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Still jolly X’mas for most Pinoys

This, despite calamities, according to SWS survey

MOST Filipinos still expect a merry Christmas this year although many people in the Visayas expect the holiday to be bleak, according to the latest poll of the Social Weather Stations.

The SWS said its nationwide survey, conducted Dec. 11-16, found that 62 percent of people in the country expect a happy Christmas. This is down slightly from 64 percent in 2012 and 2011.

But in the Visayas, the expectation of a happy Christmas declined to a new record-low 57 percent in 2013 as the expectation of a sad Christmas reached record-high 11 percent, the SWS said.

“Conversely, the expectation of a sad Christmas in Visayas increased by four points, from seven percent in 2012 to 11 percent in 2013,” the pollster added.

The last quarter has been particularly bad for the region in terms on calamities, with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu in October and the super typhoon Yolanda that devastated most parts of Eastern Visayas last month.

The SWS survey showed expectations for a happy Christmas in Visayas declined by nine points, from 66 percent in 2012 to 57 percent this year.

Before the post-Yolanda survey, the lowest recorded expectation of a happy Christmas in the Visayas region was in 2006 at 60 percent.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, for his part, said the Palace still takes heart over the nationwide results of the survey, which showed that 62 percent of Filipinos remain optimistic of having a merry Christmas this year.

“Despite the slight decline, we are gratified to know that nearly two out of three Filipinos expect to have a happy Christmas,” Coloma said.

“Lower figure in the Visayas may be due to the series of calamities that affected nearly all the Visayan provinces,” the Palace official added.

At least nine percent of Filipinos expect a sad Christmas, while 28 percent said the holidays will be neither happy nor sad.

Across the country, Mindanaoans are the most optimistic of having a happy Christmas at 77 percent, compared to 61 percent in Balance Luzon, 57 percent in Visayas and 47 percent in the National Capital Region.

Metro Manila had its second lowest percentage of people expecting a happy Christmas, following the 45 percent record-low posted in 2006.

The survey was taken from Dec. 11-16 using face-to-face interviews among 1,550 adults.

It had sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, ±4% for Visayas, and ±6% for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon and Mindanao.

Christmas this year comes as conflicts and natural disasters have stricken Christians worldwide, from the historic Syrian town of Maalula where residents still speak Jesus’ ancient Aramaic, to typhoon-hit Tacloban City in the Philippines.

In Bethlehem. thousands of worshipers and tourists from around the world flocked Tuesday to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, as the Middle East reels from conflicts and Pope Francis celebrates his first Christmas mass.

Jerusalem’s Latin patriarch will lead a procession to Bethlehem and celebrate midnight mass in the holy city attended by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other dignitaries.

In a Christmas message last week, Fuad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, spoke of the sufferings of the Palestinian people and the vicious conflict that has rocked Syria for 33 months.

Twal, the top Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that resumed in July after a three-year hiatus were being hampered by Israeli settlement construction.

“As long as this problem is not resolved, the people of our region will suffer,” said Twal, adding the Israel-Palestinian conflict was “a major obstacle” to Middle East stability.

The patriarch also called for a ceasefire in Syria, where bloody fighting between regime forces and rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad has killed an estimated 126,000 people since March 2011.

“As the Syrian problem cannot be resolved by the force of arms,” he said.

“We call on all political leaders to assume the responsibility for finding a mutually acceptable political solution that will end the senseless violence and uphold respect for the dignity of people.”

For Maalula residents it will be a grim Christmas as hundreds of Christians have fled a rebel assault on their ancient hamlet and have taken shelter in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Pope Francis, who has repeatedly prayed for an end to the Syrian conflict and spoken against international armed intervention since his election in March, plans to make his first visit to the Holy Land in May next year.

The Argentine pope will first visit Jordan, then Israel and the Palestinian territories and is expected to celebrate high mass in Bethlehem. The Vatican is expected to officially announce the visit after Christmas.

“We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said, calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected”.

Eastern Christians number between an estimated 10 and 13 million, with minorities living in Muslim-majority Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, as well as Israel. With AFP

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