Saab Magalona and Jim Bacarro's Christmas: A home theater, a benefit gig, and Pancho
Saab Magalona and Jim Bacarro are not "Christmas people" – at least not in the sense that they blare out the Jose Mari Chan and turn their home into a parol-embellished Christmas village the moment the ‘ber’ months hit – as a lot of Filipinos do.
In fact, the Christmas tree Saab bought when they first moved in to their home a little over a year ago became something of a point of contention between the young couple. “We bought a tree, and pinagalitan niya ko (Jim got mad at me),” Saab said, though by the laugh that followed it was evident that Jim didn’t really get that mad.
“We moved in November, I was pregnant. I was just so excited to have our own home, so I invited my family to spend Christmas Eve here. So sabi ko, kailangan natin ng Christmas tree (I said we needed a tree). So I invested… it was expensive. I didn’t know Christmas trees were expensive!” she laughed.
The Christmas tree seems to be their family's only concession to “normal” Christmas traditions – and yes, it's going up again this year. But when it comes to everything else, they seem to just wing it.
As Saab and Jim shared their Christmas memories, they recalled stories of laid-back celebrations with family, a last-minute rush to get everyone presents, and even, on one year, an emotional round of thanksgiving speeches that had everyone crying by the end of it (perhaps also because they were all a bit boozed up).
This year, the couple seem to be sticking to the free-rolling, punk rock spirit of their Christmas past – after all, it’s not like they’ve decked their halls with boughs of holly, or are planning a Pinterest-worthy Christmas feast. In fact, at the time of the interview – which was on the second week of November – they haven’t even gotten their Christmas shopping done.
But the holidays are gonna be different for them this year, mostly because it’s the couple’s first Christmas with their 9-month-old son Pancho, whose cherub cheeks and expert side-eye make their family’s followers feel the Christmas-worthy joy every single day (the #DailyPancho hashtag is truly a gift to the world).
For instance, while they never used to plan their Christmas photos shoots, this year, they are actually excited to take the photo with Pancho, because it’s his first Christmas, and also because they’re excited to share the photo with the nurses and doctors who took care of Pancho in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after he was born.
It’s no secret that their family experienced a huge heartbreak at the start of the year when they lost Pancho’s twin Luna, and both Pancho and Saab had to fight for their lives. But even through their grief, the couple have managed to help others out – from Saab’s breastmilk donations when Pancho was younger, to the Luna Memorial Fund that they started in May.
And that’s another thing on their holiday schedule: they’ll be holding a Christmas benefit gig with Cheats, the band which they both play in. The gig, called “Merry Cheats-mas” will be held on December 5 at 20:20 in Makati. It’s a pay-what-you-want gig where they’re also accepting toy donations – and all of that will benefit the Luna Memorial Fund.
Before their Cheats gig, Saab is also celebrating her 30th birthday on November 23 by calling for donations of toys, breastmilk, and diapers, also for the fund.
The couple’s efforts for the fund are going to two projects. One provides supplies to the NICU of the East Ave Medical Center which has over a hundred patients according to Saab. The other brings toys to the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, where a playroom for kids with cancer is named after Luna.
Evidently, Saab and Jim are way too cool to go full-on Mr and Mrs Claus for Christmas – but they’re channeling that warm-and-fuzzy Christmas spirit in their own way: whether it's a simple post of Pancho’s chubby cheeks, or generating donations for babies who need it. Which perhaps makes them "Christmas people" after all?
Read on to learn about Saab and Jim’s Christmas memories, their best (and worst) gifts, and how the season is going to change now that Pancho is in the picture:
On how they divided the holidays after getting married
Jim: We do it very differently. Like, her family, they spend it on Christmas eve. My family it’s..
Saab: More of a Christmas day thing?
Jim: We do it super different…we have drinks, good food…
Saab: And we have nothing, and bad food (laughs) joke lang
Jim: What happens is, Saab’s family gets Christmas, and my family, New Year’s
Saab: So far. Because with his family we travel usually out of the country on New Year's. But I think this year, it might be the other way around.
Jim: When we got married, that's what I was thinking…I thought it would be hard.
Saab: It was pretty hard, the first time. I felt so guilty not being with my family, but they understood. But I knew they missed me (laughs)
On their Christmas plans this year
Jim: I think what happens is, our birthdays are so close to Christmas.
