Best gifts for
JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP, PhD
December 23, 2021
Pandemic or not, the
Christmas season is here. With the cool amihan wind comes a hopeful
air, so soothing after almost two years of uncertainty and fear.
These days, Christmas carols play in malls and radio stations,
parols light the streets, and holiday decorations brighten our
homes. Many Filipinos, young and old, are preoccupied with gifts:
what to gifts to give, what gifts to receive, worries about being
unable to give to loved ones. The devastation wrought by Typhoon
Odette has put a damper on things, but, like what happened in the
wake of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the catastrophe has brought out the
best of the Filipino. People from all walks of life are trying to
chip in, with social media filled with news about donation drives,
prayers for those affected and a myriad of stories of how people are
reaching out to those affected.
Gift giving at Christmas
is a Christian tradition that is widely practiced around the world,
symbolic of the tributes made to the baby Jesus by the Three Wise
Men in the story of the Nativity. It is heartening to see that in
this difficult time, in the wake of Odette’s devastation, even with
the threat of Omicron and fears of another COVID-19 surge, people
are rising above difficulties to give the best gift of all:
Unusual, but Necessary
We all strive to give
gifts that our families and friends would appreciate. The internet
is full of lists of gift suggestions – food, toys, bags, shoes,
books, household, and office items. Everything from day-to-day stuff
to the bizarre and unusual is being offered. And there is also my
personal favorite, the list of gifts that give back. These are the
ones that support important causes, with proceeds going to
charities, non-profits, and communities.
This year, I hope we give
gifts that transform lives. We can still give our loved ones their
favorite stuff, but we can buy from sources where part of the
proceeds goes to charity. We can also make donations in the name of
our loved ones to support causes that are important to them.
instead of giving cash or toys to our inaanaks, we can open a kiddie
savings account for them, giving not just the monetary value of the
items we originally intended to give but also paving the way for
financial literacy. This is important, because recent studies show
that Filipinos struggle to understand basic financial concepts, with
a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) survey showing that 41% of
Filipinos can only answer one of three financial literacy questions
correctly and a meager eight percent can answer three. BSP data also
show that about 36.9 million Filipino adults have no bank accounts.
This significant number of unbanked Filipinos (48% of the country's
adult population) is brought on by factors other than low-income
levels. To address the situation, BSP is promoting financial
inclusion. The DepEd is integrating financial education in the K to
12 Basic Education Curriculum. The private sector is also helping,
with fintechs and banks reaching out to low-income groups and
helping microfinance institutions serve the poor in remote and
underserved areas. This Christmas, we can help their initiatives in
our own little ways. Aside from kiddie savings, we can get kids
started on financial literacy by giving them books or board games
that help explain basic financial concepts.
We can also give the gift
of education, probably the most transformative gift of all. We can
donate to scholarship funds. Finance a poor kid’s education for a
semester. Or enroll family members in online courses or projects
that will give them new skills – painting, designing, photography,
pottery, cooking, baking. The possibilities are endless.
The gift of livelihood is
another great offering. While not everyone is in the position to
offer direct employment to others, we can still open doors by giving
referrals and linking people to those with job openings. We can also
tell our kasambahays about government offices or MFIs that provide
livelihood opportunities so they can encourage their family members
to join. Maybe, we help someone turn their hobby into a business. If
your teenager enjoys writing fiction, you can give him a
subscription to online resources that would help him get published.
If your sister makes lovely artworks or handicrafts, you can enroll
her in courses that would help her sell her creations online. You
can help your titos and titas who like to bake get started on their
online food delivery business. Or you can refer them to
organizations like the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development
Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), which supports
micro-small-and medium enterprises.
As we are now almost two
years into the COVID-19 pandemic, health is important. Let us give
loved ones gifts that will help them take care of their health. Give
healthier versions of your friends’ favorite foods. Give them
fitness tracker gadgets to help them monitor their daily goals. Or
give them yoga mats, water bottles, small exercise gears like
dumbbells and jump ropes. And because we live in the midst of a
pandemic, the best gift of all would be face masks. Washable ones,
so we can minimize the carbon footprint. In fact, it would be good
if we can give away face masks to strangers.
And in the wake of Typhoon
Odette which displaced hundreds of thousands of our kababayans, let
us give the gift of charity. Join one of the many donation drives to
assist victims. Government agencies and private sector have called
for volunteers. Many MFIs and mutual benefit associations are also
playing a big role in helping clients in relief and rehabilitation.
Let us all join these efforts and help affected communities in
Palawan, Southern Leyte, Eastern Samar, Agusan, Surigao, Cebu and
Bohol. They have lost their homes, livelihood, loved ones. The
communities are still submerged in floods, infrastructures had been
destroyed, and so they lack food, water, clothing, and other basic
necessities. Helping them would be among the best gift we can give
Letting Gifts into Our
It has been a difficult
two years since COVID-19 entered our lives. Then, just as things
were beginning to improve, Typhoon Odette came. Yet, amidst its
devastation, the all-important Filipino value – malasakit – still
pervades. Filipinos are helping those affected by Odette, giving
their resources, time and effort to even in this difficult time of
pandemic. It is a giving of self that should be celebrated.
Gifts are signs of
affection. It is an important part of human interaction, defining
relationships and strengthening bonds. And it is often the giver,
rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest rewards from a
And so, as we greet the
holidays, let us give the best gifts we can: gifts that will help
our loved ones cope with the changes and challenges of the times.
Let us give lasting gifts. The gift of hope. The gift of education.
The gift of trust. The gift of livelihood opportunities. The gift of
financial literacy. Gifts that contribute to people’s financial
security and health. These are unusual gifts, true, but they have
the greatest potential for transforming people’s lives.
Life itself is a gift. Let
us give gifts that will keep on giving.