Category Archives: Arts and Culture

#364 Media Noche

A festive Filipino table for the New Year

In the Philippines the countdown to New Year varies depending on family or even region. At the strike of midnight, the noise becomes deafening with firecrackers shooting and blooming in the sky while everyone gape in awe.

The banging and booming rise to a climax as people make noise by clanging old pots and pans, blowing a jeepney, car or tricycle’s horns, using assorted whistles, firecrackers to any kind of noise both awful or simply maddening. For children who wishes to grow taller in the new year, adults cajole them to jump 12 times around midnight in hopes of getting their wish fulfilled. Similar to other Asian countries, the loud noises and sounds of merrymaking are not only meant to celebrate the New Year but are supposed to drive away bad spirits.

After midnight the family also gather for a thanksgiving feast called Media Noche (midnight meal). Filipinos believe having a food-laden dinner table augurs well for the coming year and brings good luck. At least 12 round fruits are placed in the fruit basket as a sign of prosperity for the next 12 months. All-time favourite dishes such as noodles (for long life), pork, beef, chicken, rice cakes and assorted sweets are served. For Catholics there is also a midnight mass to welcome the New Year.

Long live Philippine festive traditions!

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#363 New Year’s Fruit Basket

Photo from Tsibog.com

Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with 12 round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be 12 different fruits — grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, chico…

It’s a tough challenge, so at times, half the fruits in a Filipino’s New Years Fruit Basket or dinner table are likely to be not really round such as mangoes, pears and apples. But the fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the New Year and which will be always found in a fruit basket are ubas (grapes), preferably the big imported varieties to add a special touch to New Year’s celebrations. For Filipinos having round fruits on the dinner table are supposedly harbingers of good luck for the rest of the new year…

Long live Philippine festive traditions!

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#362 Bocaue, Bulacan

A worker in a makeshift fireworks factory in Bocaue, Bulacan. Photo: Washington Post

 

Bocaue (BOO-Ka-weh) is a municipality in Bulacan province, located some 25 kilometers north of Manila. The town’s major industry is fireworks, earning Bocaue the moniker “Fireworks Capital of the Philippines.”

Unfortunately in the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s Day, Bocaue often grab the headlines with deadly fire and explosions that often occur in small, illegal or unregulated firecracker factories.

 Death tolls often climbed to more than a hundred due to unsafe production methods in these unregulated factories.

But aside from the firecrackers industry, Bocaue is also famous for its Bocaue liempo (bacon) roast, crispy pata (cured beef brisket and shank), rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish) and various sorts of rice cakes.

Mabuhay ang Bocaue!

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#361 Pan-ay Church Bell

Photo: Filamerian Student Community Roxas City Blog

The Pan-ay or Santa Monica Church in Capiz province, Philippines is the home of the biggest bell in Asia, and the third largest in the world.

The Santa Monica Church is best known for its 10.4 ton bell popularly called dakong lingganay (big bell). The bell was cast by Don Juan Reina who settled in Iloilo in 1868. Reina who was the town’s dentist was also noted as a metal caster and smith.

The bell was cast at Pan-ay from 70 sacks of coins donated by the townspeople. The bell was completed in 1878. The bell bears an inscription which, in translation,  reads: “I am God’s voice which shall echo praise from one end of the town of Pan-ay to the other, so that Christ’s faithful followers may enter this house of God to receive heavenly graces.”

There is also a small museum in the convent showing artifacts from the original church (Various Internet sources).

Mabuhay ang Panay Church Bell!

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#359 Ang Pasko ay Sumapit

A CD cover of traditional Philippine Christmas songs

One of the most-loved Christmas songs in the Philippines, “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit (Christmas Has Come) is a traditional Filipino Christmas song originally composed by Vicente Rubi and Mariano Vestil in 1933.

The original was titled ‘Kasadya ning Táknaa’ (How Blissful is this Season!). A version of the song in Tagalog was used by Josefino Cenizal as a marching song for “Ang Pugad ng Aguila” (Hawk’s Nest) in 1938. National Artist Levi Celerio also wrote the Tagalog lyrics to the song during 1950s.

The song is still sung today in various communities, especially in churches in the Philippines and abroad by Filipino expatriates. Filipinos expats sing and play this song in family gatherings and parties to evoke the quintessential Filipino Christmas. Interestingly the song’s refrain expresses the Filipino’s aspirations (and unfulfilled hopes) for a progressive and ‘better’ Philippines. The refrain’s lyrics goes:

Bagong taon ay magbagong-buhay
Nang lumigaya ang ating bayan…”

Rough translation: “New Year’s means a new start
                              For the prosperity of our country…”
                    

Marked with a jolly tempo, the song captures the merry-making spirit of the December holiday season and is often played by radio and TV stations throughout the Christmas season.
(From: Wikipedia and other sources)

Long live original Philippine music!

Click on the link to listen to a renditionof  “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMcARSEcMQM&feature=related

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#358 Noche Buena

The Filipino dinner table or Noche Buena on Christmas Eve is a big family feast with specially cooked dishes

 

On December 24, Christmas Eve, Filipino families, particularly those of the Catholic and Christian faith, gather for the Noche Buena or Christmas Dinner – a big family feast to celebrate the Christmas season.

