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!
Jojo's Christmas Cottage at night
Down in the Visayas in Aklan province is the town of New Washington. Apart from being the birthplace of the former Archibishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin (deceased), New Washington is also known for the Sampaguita Gardens and Resort, a 10-minute ride from the airport.
What is remarkable about the resort is the popular Jojo’s Christmas Cottage where Christmas is celebrated 365 days a year. The three-storey Jojo’s Christmas Cottage started commercial operations in June 2003 and everything in the cottage is about Christmas. Aside from the display of Santa Clauses and reindeers, visitors can enjoy tiny Christmas dolls from around the world, miniature Christmas villages, and signs saying Merry Christmas in every language.
Considered to be the only all-year round Christmas Store in the country, Jojo’s Christmas Cottage manufactures and distributes Precious Moments dolls, and have in its collection a Chinese Angel Doll and a Precious Moment Thai Doll. The ‘cottage’ also sells Philippine hand-crafted gift items, Christmas decors and souvenir items. Proceeds of sales from dolls sold are donated to the Samuel. J. Butcher Foundation which supports the Children Library and Feeding Program of Aklan province (Source: Biagkensiak blog).
Mabuhay ang Pasko sa Pilipinas!
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!
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!
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!
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!