(Warning: long post with a lot of pictures. Expect fake blood, gore, brains and a zombie baby. Skip this if you’re squeamish. Photos by me and Jill.)
For four years now, Jill, Giff and I have been hosting a yearly Christmas dinner for our friends.
Last year, we started our barkada Secret Santa and held the big reveal at the dinner. The reveal was super fun – we all had to present and unwrap gifts one at a time while everyone else watched – and what made it even more exciting was Giff’s gift-wrapping contest which Jill won.
And since she won, she decided on this year’s gift-wrapping theme: zombie apocalypse.
I didn’t complain at first. She made the announcement in November and I thought I had plenty of time to work on my wrapping. I already had the perfect plan – I was going to make zombie doll versions of ourselves.
Yes, just like Sluterella, the doll I made and lost at the 2008 Olympics.
And because I thought I had plenty of time, I concentrated on task number one first: making my Secret Santa wish list. (Yes, we’re required to submit wish lists.)
Then I concentrated on task number two: buying gifts for Coco, my Secret Santa recipient.
But that wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.
The watch, light bulbs and vinyl Coco wanted aren’t available in any of the stores here. I tried ordering the vinyl from our favorite vinyl guy but he said it was backordered and wouldn’t arrive before Christmas.
I wanted to get him the shoes but I went to the stores several times and they didn’t have the right color in the right size.
I looked for the lamp, looked for it everywhere, but didn’t find one that looked like photo he posted.
But I didn’t panic. I thought I had plenty of time.
Then I woke up one morning and realized that, holy shit, it was the day before our Christmas dinner and I still hadn’t bought a single present for Coco. And I hadn’t made a single zombie doll.
I looked at Coco’s wish list again. I made a few phone calls, reserved the leather camera case he wanted and headed out to the malls. Two malls later, I had two gifts for Coco and still no idea how to wrap them.
All I knew was I wanted gore, serious gore.
So I walked into Toys R Us and walked up to one of the salesmen and said, “Excuse me, saan yung mga zombie niyo dito?”
“Zombie?” the guy repeated incredulously.
I nodded and he walked up to another salesman. “San daw yung mga zombie?”
“Zombie, ma’am?” salesman #2 gave me the same incredulous stare which I ignored.
“Oo, zombie. Kahit anong zombie, figurine, mask…”
“Ma’am wala pong ganun. Kasi po matatakot yung mga bata. Baka po may mag-complain.”
“Wala bang nakakatakot na kahit ano dito?”
Obviously, I was really desperate. I ended up walking out of Toys R Us empty-handed.
I kept walking around the mall, waiting for inspiration to strike. I visited a hardware shop in hopes of finding materials I could use for building a zombie survival kit. But once again, I found nothing.
Then inspiration struck. If I found a doll that was big enough, I could rip it open and hide the gifts inside. I went back to Toys R Us. No big dolls, nothing I could slice open.
I called Jill who was at Shopwise buying ingredients for the Christmas dinner.
“Can you check if they have big dolls there?”
A few minutes later she called back and said yes, there were big dolls. And they weren’t just big dolls, they were creepy big dolls.
I went to Shopwise, chose my
victim doll and because I wanted gore, I bought red food coloring for fake blood and gulaman so I could make fake intestines. (I didn’t know where I could get liquid latex at the last minute.)
But I had another problem. Only the Swiss Army knife would fit inside the doll. The camera leather case was too big.
Then I thought, I could submerge the case inside a brain specimen jar. That would be cool. But I couldn’t find jars that were big enough at Shopwise. And it was too late to go to a different store – we had to start baking the cake pops.
That night, I mixed the batter and as Jill started to bake the cakes she and Giff would use to make the snowmen cake pops, I started to wrap Coco’s gift.
I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen a gift wrapped this way before.
I opened the doll box and realize with glee and horror that if you removed its pacifier, it actually started talking and crying. “Mama, Mama, Papa, Papa.”
Creepiness factor doubled.
I put the pacifier back in the doll’s mouth – I didn’t want it crying as I turned it into a zombie baby. I have to admit the doll was growing on me – it was beginning to look cute and not creepy. And so I tried to be as gentle as I could. I used scissors to cut his stomach open. I wrapped the Swiss Army knife with cling film and buried it inside the baby’s body. Then I made leg, arm and face wounds, dabbing them with red food coloring to simulate blood. But I soon realized that the food coloring dried to a pale red that just didn’t look believable.
So I raided Jill’s art box. “Not the Prang, not the Prang,” she kept saying.
Mixing the paint with the food coloring produced better results.
I was particularly proud of this foot wound I painted.
I decided to scrap my plan to make fake intestines – it was going to be too messy and I was worried ants would get to the gulaman.
I wasn’t just going to hand Coco a zombie baby. There had to be a story. So I scrawled this letter to Coco from the baby’s mother, smearing it with fake blood and letting drops of water drip onto it to simulate tears because yes, she was crying when she wrote this. I ended the letter abruptly because that was the moment the zombies got to her.
