Christmas celebration with loved ones far away

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Christmas is the season for wishes and Louie Fababeir’s wish is to have his wife with him when next Christmas rolls around.

Louie Fababeir, shift manager at Subway, will be thinking of his wife and family in the Philippines this holiday season. Rosalie MacEachern – THE NEWS

By Rosalie MacEachern

Special to The News


A graduated, licensed nurse in his native Philippines, Fababeir is a shift supervisor with Subway Restaurants. He arrived in New Glasgow just over a year ago, sponsored by Greg Burrows and family who own and operate the local Subway restaurants.

“I was in England for three years and then went back to the Philippines to get married a few weeks before coming to Canada. My wife is an operating room nurse and her paperwork to come to Canada has all been sent so we are just waiting and praying every day.”

He’ll be the only one missing from his family’s Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“I will be with them on Skype. There is a 12-hour time difference but we will talk and it will make me happy to see them all well and happy,” he said.

Fababeir will mark Christmas Eve with an after-hours party of Filipino workers at Subway.

“We’ll have about 30 people, including some who come from Antigonish. There will be lots of food, telling stories about home, maybe singing some carols and gifts from Secret Santa. We’ll have a good time because life is too short to be miserable,” he said, in advance of the party.

He will also celebrate Christmas with the family he lives with, Alma and Rainer Quetua and their baby daughter, Gaby.

“Coming to Canada I thought I would end up in Vancouver or Toronto. I knew nothing about New Glasgow, not even where to find it on the map, but I am lucky because the Burrows and the Quetuas have been like family to me,” he said

If Fababeir was still in the Philippines his pre-Christmas activities would have included nine straight days of attending pre-dawn masses.

“You arrive at the church so sleepy but all your friends and relatives are also there so it becomes very sociable, too. We praise God and then eat and talk with friends after that,” he said.

Christmas Eve is a great gathering of family and presents are exchanged after the meal.

“You name it and the food you like will be there because my mother and aunties will make sure.  We always have a big ham and lots of fruit and a rice cake we call bibingka. The Christmas feast we call Noche Buena.”

At New Year’s, Fababeir’s mother pins a branch of grapes in a doorway.

“It is a symbol of prosperity for the New Year. Nobody eats those grapes and they stay there til the branch falls down.”

Coins are also scattered throughout the house and no one can pick them up until after the New Year’s meal. It is traditional to wear something with a polka dot or a circle pattern as this also encourages a prosperous future.

“Every year there is a discussion in my house about how much money is spent for food and how much for fireworks. My mother says my father spends too much on fireworks but we always appreciated the fireworks.”

New Year’s fireworks are officially banned and for good reason Fababeir learned after becoming a nurse.

“There are a lot of injuries, including people with hands blown off, but there is something wonderful about all the light and colour and everyone out on the street so not much attention is paid to the ban. It is a tradition brought to us by the Chinese and I will miss it but not the mess it leaves in the streets for the next morning.”

Fababeir looks forward to a day when he and his wife will be able to practise nursing in Canada but in the short term he says his job is to work hard for his sponsor and help his parents and six siblings, including a young sister with special needs.

Geographic location: Canada, Philippines, New Glasgow England Antigonish Vancouver Toronto

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