The Empty Manger


It is Christmas eve and it is all quiet in the house. Anabelle and I are spending Christmas all by ourselves for the first time since 1975 when we spent our first Christmas together as a married couple. Since then, Christmases past have always been a flurry of frenzied wrapping, cooking, preparations, of midnight masses (many times at the Cenacle Sisters) and noche buenas, of feasting, partying and gift giving with family and friends, visits and being visited. With all these activities, it is a tribute to the genius of the Filipino people that Christmas is never a one-day affair. it lasts at least three days, nay a week or a month. No, make that a season.

Now, we are alone. We must have done something right raising our three sons. We always told them we wanted to bequeath to them but two things: roots and wings. We have succeeded beyond our expectations. They have all flown the aerie. And this year has been a year of significant transitions.

Martin and Kathleen have their hands (and hearts) full watching their fledglings starting to spread their wings. Jane is fast becoming a theater thespian with dreams of Broadway. Jonathan is so becoming as a freshman in high school, Jane once exclaimed, “Kuya, high school has changed you!”

Mickey and Iulia couldn’t have enough of each other as they were relishing moments of their first year as a married couple. With a love that intoxicating and intense, something was bound to happen. And she did! They are expecting their princess sometime in March next year.

Macky and Lani are off to faraway England for Macky to pursue further studies in Oxford – with their not-yet-a-yearling in tow. Maia was a cute little pixie with big round eyes when they left barely two months ago. Now, we get her daily pictures and we see a rolly-polly bundle with chinky eyes.

Now, there are just the two of us in a house we built for five, with provisions for at least three more and possibly another three.

Our manger may be empty but our hearts are not. Our hearts are aflame with an abiding joy that time nor space cannot quite snuff out. Like Mary, as the Christmas events were unfolding before her, we are keeping these things and pondering them in our hearts. And we do so with great joy, deep humility and unending gratitude for the Almighty has looked with great favor on his lowly creatures and has done great things for us. Holy is his name and his handiwork.


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