#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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#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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