di bale nang kulang, huwag lang sobra, we'd take care na lang of the kulang, Mai and I agreed) so we thought of enriching the meal with a drink, a sachet (good for 1 liter) of Nestea, upping the per-pack cost to P61.75.

I had earlier put my bargaining talent to good use at the public market with the Q brand bihon packs--after much haggling on my part and pencil pushing on the storekeeper’s, the price shrunk from P30/pack to P28.37. I was glad I decided to go to the palengke instead of to the supermarket because the same pack had cost me P33 at Landmark a week earlier. For the other items, Mai and I went to Hypermart-Pasig because I had seen an ad in the PDI for CDO corned beef at P21.50. When we got there, the attendant whom I inquired with, told me ever so casually that they had no such item on sale, dismissing me with a matter-of-fact —“sa diyaryo lang po yun.” At that point we had collected only so much, and wanted to stay as close as possible to our budget of P61.50.We found a 555 corned beef variant that cost P21.50 but to our dismay, they didn’t have 120 cans of it. As it turned out, we settled for 3 different variants of 555 (Garlic Tostado, Bistek and Pinasarap) to get the 120 cans we needed.

I wanted so much to add apples to the pack but the collection I had made at that point made it as farfetched a possibility as breakfast with the Pope on Christmas day or a front row seat to the final game of the 2011 World Series at the Yankees stadium in NY (with their shallow bullpen, it would take a miracle to get them anywhere near even the AL East finals; with my shallow pockets, it would take a miracle to even get near NAIA, let alone the US of A). But as we love to say, hope springs eternal...and a prayer like mine (Please, Lord, let us add apples…) is seldom left unanswered for long.

Actually, the answer came rather swiftly. A “windfall” of P3,100 made our dream of apples-in-the-bag a reality with two text messages—the first from my niece, Anna, who pledged P1,100; the other from Marlon Sison, a former colleague at Chowking, who promised P2K. Finally, we had enough money for 3 apples/pack (Fuji apples cost P10 each). I texted Mai: 'Kuya Marlon is giving 2K--we can have apples;' 'Yehey!' she texted back. On the 23rd, Gera, Mai’s friend from Fame Publishing, texted a pledge for P1,000—wow, another apple! The 4 apples completed the meal—healthy dessert pa—and further upped the per-pack price to P101.50.

By that time our collection had ballooned to P11,800 on hand, plus a pledge of P1K. Mai and I had been like little girls saving up for a toy doll--every text message and email making a pledge or informing us of a bank deposit made, was cause for applause--a hundred, a thousand, it didn't matter. We had tapped friends from Chowking, Rotary, ABC5, Chaine des Rotisseurs, Fame, Solar, DLSU, and St. Scho, and relatives, and were--are, actually--thankful for every response.

We spent the entire 23rd stuffing 120 plastic bags with the goods. Mai went solo with the stuffing of the bihon and sachets; in the evening, our trusty helper Doris and an aunt, Iding, worked late into the night, adding the apples to the bags.

We rose early on the 24th to load the bags into two large plastic containers, and several sacks and plastic bags, and into the car. Dess arrived at 7:30 on the dot, and we drove to the Sto. NiƱo Chapel (near the gate of Valley View Executive Village), where the recipients had been asked to congregate.

As soon as we got into the chapel, Dess was told that we had one recipient too many. A wrinkled old man with a couple of missing teeth was found to be without a ticket, the prerequisite for being allowed entry. He apparently was let in because of his insistence (makulit po, they explained) but was told that he needed a ticket to get the gift (a politically correct way to say 'you're not getting any'). Asked by Dess why he had come despite not having a ticket, he blithely replied that someone had asked him to tag along. Sensing that neither hell nor high water would convince the determined old man to quietly slip out, and remembering that there was one extra bag at home, I asked Mai to drive back home to get it, saving the man from embarrassment and, who knows, possibly a little problem about what to do with an old man who was convinced that he had as much right as any ticket holder to be there. At the back of my mind I knew that giving in to this obstinate old man may not have been the right thing to do, but it was Christmas, the best time of year to prove the wisdom of my cousin Dolly Nazareno's counsel: that in human relationships, it is often better to be kind than to be right. Told that he wouldn't go home empty-handed after all, he flashed the kind of smile I would have flashed had I won the P700M+ lotto prize last month (actually, I wouldn't have just smiled, I would have screamed and bungee-jumped all the way to the bank before dropping dead).