I found the crate that carried the Villa Del Conte chocolates someone gave me last year and decided to recycle it as the baby’s little coffin. It was the perfect size.
Then I brought out the stamp set I bought just days ago.
I used it to stamp creepy messages onto the crate’s cover. Run Coco. Save yourself.
And I added fake blood.
Then I wrapped the whole thing with the netting that came with the Christmas gift basket someone gave me last week. (Yay for recycling!)
I was done wrapping one gift – the other had to wait until the next day.
When I woke up the next day, the first thing I did was go to another mall and find a jar that could hold my brain specimen (which was actually a beautiful brain-shaped head of cauliflower that I bought at Shopwise the day before).
I returned to Jill’s where she and Giff were already cooking. My wrapping had to wait. I had a lot of cooking to do. I made deviled quail eggs.
And baked mussels.
And open-faced tacos that I sadly do not have a photo of.
Giff baked this awesome walnut apple coffee cake (delicious!) and she and Jill put their finishing touches on the chocolate chip banana muffins with snowmen butter cake pops.
Nel arrived to make his paella and Coco started assembling his tapas as the guests arrived. As they started to eat the appetizers, I snuck off to wrap my other present and get ready for dinner.
My original plan was to submerge the gift in bloody water and put the brain on top of it. But I should have paid more attention in science class because Archimedes’ principle totally fucked me over. I settled for putting the brain at the bottom and my gift on top. It wasn’t ideal but it would have to work. I also added spurts of Elmer’s glue to make it look like the brain was starting to decay and disintegrate.
I went down and joined them for dinner.
I told Nel and Coco that my gift would be interactive and I found it funny that Coco kept saying he was excited to see my wrapping. He had no idea he was going to be my victim.
After dinner, the craziness started.
They all wondered what was under the black cloth. And since they were focusing on that and not my wooden crate, I thought I should unveil that first. The story would change depending on which gift Coco opened first. If he opened the crate first, that would mean the brain in the jar was Coco’s. But if he opened the jar specimen first, that would mean the brain in the jar was the baby’s mother’s – and that would be a happier ending for Coco. That would mean he didn’t become a zombie after he found the baby.
But I had to stop thinking about my contest entry – it was time to see what everyone else had made.
Jill is such an overachiever that even if she’s not a contestant this year (she’s judging), she still followed the zombie theme, hand-dyeing gauze with fake blood and using it as the ribbon for her many many gifts for Nel.
Nel’s gift for Jill had a story too – humans were trying to find a cure for the zombie virus but before they got it, the zombies attacked them.
Giff opted out of the contest – and I couldn’t believe it because he is the king of gift wrapping.
Le used hand-dyed fabric to wrap her gifts for Jolo.
I liked how Jolo wrapped his gift for Tatin too. I loved how it still looked Christmassy.
Tatin’s wrapping was both freaky and funny. Ayaw paawat ng Christmas lights. We couldn’t stop laughing, especially when J took it apart and said, “Ang pangit! Pero ang galing!”ird
J, who drew Plants vs. Zombies-inspired art on his gift, deserves an award for best dramatic reading. His zombie “ho ho ho” still haunts me today.
J picked Gia who then gave her gift to Giff. I love it too.
And since it came with a mask, we made Giff wear it as he opened his gift.
Then we realized that only Coco and I had not presented our gifts. Which means he picked me and I picked him. I told him to go first and he retrieved this from his car.
A freaky paper mache zombie foot. I was creeped out by the realistic toes. And the fact that it looked like it was flipping me the bird.
But inside the freaky foot was this beauty.
Black Yosi Samra flats which I’ve wanted for months and months.
Thank you, Coco!
It was Coco’s turn to open his gifts. I tossed gloves his way and he gamely put them on.
We started with the brain.
My cauliflower didn’t fail – it looked freaky.
It took Coco a while to actually open the gift. I was so worried the water would destroy the leather case that I wrapped it multiple times in cling film and Ziploc.
And when they thought it was over, I asked Coco to read the last line on the jar.
“Found with deceased infant.”
Then I produced the crate.
Coco uncovered it and read the letter.
When he realized he had to dig inside the baby for his gift, his reaction was priceless. “Shit! Seryoso?”
Check out Coco’s facial expressions while trying to get his gift out. We made him take the pacifier out so the doll was crying and talking while he was digging.
I love how Jill’s picture captured our friends’ reactions to my wrapping. Shocked laughter, disgust and yes, some of them looked like they wanted to be elsewhere.
I won the contest but I decided to give up the prize – after all, I was one of the hosts. Coco got the prize from Jill – I’m sure he was relieved he didn’t have to dig for it. (She’s not as crazy as I am.)
After all the gifts were opened, we relaxed, listened to music and drank the mojitos and vodka cocktails our bartenders Coco, Jolo and Jill mixed.
I think I drank about six mojitos and I had the world’s best buzz. I laughed until my throat hurt and the next day I woke up at 5 p.m., hands still covered by food coloring stains. I didn’t care though. I was just happy to know that my efforts were not in vain. I got the prize that I wanted – I get to choose next year’s theme.