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!
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!
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!
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!
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”
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!
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!