Nov 09, 2013

Old-Fashioned Christmas Cards

Clicking on an attached file or a long url to open an electronic Christmas card with its fancy animation and jingly music does not quite say Christmas to me.

It isn’t quite the same as opening a paper Christmas card.

Be it pictures of baby Jesus sleeping in a manger or angels fluttering with trumpets held high or a fat grinning Santa or a fir tree decked with colorful ornaments, it always puts a smile on my face as I open it to read who it is from. After that, I will stand the card up on my desk. And as Christmas gets nearer, my collection of cards grows bringing Christmas cheer to my little grey cubicle. And after Christmas is over, I will save them to make bookmarks.

Making Christmas cards means something entirely different to some women in the slum areas of Metro Manila. To these mothers who have to care for their children while trying to earn enough to feed them, making Christmas cards and calendars is a means of a livelihood.

In a place where a Christmas bauble is more likely seen in a mountain of rubbish, a group of mothers from Payatas gather in Minda’s house to learn how to cut and paste dried flowers on cards and calendars.

Picture taken from:

Payatas is one the slum areas surrounding what used to be Smoky Mountain. Although the place is being cleaned up and trash diverted somewhere else, the men of the slums continue to work as scavengers at dump sites, tricycle riders, jeepney drivers and security guards. To pass their time away, they would either smoke, drink beer or watch TV.

There are 7 mothers who come to learn how to make pressed flowers cards and calendars. Teresita is one of these mothers.

Teresita is 54 years old. She is actually a grandmother. The girl she is with is her second granddaughter. Teresita is taking care of her because her eldest daughter, the little girl’s mother, is separated from her husband. Her daughter was pregnant then. After giving birth, her daughter left to be with her other family. Teresita and her husband, Alfredo, decided to adopt their own grandchild. They are the ones who care for her now.

It has not been easy because Alfredo is a jeepney driver and works only twice a week. His earnings are not enough for food or to pay the bills. When Teresita was introduced to Minda, she also asked for help for her granddaughter’s education. Her granddaughter is now under Care Channels’ child sponsorship programme.

From Minda, Teresita learns to create pressed flower cards. After learning, she would take home the raw materials of dried flowers, paper and glue. So while caring for her granddaughter at home and doing her daily chores, Teresita and the other mothers earn a living creating cards and calendars. Every week, they would bring the completed cards and calendars to Minda and collect their income. They earn for each card they make. During their weekly visit to Minda, they would also have fellowship and do bible study.

The pressed flower cards these mothers create are little gardens or bouquets of their own.

Picture 1: Garden Series, blank inside – S$2 each card

Picture 2 and 3: Cards with verses, blank inside (Also available without verses) – S$3 each card

Picture 4: Close-up of Card for Mom, blank inside – S$3 a card

Picture 5 and 6: Happy Anniversary, blank inside (S$3 each card) and Cart of Love, blank inside (S$2 each card)

Picture 7: Thank You card with verse, blank inside (Also available without verse)  – S$3 a card

Picture 8, 9, 10: Gift tags of Butterfly, Cluster and Ixora, blank inside – S$4 for a pack of 10 each.

Every card is blank inside. The empty space invites me to write what the flowers in the front of the card really say – the love of a grandmother for her granddaughter, the love of a mother for her children.

As Christmas gets nearer, shall we not decorate our friends’ desks, shelves and homes with old-fashioned Christmas cards bought and sent with love?


Written by Wong Kah Wei

Craftwork, Empowering (PH), Holistic (PH), Innovative (PH), Philippines, Sustainable (PH)