Tag Archives: Philippine Christmas traditions

#360 Jojo’s Christmas Cottage

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!

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#359 Ang Pasko ay Sumapit

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”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMcARSEcMQM&feature=related

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#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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#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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#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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