The gift-giving was a breeze and over in a jiff because the church coordinators, obviously experienced in this sort of activity, were very organized. Mai and I take off our hats to them!

The recipients were profuse with thanks for the little gift they received; for our part, Mai, Dess and I were just happy to be there. Told that most of the recipients had not had breakfast, Des treated everyone, including the coordinators, Mai and me, to hot pan de sal from a nearby bakery.

Mavie de la Cruz, a friend and former colleague from Chowking, wanted to send P1K but by the time she inquired about where to send it, it was all over but the giving. My brother Pete pitched in with P1K, which I meant to buy a 5th apple with. But I got it late on the 23rd, and by the time Mai and I got home in the wee hours of the 24th, we were both too bushed to buy 120 apples and stuff them into the bags. I will have to return the P1K to my brother 'for safekeeping'...As for Mavie, maybe next year, plus interest on her P1K?

Yes, next year, God willing, we may do this again (minus the sssst!), hopefully tapping more of our friends and relations so we can make more families happy at Christmas with a richer noche buena, now that we know how to do it and with whom. We had purposely confined the target number to 120 families because we knew that that was all we could manage. It is our prayerful hope that we can count on you again next year to lend a hand.

Maraming, maraming salaMUCH to all of you. There is absolutely no way we could have
done this on our own. ‘Til next year . . . May God bless you and your family abundantly in 2011!

Attached, please find pictures of the gift-giving--Mai is in a red tee with red trimmings, Dess in a round-neck purple shirt, I in a blue shirt with partially rolled-up sleeves.

Here’s an accounting of 17 donations received and 1 pledge made (which donor Gera promised to redeem in January):


Received: P1,190 Mai
1,190 me
1,100 Weng Escobar
1,000 Rene Santiago
100 Elaine Florido
200 Par Bautista
500 Amanda Gonzalez
500 Mike Young
500 Jenny Aguilar
100 Kim Dizon
500 Shiela Mano, Arlene Escudero & Edel Templonuevo
500 Arlene Ramirez
500 Miya Espiritu
100 Trency Caga-anan
100 Milds Rivera
1,100 Anna Yu-Asensi
2,000 Marlon Sison
Total P11,180

Pledged: P1,000 Gera Rigor

Total, received and pledged: P12,180

TOTAL EXPENSES for 120 packs: P12,180.00

120 Noche Buena bags worth P101.50/bag, each pack containing:

- 1 pack, 500 grams, Q brand pancit bihon, P28.37.@

- 1 can, 150 grams, 555 Carne Norte, P21.58@ average for 3 variants*(P22.50 & 21.50 & 20.75)

- 1 sachet, 1-liter Nestea mix, lemon flavor, P8.75@

- 1 sachet, Silver Swan soy sauce P.30@

- 1 sachet, Maggi Sarap seasoning, P2.50@)

- 4 Fuji apples, P10/piece, P40/pack

Total expenses for 120 gift bags at P101.50@ . . . . . . P12,180.00

*We had to buy 3 variants, as SM Hypermart Pasig didn’t have 120 cans of any one variant

Here are some of the pictures taken during the packing at home and during the actual distribution at the Chapel.

The goods before they were re-packed.

Morning of Dec.23, we re-packed the goods.

Our house looking like a resettlement area after the re-packing. :)

My Lola and our helper sorting out the apples. Each pack had 4 apples each.

Completely PACKED! All set for distribution.

December 24: People helping unload the packs from the car.

People waiting patiently. They had a very orderly system, so the distribution went by smoothly!

That would be Mom giving a brief backgrounder on our Christmas Drive. :)

Finally, we began distributing! They were really happy, and had genuine smiles on their faces! :)

Free BREAD for breakfast!! :)

Again, we would like to thank everyone who helped make our Christmas Eve drive a huge success! I wish you could've seen the smiles on their faces. Next year, 250 families naman! :)


  1. Congrats on this one dude. Bless your hearts :)

  2. sama ka na samin next time miyakins! next year gagawin na namin siya sa manila so it'll be more accessible! :D


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