Christmas songs filled the room. Food and wine were served. Children were running around as family members and friends were engaged in conversation.
It looked like a typical Filipino Christmas eve celebration but it wasn’t.
Suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and her family members spent Christmas inside her office at the capitol as she continued to defy Malacañang order suspending her for six months for grave abuse of authority.
Garcia told reporters on Tuesday that this year’s celebration was “most different” because for the first time, she and her family had to spend it away from their home.
She said that usually, she and her family members would gather at the house of her parents, Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia and retired Judge Esperanza Garcia, in Dumanjug town, southern Cebu where they would exchange gifts.
This time, she added she was not able to buy gifts for her loved ones because she could not leave her office due to the suspension order.
Yet, her Christmas this year was most meaningful.
“Christmas is not about the place. It’s about the people. Even if we are facing a big crisis now, this is where we can see the importance of family. The family stands behind you and this is what they showed me last night,” said Garcia.
Also joining Garcia in celebrating Christmas are her children, in-laws, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, brothers, several friends and supporters.
Christmas songs were being played at the governor’s office as the guests arrived. Two round tables covered in emerald green table cloth were set up at her office.
Before taking dinner, Garcia sang a famous Cebuano Christmas carole, “Kasadya ning Taknaa (‘Ang Pasko ay Sumapit’ or Christmas has arrived).” She was joined by her father, Deputy Speaker Garcia, daughter Christina and her husband, Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco, and her son Paulo.
There were baked stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, lechon, fried shanghai lumpia, beef steak and caldereta spread on a rectangular table, some of which were brought by friends and relatives.
Desserts included buko pandan, assorted cupcakes, chocolate cake, grapes, apples and oranges.
Bottles of Sumiller Manny O wine were served to the guests.
Unlike the usual capitol parties, there was no waiter to serve food to the guests.
Instead, house helpers of the Garcias served as waiters.
When the clock struck midnight, Frasco surprised his wife, Christina with a birthday cake with two lighted candles. Christina turned 31 on December 25.
Christina, Paulo and his wife Michelle then surrounded Garcia and hugged her./ Correspondent Carmel Loise Matus