For Filipinos worldwide, the 2020 Walter Disney's Christmas advert hits home and hits straight into every Filipino's heart. The narrative of a close family ties between a grandmother and her grand kid is a perfect picture that represents our culture. It pays homage not only to the things we value but most importantly to the people we love, family!
Just a brief narrative, the advert starts with a little girl waiting outside their Christmas village for his dad to come home from work - circa 1940s. This maybe is after WWII. The dad arrived, the little girl paid respect by doing the traditional "mano" and the dad gave her a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy. Now fast forward to 2005, the little girl is now a grandma, living far from home in a foreign land with her grand daughter; and, making "parol" (Christmas star) has become their tradition. As the years passed by, the grand daughter grew old and would missed spending time with her nana. Add up the rugged and old Mickey (not the drink) closed to losing an ear and eventually taken for granted and had been given up on by the ageing lola (grandma).
The grand daughter became distant as years go by until one night, she saw her grandma doing what they both loved doing when she was young. She left as her grandma lose her passion to make parol, eventually dropping everything on the floor including the mickey mouse toy before retiring to bed.
The grand daughter came home to find out that Mickey has completely lose an ear. She picked the toy up, fixed it, wrapped it and gave to her Lola as a gift, ending the narrative with a rekindled relationship.
This is a typical Filipino motion picture advertisement. For many years, Jollibee has managed to stir the emotions of Filipinos bringing back to their fundamental values by coming up with narrative television commercials. While some of the stories are heartbreaking, they depict the resilience and optimism of the Filipino culture, something unique to its people.
This year in particular however, Disney put in the centre stage one of the many Filipino family values of taking care both our love ones, especially our elders and the respecting the things that make our relationship much more sentimental, valued and special. The narrative of the advertisement is 100% Filipino in nature, from the traditional "pagmamano", to open up the animation to the eventual return of the stuffed toys to life, Disney has put a lot of work in making sure that every Filipino kid who watches the advertisement will take a lesson or two about family, values and relationships.
What do we take from this commercial?
One. Filipinos have high context culture but we also have high regards to family relationship. Nursing home is not an option for an elderly family member. We take care of them until their dying days. That makes our culture unique and very well respected. We value time with our elders. We create memories and respect sentimental things that connect us together. Our lolas and lolos are huge part of our upbringing and well-being, and so, we want to be there for them on a daily basis when they are frail and weak.
Two. Our abuelos serve as a bittersweet reminders for us to put our foot down from our innate routine of ignoring people around us due to busy life. Our elders are our constant reality check that life is short and that spending quality family time comes as the most important part of our tradition. We are at some point a lolo's boy/girl or a lola's favourite apo (grandkid). They are our second parents. Most of our basic values come from them. When our parents are out making a living, they are the ones who would sneak a chocolate bar or steal a cookie from a jar and would whisper, " Do not tell your mom!".
Three. Small things are valuable and sentimental. Watching the ad does not only make me a witness of how time and our physical appearance change. It also reminds me of our rich Filipino tradition of taking care of things, because unlike other kids, we are typically less fortunate than many. The Mickey Mouse stuffed toy that went through a lot of wear and tear, ending up losing an ear and getting stiched and brought back to life is a great manifestation of our deeply-rooted practice of taking care of our love ones, the things that connect us to them, and the memories that we made.
I have a necklace that has been passed on from one generation to another. I am the fourth generation or wearers, and it is a right of passage that I am ready to hand down to my eldest when he is 18, and I expect him to keep it and give it to his kid in due time. I hope that my family tradition involving this necklace is here to stay even when I am long gone.
Four. Family is everything. As a Filipino, we are innately accommodating and generous. We do not take people for granted and this is why we have good relationships with our extended family members and even with our circle outside our family. Our house is always open to anyone who would like to join us for a meal, for laughter or for good stories. We might not have much but we have a lot to offer. We help one another, which is why we believe in the cycle of giving. Like any other family, we are far from perfect but it is our imperfections that give us reason to reconnect and rediscover our roots, our values and our beginnings.
It might take many more Christmases until another Filipino-themed Christmas ad will be made by Walt Disney again, but I will take this year's ad as a gift of my Filipino culture to the world. A timely token, when people are losing hope and resorting to street violence because of desperation, when doors of opportunities are shutting one after another, and when people are drifting off from their conviction and values to make both ends meet.
This Disney Christmas advert will go down in history as the time when the world finally learned something good about my Filipino heritage. It is a welcoming gesture for other minority cultures to take the spotlight.
And when I loss sight of the things that made me a proud Filipino, I hope that this ad will draw me back to the goodness of having a darker skin, the fun of having a distinct Filipino English accent and the privilege of having a great family relationship, especially with my only remaining grandparent, my Lola Leonida.