Many families are separated during the holidays due to travel restrictions and safety precautions relating to COVID-19.
Some former Guam residents remember and share their heartwarming Christmas experiences on island.
Missing the food
Maria Dolojan, a graduate student in New York University, is spending the holidays in New York with her boyfriend and dog. She initially planned to visit her boyfriend’s family in Oklahoma. However, the Dededo resident decided to wait for next year when things will get better.
“This will not be my first Christmas away from family. Even though it’s a bit sad this year, I try to look at things with a glass half full and just appreciate the fact that everyone in my family is safe and healthy,” Dolojan said.
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The Simon Sanchez alumnus misses her family, friends, going on hikes and being within proximity to beautiful beaches. During her childhood, her family would always go to church, on or before Christmas and enjoy a home-cooked feast.
“My family on both my mom and dad’s sides are Filipino, so a lot of food that we had was very typical Philippine party food — barbecue, pancit, diniguan, adobo, fried fish and pig,” Dolojan said. “I miss these days so much when things were much simpler. I definitely will be continuing the tradition of eating something that reminds me of home.”
Her favorite CHamoru dish is kelaguen, due to adaptability.
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“It can be served in a wrap or eaten as a substitute for a starch (even though it’s mainly meat),” she explained.
Dolojan’s favorite Christmas memory was when she spent the hours until midnight to open her gifts. That was the only time throughout her childhood when her mom would ever let her stay awake past her bedtime.
“I remember my mom and I would watch TFC and talk about random things. She was literally my rock and the person that I turned to when I was a kid. Those moments we had, although brief, are memories I hold onto,” she said.
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“Star Ng Pasko,” Dolojan’s favorite Christmas tune, was released two years after her mom died. According to her, the holidays have never really been the same.
“There is just something about this song that makes me not as sad when the holidays roll by. There’s just something about hearing other Filipinos sing or speak in Tagalog that brings me a piece of home,” she said.
Every party a fiesta
Johanna Aquino Lebouef will be spending the holidays in Germany with her husband. She initially planned to fly to Philippines to meet her family there for Christmas.
“This year will be the first time we’ll be spending Christmas without each other. For my husband, he’s in the military, so he’s used to this,” the Dededo resident said. “I guess it’s an opportunity for us to spend an intimate Christmas together as husband and wife, which we’ve never done before.”
Johanna Aquino Lebouef cutting the lechon. Lebouef misses how every party in Guam turns into a fiesta
Lebouef misses how every party in Guam turns into a fiesta, where everyone and their family shows up by the beach to catch up. Her favorite CHamoru meals are red rice, beef kadu and kadun pika.
“We stay up on Christmas Eve for Noche Buena, eat Christmas foods and countdown to Christmas,” she said. “I’ll still be doing that this year with my husband, but there’ll be a lot less food.”
“This will be my first time spending Christmas here, so I’ve yet to discover what makes it different from celebrating in Guam. I assume, however, that Guam parties are much bigger and louder,” Lebouef said. “Since my family and I are not in the same country, we can instead show how we decorated the house with ornaments, what we cooked and what we are eating together during the video call,” she said.
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Christmas via video chat
Matteo Lomeli, a former Yigo resident, will be spending the holidays with his immediate family. The freshman at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University said that his initial plan for the holidays was to visit his family in Mexico, but the rising cases of COVID-19 dissuaded him.
“Thankfully, we can still spend our holidays together by reaching out in different ways,” Lomeli said.
There are many available methods of communication, whether it’d be video chatting, calls or even letters.
“Anything given out to the people we love — who are alone — will be sure to put a smile on their face. I advise group zooms or video chats. It won’t be like before, but you get to see everyone face-to-face in a sense,” Lomeli said.
Matteo Lomeli and family.
“Even though we are all separated, people have found creative ways to see each other; stay safe and healthy,” he said. “Always remember that family is always there even when you cannot see them physically.”
A fond memory of a past Christmas celebration back in Guam was when Lomeli’s family invited all of his family friends to participate in games and a dinner. Bringing in the Christmas spirit, Lomeli recommended his favorite Christmas track “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey and his favorite Christmas movie “Polar Express.”
“The song is too catchy for its own good, and me and my friends always loved to blast it in the car. On the other hand, the movie’s soundtracks and plot were just cornerstones of my childhood that always brought back nostalgia,” Lomeli said.