Category Archives: Arts and Culture

#353 Christmas Trees on Roxas Boulevard

Christmas tree maker on Roxas Boulevard (Philippine Star Photo)

Segments of Roxas Boulevard in Pasay and Manila are transformed every year to a virtual Christmas wonderland with vendors selling handmade Christmas trees of all colors and shapes.

Mostly made of wooden twigs (from the ‘kulasi’ plant) painstakingly nailed and shape to form Christmas trees, Roxas Boulevard attracts flocks of shoppers looking for their ideal Christmas tree. White, pink and the classic green-colored trees are on offer, and haggling is de rigeur. Motorists on Roxas Boulevard are treated to the sight of these trees that signal the merry and hectic Pinoy Christmas season.

Long live handmade Christmas trees!

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#352 Karoling

Karoling (carolling) takes a special meaning and atmosphere in Philippine Christmas and is among the well-loved Christmas traditions that is being enthusiastically practiced every year by people of all ages.

From professional choirs, singing groups, music bands to little children, every Filipino must have experienced or witnessed the joy of karoling. In schools, student choirs form special karoling teams to perform on Christmas to generate funds for school or charity projects. In hospitals, carollers are welcomed to bring cheer, and at shopping malls Christmas songs echo from enthusiastic carollers to add a little festivity and cheer to the holiday season.

And for little children a spontaneously formed karoling team will sing at your doorstep with expectations for a treat or pamasko, similar to the Halloween ‘trick or treat,” except that this time no nasty trick should be dispensed.  With hand-made or recycled drums (milk cans), bells and other ‘music instruments’  such as ‘tansan’ tambourines (made of flattened softdrink bottle caps)  these kids can be quite resourceful and determined.  They would expectantly wait for homeowners to reward them with coins and if rewarded would express their thanks by singing “Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo (you are so kind), thank you!”  But if homeowners won’t give anything or ignore them, the children would sing, “Thank you, thank you.  Ang babarat ninyo (you are so miserly)!”

But whether it be a professional choir or a ragtag group of children carollers, Pinoy Christmas retains its special spirit and nostalgia to bring cheer to everyone. 

Long live Philippine Christmas traditions!

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#350 Simbang Gabi

Traditionally, Christmas Day in the Philippines is ushered in by the nine-day dawn masses that start on December 16 (and until December 25). Known as the Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) in the traditional Spanish and in Filipino as Simbang Gabi, or “Night Mass”, this novena of masses is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition.

The Catholic faithful attend the midnight mass after which some enjoy the traditional food stalls that line the church yard. Rice cakes such as puto bongbong, bibingka and hot chocolate drinks or salabat (ginger tea) are sold and serve to churchgoers and passers-by. With the nippy air and the twinkle of Christmas lights the Simbang Gabi recalls the Christmas rites of bygone years.

Long live Pinoy Christmas!

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#349 Parol

The popular Pampanga-made Parol or Christmas lanterns

The Filipino Parol (pah-Rol) or Christmas lantern is one of the most-loved Christmas decorations in the Philippines, an iconic symbol during the holiday season and which can be found in almost all Filipino homes, offices and street corners. The Filipino Parol is supposedly adapted from the Chinese lantern and the Mexican piñata to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem

Although nowadays there is a range of Filipino Christmas lanterns made of various materials, the parol made of bamboo frames can be considered as the most distinct or unique to the Philippines. Made of bamboo sticks fastened together to form a star, colored crepe paper are cut into strips and wrapped around the bamboo frame to form a gaily-colored star. Electric lights are added or draped around the star for evening use.

Another but more expensive variant is the parol made of heat-resistant plastic filaments and often sold along the intersection of Sen. Gil Puyat and the South Superhighway. Made in Pampanga these lanterns boasts of intricate colors and patterns, and are easy eyecatchers. Also another  popular parol is one made of Capiz shells, the wafer-thin pearly, opaque shells used in traditional window frames. Colored and with an electric bulb installed inside, the Capiz parols are more durable but pricier than the cheaper bamboo-framed lanterns.

Mabuhay ang Pinoy Parol!

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#348 HILAGA/Paskuhan Village

Entrance to the Paskuhan Village

Christmas is celebrated year-round in Pampanga, the Central Luzon province known for its lantern-making industry. Pampanga is also the location for HILAGA or Paskuhan Village, a wonderful exhibit of anything and everything about Christmas.

Located in San Fernando, Pampanga, the Paskuhan Village enjoys the distinction of being one of the three Christmas-themed parks in the world and the only one that is located in Asia. The major display that can be found in the park, which first opened in 1990, are the colorful lanterns of Pampanga.

Paskuhan Village was all about Christmas until 2003 when then Philippine Tourism Secretary, Richard Gordon, decided to convert it into HILAGA Philippines. Since then, Paskuhan Village became a premium site for regional displays of northern and central Luzon. Each hall in Paskuhan Village showcases the best of the region it represents. There is a very wide display of local crafts from small trinkets to huge, elaborate items.

Aside from the displays on the exhibit halls, there is also a bird park and botanical garden right inside the village. The Natures Sanctuary is a place where visitors can commune with nature. Paskuhan Village or HILAGA is also equipped with facilities for swimming, rock climbing, dining, and shopping. The park is very visible upon exiting the North Luzon Expressway, and is situated near two shopping malls (Source: Philippine Tourism websites)

Mabuhay ang Paskuhan Village!

