Eddie Boy is turning five years old. He does not like his birthday — December 22! As far as he can remember, everybody is always busy celebrating some other Baby’s birthday!
Eddie Boy’s parents, Maria and Karlo, work in a small bakery. The owner provides them a small room where they stay. Business is not doing well, so the owner has had to let the young helper, Tonio, go.
Even worse, the owner tells Karlo that if saled do not pick up, he might even have to close down the bakery! Both Karlo and Maria are worried about what is going to happen. They are planning to send Eddie Boy to school next year, but the money they have saved is not enough.
Very early the following morning, Maria wakes Eddie Boy up and dresses him up warmly. She tells him they are going to attend the Simbang Gabi. Eddie Boy has no idea what it is all about.
The December air is cold. How Eddie Boy wishes he stayed home next to the oven where it is nice and warm! He holds on to his mother’s hand and they walk almost seven blocks before they reach the church. Eddie Boy is surprised to see that the church is full of people. He sees some of his playmates, and Tonio, too.
After the Mass, Eddie Boy asks his mother: “Today is not Sunday. How come there were so many people in church?”
“Today is the first day of Simbang Gabi. If you attend all the nine morning Masses, your wish will come true!”
“You mean we are doing this for nine mornings?” he whines.
“Do you have a wish? What do you wish for this Christmas?”
Eddie Boy looks around him and points to the big billboard not far from the road. “I want that! I want to celebrate my birthday with that! Mmmmm!”
Maria looks up. She sees a big picture of a little boy smiling, and in front of the boy is a platter filled with yummy fried chicken drumsticks!
Maria tells Karlo what Eddie Boy wants for his birthday. Karlo reaches into his pocket and fumbles with the few coins he has. He smiles sheepishly. “Don’t worry, I will think of something,” he promises.
Maria does not say anything. She gives him a sad smile.
Eddie Boy comes in and asks his Papa: “Mama says if I attend all the nine morning Masses, my wish will come true. How is that possible? There are so many people in the church, and all of them are wishing for something. How can all their wishes be granted?”
“Simbang Gabi is a Filipino tradition that goes all the way back to our great-great grandfather’s time,” he explained. “It’s a preparation to welcome the birth of Baby Jesus, who was born on Christmas Day. Make time for him, because he always has time for you.”
So Eddie Boy attends the dawn Masses every day. He prays very hard and hopes that Baby Jesus hears his prayer and grants his wish.
On the night before Eddie Boy’s birthday, Karlo asks the bakery owner if he can have a small portion of bread dough. “It’s Eddie Boy’s birthday tomorrow, and I want to make him something special,” he explains.
“Go ahead,” says the owner.
After work, Karlo stays up to knead the dough. He then carefully cuts and molds each piece into the shape of a chicken drumstick. to add flavor, Maria brushes some oil with garlic on it.
The next morning, Eddie Boy wakes up to a tray of freshly baked garlic-flavored ‘drumstick bread!’
“Happy birthday, son!” His parents greet him, beaming.
“Wow! They smell great, and they look so real!” Eddie Boy gets one piece of ‘drumstick bread’ and bites into it. “Mmmmm! And they tasted so good. Thank you!”
He dresses up fast, because he can’t wait to go to church to thank Baby Jesus for granting his wish. He asks his father if he can bring some of the bread to share with his playmates. “Of course.” His father beams, feeling proud because his son, despite being young, already knows how to think of others.
Maria wraps the ‘drumsticks’ in a towel to keep the warm and places them in a basket. Eddie Boy carries the basket all the way to the church, skipping and hopping all the way. Maria is glad to see her son so happy!
After the Mass, Eddie Boy asks permission to stay behind and wait for his playmates.
Soon, his playmates gather around to greet him Happy Birthday. Eddie Boy gives them some ‘drumstick bread’, and they eat it up — fast!
Just then, a pretty lady passes by. “What are you selling, little boy?” she asks.
“Nothing. It is my birthday today and my Papa baked me some ‘drumstick bread’. I’m sharing it with my friends. Can I offer you one?”
The pretty lady, intrigued by the shape and aroma of the bread, accepts one piece from Eddie Boy. She takes a bite and asks, “Where can I find your father?”
Eddie Boy rides in the pretty lady’s car. It stops in front of the small bakery. Karlo and Maria are surprised to see Eddie Boy getting off the car with the pretty lady.
The lady approaches Karlo and asks, “Did you bake this bread? It’s wonderful!”
“It’s my son’s birtday today, and he wanted some fried chicken drumsticks. We can’t afford them, so I baked him some bread in the form of drumsticks,” Karlo explains.
“I love them. May I order some? Make me 200 pieces. I will send my driver to pick them up on the afternoon of the 24th. How much will that be?”
Maria asks the owner to come out, but before the owner can say anything, the lady pulls out four one thousand-peso bills and leaves it on the counter.
“I’m leaving the change for the little boy. It’s for his birthday,” she says as she gets into her car and drives away.
The owner calculates the cost of the 200 pieces of bread and hands the change over to Eddie Boy who then gives all the money to his mother. The owner is happy to make a big sale. He asks Karlo what else he needs.
“A helper. I don’t think I can mold the bread alone.”
“I wonder where I can find Tonio? We sure can use his help,” says the owner.
“I know!” exclaims Eddie Boy.
Karlo and Tonio have only one day to prepare the ingredients. They start molding the dough in the morning; by lunchtime, the first tray of ‘drumstick bread’ is already out of the oven. Soon, all 200 pieces of ‘drumstick bread’ have been baked to perfection–and they all look like the real thing.
The aroma of the freshly baked bread attracts many passersby. Since they have baked extra, they are able to sell more!
The bakery owner can’t help but smile. “Looks like business is picking up again. Thank you, Karlo and Maria! Thank you, Tonio!” He gives each of them an envelope. “For your Noche Buena,” he whispers.
Suddenly, Maria realizes that, since they had been busy baking, she forgot to prepare something for dinner!
At that very moment, the car of the pretty lady pulls up again in front of the bakery. The driver comes down with a box and a basket full of fruits. “For the little boy,” he winks, before driving away with the 200 pieces of ‘drumstick bread.’
Karlo opens the box and is surprised to see what is inside. He shows it to Maria. She smiles.
“I will put these in the oven to keep them warm,” she beams.
That night, in the house of the pretty lady, guests gather around the buffet table and taste the ‘drumstick bread.’ They all think it’s sensational! They are amazed that the ambassador’s wife has again come up with such a unique dish!
Meanwhile, at the bakery, Karlo, Maria, and Eddie Boy sit around their tiny table. They have asked Tonio to join them. On the table are some bread, fruits, and the box that the lady gave them.
“Open it, Eddie Boy. It’s from the nice lady.”
Eddie Boy opens the box. His eyes grow wide. The box is filled with fried chicken drumsticks! He is so happy that his eyes well up with tears.
“Baby Jesus granted my wish! Did you get your wish, too, Papa?”
“Yes. I wished that business for the bakery would pick up so I can keep my job.”
“How about you, Tonio?”
“I wished I could find a job — and I got my old job back!”
“And you, Mama?”
“I wished that everyone’s wish would be granted, and thanks to you, it really happened.”
A big smile spreads over Eddie Boy’s face. Before he bites into his yummy drumstick, he exclaims: “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus! And Merry Christmas to all!”
Jeanne Lim has won the Palanca and Cinemalaya awards for her short stories and screenplays. In 2009, the Davao Writers Guild published her works in two books, “Tradisyon” and “In My Own Little Corner.” This story, originally published in December 12, 2007 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, could not be found and did not make it into the collection. Happily, we have recovered a copy and now publish it here.