The Noche Buena is a much-awaited event as the occasion does not only gather the whole family but also promises the best prepared and special meals cooked by the household with luxury items such as imported cheese or Queso de Bola, apples and grapes and drinks. Native Philippine dishes and delicacies are served and food is in abundance since family, friends and neighbors are expected to drop by for a visit, and one has to show hospitality and good cheer to everyone.

Obviously adopted from the Spanish custom of Christmas celebrations, regalo (gifts) are exchanged and children are particularly indulged by their parents, uncles and aunts with toys, clothing and other presents. Catholics are also expected to attend the Christmas mass on Christmas Eve after which the dinner will be served for everyone to enjoy.

More than weddings or birthdays, it is the Filipino’s Noche Buena table that is almost always laden with so much food at any time of the year.

Mabuhay ang Pinoy Christmas!

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#357 Ligligan Parul Festival

A giant lantern rises in San Fernando's lantern festival. Photo by Robin Pinzon

San Fernando city in Pampanga province showcases the biggest and (literally) brightest Christmas in the Philippines with the annual Ligligan Parul, also known as the famous Giant Lantern Festival.

Last year (2009) marks the 100th anniversary of lantern-making in this city, which is said to have been started by Francisco Estanislao in 1908. The competition last year involved nine barangays or village districts and all came out with their glitziest lantern creations that are meant to dazzle and impress visitors. Ligligan Parul gathers lanterns measuring from 18 to 20 feet high with a mosaic of colors that glow and blink to the tune of Christmas songs, making a magical show of intricate patterns.

Lantern creators in San Fernando handcraft not only the biggest Christmas lanterns but also the most complex in terms of lighting design to win the nod of the jury. San Fernando literally  transforms itself to the Philippines’ City of Lights as contestants attempt to outdo their rivals for the prize and fame.

Mabuhay ang Ligligan Parul!

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#356 Pasko na Sinta Ko

Cool evenings, a carpet of soft lights and the expectant, festive air of a unique Filipino Christmas

Perhaps this Filipino Christmas is the most imitated or sung by YouTube enthusiasts, and understandably so since this is one of the most popular if not widely loved original Filipino Christmas songs.  “Pasko na Sinta Ko” (It’s Christmas My Beloved) was composed by Francis Dandan with lyrics by Aureao Estanislao. An intensely felt version was originally performed by Gary Valenciano in 1976 conveying the song’s heartfelt wish of seeing again his/her absent beloved.

More than a Christmas melody, Pasko na Sinta Ko is a love song and evokes the nostalgia and yearning of those who are spending the Christmas holidays without their loved ones. The song is specially evocative for Filipino overseas workers and expatriates as it captures celebrating Christmas in less than cheerful circumstances. Even non-Filipinos find resonance in this song which has been performed or played in the US and Europe in Filipino expat communities.

Regularly appearing or ranked in the popular Filipino music hit list and charts, Pasko na Sinta Ko has also been sung by the Philippine Madrigal Singers, perhaps by far the best rendition of the song which has been interpreted by countless other Filipino singers.

Long live Philippine original music!

Click on the link for Gary Valenciano’s version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XlFY141Q-E&feature=related

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#355 Belen

Belen is a big and well-loved tradition in Pinoy Christmas

Another traditional Filipino Christmas symbol is the belen — a tableau representing the Biblical Nativity scene. Derived from the Spanish term for the town of Bethlehem, it depicts the infant Jesus Christ in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds, their flock, the Magi, angels and some stable animals.

Belens can be seen in homes, churches, schools and even in office buildings. Belen in office buildings can be extravagant, using different materials for the figures and lavishly decorated with Christmas lights, parols (lanterns), and painted background scenery. A popular outdoor belen in Metro Manila is at the COD building in Cubao, Quezon City which attracted crowds during the Christmas season some decades ago. In 2003, the COD’s belen was transferred to the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan when the COD building closed down. The Greenhills belen is a light-and-sound presentation with the Nativity story recorded and played repeatedly to synchronise with animated the figures. Each year, the company changes the theme, with variations such as a fairground story or the journeys of Santa Claus.

Tarlac City is also known as the “Belen Capital of the Philippines” and holds the annual “Belenismo sa Tarlac.”  The event features a belen making contest and attracts the participation of commercial establishments and Tarlac residents. Giant versions of the belen with different themes are displayed by stores and on the streets of Tarlac during the Christmas season (Excerpted from Wikipedia).

Mabuhay ang Pinoy Belen!

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#354 Paskuhan sa Imus

Held in December in Imus, Cavite province, Paskuhan sa Imus (Christmas at Imus) is a month-long festival which celebrates the Filipinos’ unique Christmas traditions. Imus City is bathed in thousands of lights, a dazzling array of lanterns of all shapes and outdoor décor that evoke the warm memories of one’s childhood.

A food fair featuring native sweets and Christmas delicacies and a trade fair feature the best of Cavite. Native food delicacies include fish curries and spicy vegetable dishes. Every night the town celebrates the festive season with traditional dancing and singing competitions and a grand parol competition. The nightly entertainment shows and events are capped with the enactment of the Panunuluyan (Visitation), Imus-style.

Mabuhay ang Paskuhan sa Imus!

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