Jose Carillo's Forum


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The day I learned Santa wasn’t real was on Christmas Day

I was 16 years old then and I knew fully well that I had grown too old to believe in Santa Claus. But what could I do? My first Barbie doll came from Santa Claus. I received it from him when I was 3, at a time when my mother would cook and sell ginataan (coconut soup dessert) to earn money to get me through private school.

I even argued about this with some of my classmates in Grade II. If Santa Claus wasn’t real, I told them, why was I still receiving gifts from him every Christmas Day? If it was just our parents making our Christmas wish list come true, how could my mother possibly do that when she had been working abroad for four months now to sustain my education?

The gifts I would receive from Santa Claus always came with letters. They were always about how I should remain a good girl while my mother was away.

They weren’t in either of my aunties’ handwriting—of that I was sure. And the gifts were also things you couldn’t easily find in nearby stores. I would even receive packs of candies that—at 15—I had neither eaten nor seen in supermarkets before!

Later on, I discovered that my uncle was working for an international food company, and that year was the first time they were marketing those candies I had received. This made me suspicious, so on the next Christmas Day, I decided not to tell my aunties where I would hang my Christmas “plastic bag.”

When they failed to find the bag, my aunties must have thought that I had simply outgrown believing in Santa Claus. What they didn’t know was that I had pinned my Christmas “plastic bag” inside my room. And hours before Christmas Day, I closed my eyes hoping that I would find something in it the following morning.

“Bakit kasi hindi mo sinabi? (Why didn’t you tell us?),” one of my aunties chided me for not hanging the bag in its usual place. Because, I wanted to shout to them, that was precisely the point! But I held back because I understood that they—my mother and my guardians—had meant well by making me believe that it was Santa Claus who were giving me those gifts.

How I envy my cousin who, as soon as she started going to school, had already figured out who Santa Claus really was! Her mother didn’t have to ask their neighbors to pretend they were Santa Claus and write letters to her, or to figure out what would make her happy on Christmas Day.

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