I’ve a secret to reveal. Shhhh!
I’m Santa Claus, and I have the evidence to prove it.¹
Over the years I have taken up the mantle each December to bring joy and happiness to the children at the International Staff Housing community at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, the Philippines.
Actually, I did my first turn, so to speak, in 2002; and each year thereafter until 2009. I retired from IRRI in April 2010.
I had a great deal of fun over the years assuming the persona of Santa Claus and, as far as I could tell, most of the children (of neighbors and their domestic helpers) never did figure out who was the person inside the Santa suit.
IRRI is a multi-national, multi-ethnic, and multi-religion community from all around the world. And it didn’t matter whether you came from a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist background, the children always found magic in Santa’s arrival and the giving and receiving of presents.
My early attempts at ‘being Santa’ certainly needed improvement – too heavy on the rouge. And in the early days I needed some extra padding, which I eventually dispensed with as my natural girth expanded. The beard was all mine, however, and I used to cease trimming it from about the beginning of October onwards. However, some additional white makeup was needed . By the end of 2008, I think I’d developed a much more convincing character.
Here I am in 2003 (heavy on the rouge) . . .
. . . and in 2004 (toned down somewhat).
By 2005, I think I’d developed the makeup pretty well.
But there was still room for improvement, and once I’d decided in 2006 that Santa needed a new suit of clothes, my ‘interpretation’ thereafter was quite convincing.
Over the years, I arrived at the Christmas party—at the swimming pool, House No. 1 (of the Director General), or the Guest House—on a variety of transports. In 2002 it was on the back of a motorcycle driven by my colleague Rob Raab from IRRI’s Training Center. For several years, it was a nicely decorated tricycle, then a jeepney and, for a couple of years, a ‘Philippine reindeer’, aka a carabao.
Of course, when it came to handing out presents, I had the best seat in the house, on the front row of course. It was such a delight to see the expectation and joy on so many young (and not so young) faces.
Well, my Santa days came to end. They were one of my more pleasurable commitments during my second decade at IRRI. And of course by then I’d grown somewhat more stout, my hair had turned almost white, and my whiskers as well.
Once my Santa duties were over, I’d leave the party using my appointed transport, go home, shower, and return to the celebrations sans make-up and Santa clothes. The children were none the wiser of my role, because I’d always started out at the party before going home to metamorphose into Santa.