For the sixth year in a row, I received two whole big Binagoogang Pata (deep-fried pig’s hind leg with sautéed shrimp paste) from our franchisee from Dagupan, 27-year-old Cindy Cua. She and her Sudoku World Champion sister Sarah delivered my favorite dish of all time, along with a lot of export-quality daing na bangus (vinegar-soaked boneless milkfish). Cindy is so thoughtful, always bringing a lot of Dagupan goods almost every time she comes to Manila. Sometimes it’s their delicious rice cakes puto, another time it was sweet sunflower seed brittle.

When I started franchising my tutorial and review center six years ago, I never thought I’d be getting these special gifts. I don’t know where our franchisee from Alabang (a posh city south of Manila) Cecile Cuna got the suman (rice roll) with custard flan and yam she gave me last week, but they were super as well. One time, she gave me a blouse that fit perfectly and a really cute make-up bag. I am sure she picked them very carefully. I feel the love. I’m so lucky with my partners and I wish that all of them feel that they are also lucky to be partners with me.

Have I ever told you that I have a terrific, terrific staff? They are definitely ahead of the rest. They are definitely smarter, more creative, more diligent, and more caring to clients than others. Even with their modest salaries, they always give me gifts. I always feel their support for me all year long but Christmas time is special. Every year for the past 16 years, we always have presentation competition. It really is a battle not really just for the prize but for the fun of preparing for them. We always divide the staff into four and each of the four will present with song, dance, skit and all their other talents. It is the highlight of our Christmas party. I attend numerous Christmas parties but Ahead’s Christmas party is the best because of the effort of my multi- talented staff.

I’m also blessed to have great friends. They never ignore me, even if I seldom have time to see them. We always have a great time catching up on the few occasions we do get together. On the 29th, I will be seeing my bestfriend from highschool who is based in New York. I remember that our past time was answering math problems. Hahahaha! No, we were not geeks,.. But Sheila was terrific at numbers and I felt like we were just playing Bejeweled then. We earlier planned to stay and chat all afternoon and evening in our house but decided to go to our high school reunion in UP Los Banos so we can see classmates and friends. We will also tour the campus and maybe visit Tagaytay Highlands.

Meanwhile, my bestfriend from college will come visit tomorrow. I wonder if six hours will be enough for us to talk. We seldom see each other but each time we are together, it feels like we never even parted.

My sons are terrific. This morning I wake up to see their friends sleeping in our living room. They fell asleep watching movies last night. I thank God I don’t have to wonder how my sons are because they always choose to stay here. They have sleepovers at our place almost every time there are no classes the next day. My sons and their friends are good boys. Almost all of them are honor students and Kostka awardees for exemplary character at the Ateneo (one of the top schools in the Philippines).

They don’t have girlfriends but are surely getting curious about girls. My sons are twins; they have different sets of classmates. Nicolo and his friends like to bake heavenly oatmeal raisin cookies and are into Capoeira martial arts and music. Nicolo has learned to play the drum and loves jamming with his friends. They play computer games endlessly, with Nicolo being declared as LOL God (League of Legends). They recently vowed to stop playing because they applied to become officers in their school’s Cadet Officers Candidate Course (COCC). This is why my twins are sporting different haircuts for the first time in their life now.

Paolo’s friends also cook together, battle with nerf, watch movies on dvd, visit malls and play computer and PS3 games and chat all night long on Facebook. In fact they are here today, currently finishing our spaghetti. His friends gave me a card saying thank you for providing a venue for good memories and our regular, Dre gave me a big cake.

My daughters are having fun together, last night they were trying each others clothes. Earlier they were running around, screaming, playing with my niece Gabby. Now, they are eating popcorn in bed. No crying, no pouting, no problem.

My sister who lived in Singapore for the past three years is back. She was in our house right after lunch. We had our foot spa in the mini mall next door. It is definitely better to have a foot spa with someone you love.

My partner is here working on his laptop. I am glad he doesn’t like to go out and drink with friends. He always choose to stay with me, talk to me, watch HBO. What a perfect situation for people like me who likes staying home.

Christmas is indeed a time to count our blessings. It’s a time to make the people in our lives feel loved and to appreciate the love they have for us. I can’t wait for more Christmastime like this!