January 29, 2023

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Dec. 22, 2013)

Mario hated Christmas. He would go into a near rage each time he would see people enjoying themselves, laughing like the world wasn’t in crisis, happily pointing out the colorful lights and the lavishly decorated Christmas tree, holding hands and wearing thick sweaters, not to ward off the cold, Mario fumed, but to look chic and fashionable. In Mario’s eyes, it was a disgusting scene, long blinded by living alone for 20 years after his wife left him for another man.
No matter, Mario muttered to himself. Good riddance to the whore. That was what she was anyway. Mario had not seen the inside of a church since.

Mario wasn’t exactly destitute. He had a small grocery store that earned him enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills.
It also helped that Mario had a spinster sister working abroad, who would send him some money from time to time. Maybe that was the only thing he liked about Christmas – the thousand dollar check in the mail that regularly came every December, like clockwork.

It was a particularly freezy night, and Mario shivered from the dropping temperature, even with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Mario decided to have himself a cup of hot cocoa. He filled the kettle with water to heat on the stove. Hearing the whistle as the water simmered, Mario turned off the flame. It was then that he heard the singing. Just those pesky neighborhood kids doing some caroling, Mario thought.

But their voices were so melodious and beautiful that Mario was drawn to his front steps. No longer able to resist his curiosity, he quietly opened the door, and was surprised to see a choir of angels singing “Silent night, holy night” in perfect harmony. Mario took a step back, looking at the carolers dressed in shimmering white floor length gowns, with shiny, small wings protruding from their backs. Cherubims, a stunned Mario concluded. Waving goodbye and moving away after finishing their song, a dumbfounded Mario could only wave back.
It was at this point that Mario couldn’t believe his eyes. As they turned the corner, the angels were suddenly transformed into little urchins wearing soiled and tattered clothes, their slippers looking like it had seen better days. But there was no mistaking the bright smiles and the glow on their faces.

Stepping out of his house, Mario called out to them, “Come back, come back,” he shouted, in a voice grown hoarse from the tears flowing down his cheeks.
Heeding Mario’s call, the children ran back to where he was, and Mario could have sworn he saw halos over their heads. He quickly unlocked his store, and told them to take whatever they might need for their Noche Buena.
And as the little angels in rags scampered away with the goods bundled in their tiny arms, Mario, almost in a whisper, uttered “Merry Christmas” for the first time in 20 years.
Falling on his knees and gazing at the night sky, Mario, in all reverence, said, “Thank you Lord, for making me see the light – and the spirit of Christmas.”
A merry and holy Christmas to all!

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