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Celebrating Christmas the Filipino way in Penang

PENANG: For Malaysian-born Filipino Donicio Geronimo, Christmas has been an important family affair to get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The 71-year-old, who is of Filipino-Chinese parentage, said the family observed a few simple Filipino traditions, despite being “very Malaysian” in their culture and ways through the years.

Malaysian-born Filipino Donicio Geronimo, 71, (centre) showing his wife Chan Yoke Eng, 66, the two presents he received during Christmas celebrations at their house in Bukit Gedong, Bayan Baru, Penang. Joining them are the couple’s son Pedro Marciano, 38, (seated, right), daughter-in-law Chan Wee Nee, 38, (standing, left) and grandchildren Julio Mariano, seven, (on Yoke Eng's lap), Samantha Lianna, nine, (fourth, left) and Marco Danielo, 12, (at the piano). — K.T. GOH / The Star
On Christmas Day, Donicio said his wife Chan Yoke Eng, 66, would prepare special Filipino-style roast beef and pineapple chicken dishes for lunch, as well as sweet-sour pork, lor bak, fried chicken and mixed vegetables.

“She once prepared a roast turkey for Christmas but the family members did not like it, so we returned to preparing the usual dishes.

“She learnt some of the dishes from my late mother Maggie Yong,” he said at his house in Bukit Gedong, Bayan Baru here.

Donicio, a retired Penang Port Commission (PPC) storekeeper, was born in Taiping, Perak. The couple has three sons – Aelfredo Marcello, 41, Pedro Marciano, 38, and 33-year-old Emilio Conrado.

Donicio said the family observed a traditional Filipino way of greeting their elders that was taught by his late father Inigo Geronimo, a professional clarinet and saxophone player.

“My children and grandchildren will take the hands of their elders to their foreheads to receive their blessings,” he said.

After attending midnight mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit (The Cathedral) off Jalan Mesjid Negri on Christmas Eve, he said the family would congregate at his sister Maria’s place in Jalan Kebun Nyior for a potluck feast.

He said about 40 family members would attend the gathering, where they would wish one another Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas) and exchange gifts.

Pedro, a company finance assistant, said his children Marco Danielo, 12, Samantha Lianna, nine, and Julio Mariano, seven, were given Spanish names, in keeping with family tradition.

The Geronimos are also musically inclined. Pedro is a cantor in the church choir while Emilio plays guitar.

“My son, Marco is now learning to play the piano, while Samantha is into singing,” said Pedro.

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