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!
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!
A slice of embutido
Embutido (Philippine Pork Roll) is a Filipino celebration staple or meat dish derived from a Spanish meat roll recipe. In the Philippines one usually finds embutido served on birthdays, Christmas, holidays and other celebratory or festive days. One can describe embutido as a meat log or a meat roll, usually made from ground pork, stuffed with eggs and one or a variety of other meat-products, and studded with raisins and peppers.
The roll is a rich mixture of meat, finely diced vegetables which is steamed or left in the oven to warm. Embutido can be served as cold cuts. It is also best to dip a slice of embutido with your favorite food sauce.
Filed under Food, Traditions
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!
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!
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!
Salabat is hot ginger tea made by boiling crushed ginger in water. Brown sugar or honey is used to sweeten the beverage. Kamote (sweet potato), sago, or carabao’s milk are added by some to salabat.
Salabat is found to have healing properties and is used to ease cold symptoms and stomach aches. It soothes sore throats and is said to sweeten the singing voice.
Salabat tea is now available in powdered form for convenience in preparation. It is a favorite drink during the cold season, and is often given drunk during cold nights. The drink is also popular during the Christmas season and is often drunk or served with bibingka (rice cake) and puto bumbong (steamed rice cake) outside churches after Simbang Gabi (Misa de Gallo).
Long live Philippine traditions!
Filed under Food, Traditions
Bistek (a corrupt or Filipinised word for beef steak) is the Filipino version of beef steak and yet totally different in terms of taste and preparation. Unlike the Western version of beef steak with its medium rare preparation or cooking, Filipinos are not fond of half-cooked meat and prefer it well-done.
Bistek is a well-loved and popular meat dish and uses chunks or thick slices of tender beef, which are slowly cooked or fried in finely sliced onions, a handful of garlic, a spoonful of soya sauce and some drops of kalamansi (Philippine lemon) to taste. The onions are slowly fried or caramelised until tender and mixed or slowly combined with the beef. Sliced white onion rings are used as garnishing. The sauce is slowly stirred and is often thickened. Bistek is a fine accompaniment for rice steamed or boiled with fragrant pandan stalks.