The Way It was

At least a week before Christmas, mom and I would hie off to the provincial capital (where the "big" grocery stores are located) to buy the whole leg of pig (jamon) and queso de bola, that would be the star of our Noche Buena table. I would watch my mother start prepping the cooking around noontime on the eve. The leg would be too big for our stove, so we would cook outside in the backyard by putting stones and cooking with firewood. My mother would bring out her big cooking vessel (much like a big wok) to cook the jamon. I don't remember exactly how she cooked the jamon, but a bottle of 7-up was her secret ingredient.

While the jamon was taking it's sweet time cooking, Mom would start slicing and dicing for nilagang baka, another mainstay in our table. We were then encouraged to take a long nap, as we need to be up all night long.

In our small town, there is one Catholic church. The church services the entire town, which consists of 44 barangays. You could imagine that the church would be crowded on midnight mass service. And because my mother (the devout Catholic) wanted to always sit near the front, that meant we had to be outside the church before it opens to the public around 10 pm, or something. The mass always began at 11 pm and ended at midnight, exactly midnight when the church bells ring rapturously to signal Christmas day. Every year, I remember we had to be out the door by 9 pm. Yes that early!!!!! We live two blocks away from church, but mom needed the security of knowing she gets the prime seat by coming way too early. Oftentimes, we would be the first waiting outside the dark church yard. Some years, we would find people already waiting.

Our midnight mass service is the best that I had ever. It was solemn, despite the crowd. And the choir (which I was a part of for a few years) always managed to give the performance of the year at that service. As I look back, I remember I always felt spiritually nourished after this service.

Back home, we would gather on the table with mom slicing the ham and queso de bola very thinly and we make ham and cheese sandwich with pandesal. We have a bowl of nilagang baka with it and a cup of hot cocoa. That was our Noche Buena every year. Some years we would make buko salad and/or chicken sandwich.

That was how we celebrate our Christmas Noche Buena.


josiet said…
Aww.....nostalgia. I remember our Noche Buena in the province too :(
The Scud said…
midnight mass, exchanging of gifts, and noche buena is how we celebreate christmas at home. tradition na sa pamilya.

merry christmas!
Bonnie Bonsai said…
As a kid, I only heard about hamon and queso de bola but I had no idea what they were all about.

Now, am here, I can't be fatten with them because I don't eat ham anyway. Queso de bola? I prefer the little one as big as marble. lol.

Great reminiscing....

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