By Prem Thomas, KF9, Philippines

I thought my coworkers at the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) were just recycling balloons from the last birthday party to save money, but a coworker told me that “It’s Jesus’s birthday.”

As I prepare to celebrate my first Christmas away from family, the Christmas spirit has become overwhelming with carols being played since I arrived in Manila in early October. People say the Philippines starts celebrating in months that end in “ber,” so Christmas is really a four-month event here.

There was quite a bit of build-up leading up to the CCT’s Christmas Fellowship (party) here at the head office. It all started 12 days before the Party when we selected a name for Monito/Monita, a Filipino version of Secret Santa. Every day we have to find a gift that is less than 20 pesos (about 43 cents) for our Monito/Monita that fits the days theme: something sweet and sour, something that lights up, something that melts, etc. On the last day at our Christmas party we reveal the identity of our Monito/Monita and give them a 200 peso (about $4.30) gift.

The Christmas party, which was funded by individual staff contributions of 100 pesos, started as most CCT events do, with a welcome song, prayer and reflections lead by some of the senior Pastors. The event continued with an impromptu caroling contest pitting staff from different regions of the Philippines against each other:

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We also played many games; my favorite was tandem musical chairs. I had definitely never seen this before!

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The night ended with food (spaghetti, fried chicken and sandwiches) that was made by former street dwellers from CCT’s Kaibigan Center, raffles for prizes like gift certificates at Jollibee, the local McDonald’s, and Monito/Monita revelations.

Prem Thomas is serving as a Kiva Fellow working with the new field partner Center for Community Transformation Credit Cooperative (CCT) in Manila, Philippines.

To view currently fundraising loans from CCT click here.

You can also join our new lending team here. For content updates from the CCT team.

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