I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone what time of year it is. Generally I’m something of a ‘scrooge‘ when it comes to Christmas, especially when my office has been playing Christmas songs during work since September (mixed in with budots – the worst music imaginable). It also feels significantly less Christmassy when it’s 30 degrees and sunny outside every day – it even seems to be getting hotter! What amused me is that lots of the Christmas decorations I’ve seen around Cebu are of snowflakes, something which most people here will never experience.
However, everyone is in good spirits and I know it’s something that people here look forward to for months. What’s good about employment in the Philippines is that there’s a standardised bonus system, which entitles all employees to a ’13th month’ pay in December, normally awarded in the middle of the month. What this entails however is significantly increased traffic and much busier shopping malls; on the way back from the mall on Sunday I had to wait an hour in the taxi queue, thankfully though I am British and therefore good at queuing(!)
Evidently at this time of year it’s customary for offices to hold Christmas parties, and mine did exactly that last weekend. The theme for our Christmas party was ‘Vintage – 1920s to 1960s’, also known as ‘regular attire’ in Dalston.
I previously had no experience of deliberately dressing in vintage attire, but I was looking forward to getting dressed up and going to the party nevertheless. I decided to go for a casual 1930s look, something similar to what I had seen in Boardwalk Empire. Thankfully I already had relatively suitable clothes i.e. a long sleeve ‘grandad’ style t-shirt, with some loose chinos and suede shoes, and I managed to borrow some braces/suspenders from a friend in the office.
Luckily the party was held in tower 1 of the Crown Regency hotel complex – a brief journey from my apartment in tower 3. Generally it’s cultural here not to turn up to events on time (or at all in some cases), so with that in mind I turned up at 6:30 with the event due to start at 6. I thought I would be fashionably late, but as it turned out I was unfashionably early. I had underestimated ‘Filipino time’ and so spent the first hour admiring the food (which I wasn’t allowed to eat) and drinking water (because we weren’t allowed alcohol until after the meal). I suddenly realised that my perception of a ‘Christmas party’ and that of my office were oceans apart. In my opinion, Christmas parties are supposed to be about unlimited free alcohol, music, dancing, food, and generally some outrageous office gossip/people afraid to go into work on Monday. However this was on the other end of the scale in terms of tameness (one of my co-workers earlier described the event as ‘not even PG, but rated U’). While I was waiting for a painful hour and a half before I was allowed to eat/drink, the only relatively adult part of the night came in the form of a Burlesque dance performed by some girls in the office.
After this and a few speeches, we were finally allowed to eat from the buffet and it didn’t disappoint. There was a range of food from delicious lechon to calamares, chicken curry, pancit and several other dishes that I don’t remember. After our plates were collected we were finally allowed to drink, and so I ordered as much Red Horse as I could get my hands on. Unfortunately they ran out after my third bottle, so I had to switch to San Mig Lite (also no spirits available). Normally at this point in a Christmas party there would be music/dancing, but not here. Instead followed 3 hours of awards and overly long speeches. However, it wasn’t all bad as I would be involved at some stage.
I wasn’t expecting to win any awards seeing as I’d only been with the company for 3 months, but one of the competitions was for ‘Hot Papa of the Year’ – for a combination of best outfit on the night and I guess general popularity. My name got mentioned along with a number of others, so I had to stand at the front of the stage with the other nominees. In order to decide the winner of the contest, we each had to do a catwalk and the person with the most cheers would be declared the winner. There weren’t many cheers until my boss (also English) got onto the stage – he had gone to a lot of effort with his outfit and pulled some extreme poses. Then came my turn – I had no idea what kind of pose to do so I just thought about it as I went along. As I got onto the stage I did a couple of poses and, without sounding too arrogant there were a lot of cheers and I was certain that I had won (as was my boss).
However, for some reason they decided (wrongly) that it was too even to choose, so they called back myself, my boss and one of the local workers (who had a fantastic outfit to be fair). Evidently this time around all the cheers went to the local guy and I missed out on the prize, but it was good fun anyway, and I’m totally not bitter about losing… I then had to come up to the stage for a second time, as I won a mobile phone as one of the raffle prizes, and it was actually quite a decent LG phone to my surprise. This was to the dismay of some of my colleagues who were aware that I already had two phones (one for UK, one for the Philippines) and so I was promptly asked by several people to give my newly-acquired phone to them. However, my original Philippines’ phone was one that I had borrowed from the office anyway, so it meant I could give it back as well as getting an improved device. What followed the awards were even more speeches, and what with eating a lot of food, having very little alcohol and sitting down for a number of hours, I decided to call it a night.
What I’m looking forward to now is my imminent arrival in the UK on Monday – I’m especially looking forward to some home comforts and English food!
Do you have any Christmas party horror stories that you’d like to share?