Saab: Eto yung plan namin ni Jim (this is our plan)…because my birthday is November 23, [Jim’s is] December 14, then Christmas, then our anniversary is January 24, so we just look for one weekend, maybe, and then take a trip. Our ideal celebration would be that.
Jim: Siyempre, this year has been super hard, diba? So to celebrate each other's birthday, celebrate the year, and have a really good Christmas, ang agreement namin is have a mini-theatre here. So yun yung gift namin to each other.
Saab: It’s kind of like a mini-renovation in one part of the house.
Jim: That’s our date night basically now eh, we watch movies. We realized, why don’t we build something really cool, and eventually Pancho will enjoy. So that’s our plan for each other. And we’ll do the usual, spend Christmas eve with her family, Christmas with my family, and then New Year’s same, split it.
Rappler: Are you gonna be flying off somewhere?
Saab: Not this year 'cos of Pancho.
Jim: Of course we don’t wanna travel yet with him because wala naman siyang maaalala (he won't remember anything). Pero in terms of Christmas with him, I think the best thing is taking a Christmas photo will mean so much more this year. Talagang this is a Christmas card that I will really cherish because this is his first Christmas.
Saab: (to Jim) You understand na when our parents are like, okay let’s take a photo.
Jim: Yeah, ako na yung magiging isa sa mga "tara, game game, Pancho!" (Yeah, I'll be the one saying "come on, let's go, Pancho!")
Saab: We’re looking forward to sending that card to his NICU nurses. There’s a board there of the previous NICU babies, they send their Christmas cards there to show how big they are na.
Jim: And honestly, we want to send a Christmas card of us and Pancho to the doctors who really helped out.
Saab: [whispers] So we might dress him up as an elf…
On how Christmas will change with Pancho
Jim: It’s really gonna be different now with Pancho. Basically very punk rock naman kami all the time (we're very punk rock all the time). We don’t go "Oh my god, Saab, hindi pa tayo nagphophoto shoot na tayong dalawa” Hindi kami ganun. (We don't go "Oh my god Saab, we haven't done a Christmas photo shoot." We aren't like that)
It’s always like “asan tayo for Christmas?” or like “f*ck, hindi pa natin nabibili yung gifts…” (It's always like, "where are we going for Christmas? Or like "f*ck we haven't bought the gifts)
Saab: Every year, it’s always, for example October pa lang, "bili na tayo ng gifts, game?’ ("let's buy gifts now, game?")
Jim: November na pala, hindi pa namin nabibili yung gifts (And then it's already November, and we haven't bought the gifts). Anyway, we feel now, the difference is having Pancho.
Saab: Honestly, I feel like we have years to go [to plan anything] because he’s not gonna remember anything. But I’m happy because I know that he makes our parents happier, so Christmas is just a whole new thing because there’s a new baby. You know they’re so happy. They want to buy HIM gifts.
Actually sa family namin (in our family), a few years ago, we decided not to give each other gifts anymore, only the kids. My side of the family, it’s a Christmas tradition.
On their Christmas traditions growing up
Jim: I really felt the change, kasi Christmas was my favorite time, it was after my birthday, laging may gifts...I love Christmas, but of course, when you go past 14, you know, it’s not as special.
Saab: Like they won’t get you a Playstation anymore (laughs)
Jim: Wala na, wala nang pabonggang stuff (there wouldn't be big presents anymore). So it eventually it became, where do I hang out? Where do I go with my friends after our family thing?
Saab: I never had that [laughs]. You were a cool kid.
Jim: And then when we got married, it became more solemn. Mas naghahanap ka na ng something solemn (you look for something solemn).
Saab: Now I look forward to going to mass on a Christmas eve. I mean honestly before, yun yung like "ugghhhh." Parang ang saya saya niyo, kain kain, and then, we have to go to mass na, parang nabitin yung celebration.
(Now I look forward to going to mass on a Christmas eve. I mean honestly before, that would make me go "ugghhh." We'd be so happy, eating, and then we'd have to go to mass so the celebration would get cut short.)
But then now, I actually wanna dress up for church, and it’s gonna start palang the Christmas celebration for me.
