Ex-OFW back home: A ‘traditional Filipino Christmas’ is unlike any other
“This is how we blow-dry hair in Brunei,” Jackie Palomo says as he goes through his customer’s hair—his right hand holding a round brush, his left a blowdryer on cool setting.
He tugs at the hair a little forcefully with the bristle brush but not enough to actually pull out any strands.
Jackie, who returned to the Philippines a couple of years ago after working abroad for 18 years, is the only hairdresser in a corner-lot parlor in Bacoor, Cavite. The cashier or the manicurist usually keeps him company.
“Good thing you’re here. I thought you were closed during Wednesdays,” the customer asks.
“Well, no day off for me, especially during the Christmas season,” Jackie says, as he gestures at the promotional posters he had earlier put up.
The blowdryer keeps getting pulled out of the socket as he walks to the other side of his customer’s chair. He nonchalantly plugs it back in.
At the end of the session, he rubs a few drops of hair serum on his customer’s hair.
“See, you’re now even more beautiful,” he says in Filipino. His customer beams as she stares at her reflection in the mirror.
“In Brunei we use all sorts of hair serums to keep the princesses beautiful. Unfortunately, I was not able to bring home some of the products. You can buy local brands. They’re not as effective but are good enough,” he says.
Jackie, whose real name is Bernardino Superticioso Palomo, says he has been working as a beautician for 30 years. He started in Las Pinas at a salon located near an exclusive residential village.
Back then, he says, salon treatments were limited. “At that time, salons were not earning that much, unlike now that there are rebonding and facial treatments,” he said.
He eventually decided to seek greener pastures abroad with the help of a friend.
Jackie first worked as a beauty consultant, which allowed him to travel to different countries in Asia, including China.
After working in Brunei for 18 years, he was able to buy a house for his mother. By then, he knew it was time to go home.
While he was earning a lot in Brunei, though, he was sad and eventually got tired of focusing only on work.
“Kasi syempre sa tagal ng pagtatrabaho mo sa abroad nakakapagod din eh. Malungkot sa abroad di katulad sa atin. Mami-miss mo ang Pilipinas. Mami-miss mo ang family (Of course when you’ve been working abroad for a long time, it can be tiring. It’s sad there, unlike here in the country. You’ll miss the Philippines. You’ll miss your family),” he says.
Like no other
Jackie says he feels this even more during the holidays since Brunei is a predominantly Muslim country.
“Even if we were able to celebrate Christmas, we still felt sad,” he says. They felt the “spirit of Christmas” there only for a day or so, while Filipinos celebrate Christmas as early as the start of December.
“It’s not like that there. We just work and work,” he said.
With two other Filipino co-workers, Jackie spent Christmas eve at a church with the rest of the Filipino community. They sang Christmas carols and took part in parties.
He says he longed for a true Filipino Christmas where he would be able to attend night mass before going to work. He also missed the food and the people since the holidays are often an opportunity to visit relatives and friends.
Nevertheless, he says he learned a lot in Brunei.
“I had a nice job and I learned how to deal with all sorts of people—including princes and princesses… The way of living there is different, unlike in the Philippines where things are simpler.”
Asked if he plans to work abroad again, he says it is less likely since he is happier in the Philippines.
“I’m not young anymore,” he adds.
Jackie says he is content that he is earning enough and is able to spend Christmases with his family.
“I was excited when I first returned to the Philippines. This is our country… I was so happy during my first Christmas here,” he recalls. It was the traditional Filipino Christmas he had been homesick for.
“This coming Christmas should be really fun. I am happy because now I am able to prepare for it, unlike when I was in Brunei and was only imagining how I would celebrate Christmas with my family.”
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