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And all along we thought that the world’s longest Christmas season ended with the Feast of the Epiphany, popularly known as The Three Kings (although they were astrologers, or magi), signifying the end of the gift-giving season on Jan. 6.

But no, Christmas has been extended to Jan. 15, with Cebu’s Feast of Sto. Niño, the Holy Child, drawing devotees, thousands upon thousands, to pray and party in equal measure. Sandwiched between the Epiphany and Cebu’s Sinulog fiesta is the Feast of the Black Nazarene – Jesus no longer a baby or child but a 33-year-old carrying a cross – that’s concentrated in Manila’s Quiapo district. Indeed, December-January a many-splendoured chain of holy days/holidays.

Quiapo, by the way, is about to be contaminated by the billboard fever. The apparent “success” of EDSA as the world’s most maddening, chaotic billboard jungle has spread, extending to C-5 and is now creeping into Quiapo. The cityscape is changing, or has changed, the momentum cannot be held back, but should change be ugly? How nice it was to see the streets around Quiapo church being cleared and cleaned to make way for the procession of the Nazarene, but why should such a sweeping change happen only once a year?

Speaking of change in the new year, we might as well begin by listening to how we talk. While the diplomatically inclined and politically correct wish for a change in the President’s vocabulary, parents and teachers could point out to the millennial generation that there are some words that they should stop abusing.

On top of the list of misused words is “double check,” a favorite of salespersons, who say it to assure customers even when a first check has not been done. Of the words often mispronunced, “sans rival” takes the cake. Professional bakers and radio-TV barkers could ask their French-speaking friends why it’s pronounced sangrival (without rival).

Other words that grate on the ears: “like,” when used as a verbal crutch; “special” referring to a show when it’s just another act, another day; and the worst, which is so bad that it’s better illustrated with an example, “50 percent off on selected items” – repeat that, please, OFF ON. (Jullie Y. Daza)