Jim: And I think you really do look for, there is a need for solemnity. Before it was like "f*ck I need a toy, where’s my toy, where’s my toy?" and then it goes to "hi tito, who I haven’t seen in 5 years, Merry Christmas." And now that we’re married, to me it’s like the quieter the better.
Like for us, we spent one Christmas with my family naman. It was like – we were drunk – but it was like, a simple what can I be thankful for, for each person?
Saab: Oh, that was fun.
Jim: Iyakan lahat (everyone was crying).
Saab: It was like…an honoring. And then, what’s your wish for the new year, for each other? Sobrang iyakan, anyare? (there were so many tears, what happened?) 'Cos we were so drunk.
Jim: Grabe, kaya nakakatawa (that's why it was so funny). My sisters, they don’t ever wanna do something like that again…
Saab: It was so emotional (laughs). Sobrang draining! But it was nice.
On their favorite Christmas memories
Saab: One of my favorite memories, I was already in college, tapos my little sister who is I think 12 years younger than me, my dad gave her a pink PSP. And I was genuinely so happy for her, hindi ako nainggit (I wasn't envious). I was like, ‘oh that’s SO COOL!’
And then at the end of the night, my dad gave me a gift, and it was also a pink PSP. And I was already in college, diba? So parang ako (so I was like)…oh my gosh? Naiyak ako just thinking about it (I'm crying just thinking about it). Wala lang, it was just so sweet. Cos you think you’re old na, and they don’t think of giving you these toys anymore. I never shared that really…that was really sweet.
Rappler: How about you Jim, any favorite Christmas memory?
Jim: Can’t top that! [Saab and Jim laugh]
On the worst gift Jim ever gave Saab
Jim: The worst gift I have ever given Saab was one Christmas…kasi medyo nagpabongga ako nung birthday niya (because I spent so much for her birthday).
I was like, uhh, I have no money. I just saw a phone case na purse-ish. And that is the pinaka-not Saab thing (and that is the least "Saab" thing).
Saab: It was a high tech thing naman! It was also like a power bank that becomes a purse…?
Jim: No, no, it wasn’t a power bank.
Saab: Not even?
Jim: Kung may level of functionality nga I would’ve forgiven myself. Until now I still apologize for that. When I was paying for it, I was like “f*ck ang pangit (it’s so ugly)“ She has never, sa isang date namin nag-purse. Hindi siya nagpupurse at all! (She has never on any of our dates used a purse. She never uses a purse at all!)
Saab: In fairness naman, it was a pricey thing. Ang nangyari kasi (what happened was), I bought that for somebody, and I was saying, it’s so cool! I bought it as a gift for somebody who would have liked it…and I was with him when I bought it, and I think he thought I would use it. Cute naman eh (it's cute)!
On the best gift they ever gave each other
Saab: Pancho…chos (laughs). I liked when you surprised me with a trip to Palawan…you don’t remember that?
Jim: Onga pala…Well mine was when she brought me to watch Arcade Fire.
Rappler: Did Saab give you any bad, phone-case level gifts?
Saab: No I’m a good gift giver!
Saab: Ano? You can say anything.
Jim: (pauses) Yeah you are. Bongga kasi maggift, kaya nga hassle eh. Laging "oh I’m going to bring you to Canada," tapos ako, "f*ck, anong biblhin ko?!? sh*t!"
(She gives the best gifts, that's why it's a hassle. It's always like "oh I'm going to bring you to Canada, meanwhile I'm like "f*ck, what am I going to buy? sh*t!")
Rappler: So between the two of you, Saab’s the better gift-giver?
Jim: Yeah, but I’m a gift-maker.
Saab: Oh yeah, he’s made me a mixtape!
Jim: It wasn’t a mixtape! I made a hiphop album! So all raps, for her.
Saab: It was a Lonely Island kind of thing, it wasn’t a serious thing.
Jim: I made her an animated short!
Saab: Oh yes, oh yes! That was my favorite! That was my favorite. It’s online I think…it might be on Vimeo. He used to work at an advertising agency, and he asked his friends to help him put it together. He wrote it. Ganda (it was beautiful). It was so sweet, I cried.
On giving gifts to other people
Jim: You know what, what’s hard with us, well ako, for my sisters, they’re like the best gift givers. Ever since I was a kid they would be ready months before. It’d be so perfect. So anyway, kami (with us), what we do, we’ve had to shorten the list.