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#345 Obando Fertility Rites

Both elderly and young women dance the fertility rites in Obando to help the childless fulfill their wish for an offspring

The Obando Fertility Rites are a Filipino dance ritual. Every year during the month of May and to the tune of musical instruments made out of bamboo materials, the men, women and children of Obando, Bulacan, Philippines wear traditional dance costumes to dance on the streets followed by the images of their patron saints San Pascual Baylon (St. Paschal), Santa Clara (St. Clare) and Nuestra Señora de Salambao (Our Lady of Salambao), while singing the song Santa Clara Pinung-Pino.

 The feast days or dance festivals are held for three consecutive days: May 17 for St. Paschal, May 18 for St. Claire and May 19 for the Our Lady of Salambaw. What makes the Obando fiesta unique among Philippine festivals is the dance performed in the streets by the childless women. To fulfil their wish for an offspring the devotees sing the popular Santa Clara Pinong-Pino tune. Chicken eggs are also given or donated to nunneries in exchange for prayers and in hopes of finally conceiving a first child (Source: Wikipedia).

Long live Philippine Festivals!

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#342 Magellan’s Cross

Wikipedia Photo

 

Magellan’s Cross, located in Magellanes Street in Cebu City, is considered as one of the city’s major historical landmarks.

In 1521 the Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, ordered his men to erect the original large wooden cross at the location where Cebu’s Rajah Humaton, his wife Juana, and 800 followers were baptised on April 14, 1521. The first Catholic mass in Cebu (in fact, the first Catholic mass in the Philippines) was also celebrated in the same site.

The original cross deteriorated over the years when the Catholic faithful took little pieces of the cross as mementos. In 1845 another cross was placed at the spot. The new cross was made of tindalo wood and inside a hollow splinters of the original Magellan’s Cross were preserved.

Today a tiled pavilion shelters the cross and a mural on the ceiling depicts the scene of the first mass and commemorates the conversion of the first Filipinos to Christianity.

Magellan’s Cross is a symbol of Cebu, and the chapel’s image can be found in its city seal. It is also considered as the symbol of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines. (Wikipedia and other sources).

Mabuhay ang Cebu!

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#341 Pulilan Carabao Festival

A decorated carabao at the Pulilan Festival, Photo by Sidney Snoeck

Hundreds of work animals, mostly carabaos, are led on a parade in the streets of the town of Pulilan in Bulacan province every May 14 and 15 to honor its patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. The carabaos decorated with garland and shaved for the occasion, genuflect or kneel in front of the church. 

Visitors can witness the colorful Carabao Festival and other religious activities on May 14 when farmers all over the town pay tribute to San Isidro Labrador for a bountiful thanksgiving. The celebration includes hanging all sorts of fruits, candies, food crops and multi-colored kipings on bamboo poles. The affairs is highlighted by the kneeling of carabaos in front of the church and the symbolic floats. Every year, droves of San Isidro devotees flock to Pulilan to witness and join the festivities (Excerpted from the Province of Bulacan website).

Mabuhay ang Pulilan Carabao Festival!

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#340 EDSA Shrine

The EDSA Shrine

The Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA, or more popularly, the EDSA Shrine is a small church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila located at the intersection of Ortigas Avenue and Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Quezon City.

The shrine was built in 1989 originally to commemorate the memories of the People Power Revolution and its peaceful outcome. The shrine and the small church stand on the site of two peaceful demonstrations that toppled Philippine presidents Ferdinand Marcos (the People Power Revolution or EDSA I) and Joseph Estrada (the EDSA Revolution of 2001 or EDSA II). It is officially called the “Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace” or “Our Lady of Peace Quasi-Parish”, although these names are seldom used.

The Statue of Mary triggered a minor controversy when it was first unveiled in 1989 due to its mammoth proportions, and what its detractors say the lack of ‘gracefulness’ in terms of line. It earned the humorous nickname ‘Daing Lady’ probably due to its shape that recalls the daing or dried fish, a fish staple for many low-income Filipinos. The EDSA Shrine is part of the Ortigas Center, a complex of office buildings and commercial centers that occupy large tracts of land in portions of Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, and Pasig City (WikiPilipinas and other sources).

Long live the EDSA spirit!

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#337 Lopez Museum

The Lopez Museum is a Philippine art and history museum and library located in Pasig City, Philippines. Founded on 13 February 1960 by Eugenio Lopez  in honor of his parents, Lopez built the museum to provide scholars and students access to his personal collection of rare Filipiniana books, manuscripts, maps, archaeological artifacts and fine art.

 Lopez was known to many as a leading industrialist of post-World War II Philippines. With resources that came from sugar production, he pioneered in diverse fields of business including transportation (bus, taxicab and air transport operations), mass media (ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation and The Manila Chronicle), energy (MERALCO) becoming one of the first Filipino successes in business in a then largely American dominated economy.

A staunch nationalist, Eugenio Lopez believed that by preserving and promoting the Filipino heritage, his countrymen would eventually develop sense of national pride and enable the country to develop a unified spirit ultimately resulting in ensuring a strengthening of a collective national soul in the succeeding generations.

The Lopez Museum’s Library  consists of over 19,000 Filipiniana titles by about 12,000 authors and preserves  an invaluable collection of Philippine incunabula, rare books, manuscripts, dictionaries, literary works in Western and vernacular languages, religious tracts, periodicals, newspapers, coffee table volumes, academic treatises, contemporary writing, maps, archival photographs, cartoons and microfilms.  The museum is housed at the ground floor of the Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Avenue, Pasig City (Excerpted from Wikipedia).

Mabuhay ang Lopez Museum!

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