Saab: I think it depends on how well you’re doing financially for the year. Because there was a time na I wasn’t married to [Jim] yet, I didn’t have a kid, and I made a good deal, and so I was kinda rolling in the deep. I super splurged for Christmas, bought my siblings really expensive stuff, and I don’t regret it. But now they don’t get anything (laughs) because yeah, priorities.
Jim: Honestly, this is how I feel, I think lagi kaming, we’re so stressed, like "sh*t, gifts" but when it’s there, that’s the best feeling eh. I love it when people are opening their gifts and there’s genuine joy, and "oh my god!"
Saab: It’s nice when pinagisipan (when it was well thought out).
Jim: Yeah! For example, the Worst Gift, the cellphone case for Saab, as soon as I bought it, I knew what her face would be and what her reaction would be. I crammed it na nga eh. But I think yung cool now, which cramming won’t be as hard, is online shopping. So that’s what we plan to do.
Saab: Dapat nag take advantage tayo sa sale kahapon (we should've taken advantage of the sale yesterday)
Jim: Tapos na ba? Akala ko bibili tayo ng diaper? (It's done? I thought we would buy diapers)
Saab: Bumili ako. That’s all I bought (laughs)
Jim: For next year, our new year’s resolution will be to shop earlier for Christmas gifts. Because right now, for me, it’s November and I feel like we’re already losing time.
Saab: I like wrapping Christmas gifts.
Rappler: Is it therapeutic?
Saab: Super! I get in the zone. Talagang, naka-on yung aircon tas nasa floor ka, andun lahat nung stuff mo (The aircon is on, you're on the floor, all your stuff is there).
Jim: Gets ko na! I had a realization. It’s all about our Love Languages. Like Saab is super Acts of Service. Anything that entails "I’ll pick up the gifts there, I’ll bring it here, I’ll wrap it."
Ako naman (for me), I love writing cards, because I’m Words of Affirmation. No one reads my letters…but even me when I receive gifts, honestly, sometimes, the card, you know it’s a good card when you don’t want to throw it. That’s what I keep nga eh. So I think the problem is walang Gift Giving sa Love Language namin (Gift Giving is not one of our Love Languages).
On their Christmas playlist
Jim: The Home Alone 2 theme song
Saab: I’m not sure if it’s by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes but "I wish it was Christmas today," the one they play on SNL [Note: Julian Casablancas did do a cover the song]
Jim: I just play Frank Sinatra.
Saab: The Brat Pack! I used to really like "Baby it’s cold outside" but it’s like…perv central. Sobrang love ko yun (I loved that) because of the movie Elf.
Jim: Basically, Frank Sinatra and…Mariah Carey. For me that’s the greatest Christmas carol.
Saab: Destiny’s Child! (Starts singing "8 days of Christmas")
Jim: Ah! I actually love, well aside from Mariah, Bieber has a Christmas song! Sorry, Ariana Grande pala…(Saab and Jim sing “Santa Tell Me”)
Saab: Jose Mari Chan!
Jim: Actually, before it became a meme, I learned that on the guitar because I loved it. It’s f*cking dark! Di ba? The melody’s so dark. (hums “Christmas in our hearts”)
Saab: Cover natin yun!
On what they’re giving Pancho this year
Saab: Well you know he’s been ‘milking’ me, if you know what I mean (laughs)
Saab: What are we giving him?
Jim and Saab: ….
Saab: The home theater (laughs).
Jim: Again, I think it will progress naman next year. Next year, that will be so exciting. I’m really looking forward to picking out the perfect gift next year.
Saab: I’m dreading nga, not naman dreading but…'cos we promised before we gave birth that we’re not gonna be one of those na bonggang (grand) first birthday because they’re not gonna remember that.
But with everything he’s been through, we have to celebrate his birthday. So it’s November 23, December 14, December 25, January 24, February 8, birthday! (laughs) let’s just take a trip.
On their Christmas wish this year
Jim: I think after what we’ve been through, life is so much simpler now. It’s been so much more complicated but in terms of what we want, what we say a prayer for, what we wish for, ako it’s really simple. That Pancho is healthy, and the family is healthy and happy.
Saab: That’s really all we can wish for. And ahem a playstation. Just kidding! (laughs) Yeah, that’s it!