Christmas Time in the Philippines

The Filipinos love to celebrate just about everything – especially Christmas – the seasonal celebration for Christmas starts on September 1st and runs through the “BER” months of SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, and DecemBER.

Christmas is similar in many ways to the way its celebrated in the US that includes parties, get togethers, and of course gift giving. Many different traditions in the Philippines come from around the world and are combined into the Filipino Christmas holiday mix ranging from traditions like decorating trees with lights and ornaments, faith-oriented traditions like Midnight Mass, Christmas songs about sleigh bells, a winter wonderland, and the more traditional Christmas carols like Silent Night.  Traditions and songs that reference snow is a little puzzling for me since most Filipinos have never seen or experienced snow.

A Local Ward and It’s Christmas Party

We attend a Tagalog ward with another senior couple. As a gesture of the Christmas gift giving spirit, the senior couple that have claimed this ward as their home ward offered to purchase food for the Christmas Party dinner. The bishop’s preference was to purchase a roasted pig. Our senior couple friends checked on having a whole pig roasted and delivered ready-to-eat to the ward building the day of the party.

After the bishop thought about the pre-cooked pig and the cost of this dinner, he came back with an alternate suggestion. Since a pre-cooked roasted pig would cost the same as two live pigs, he proposed that the funds for the pig be used to purchase two live pigs instead. This plan was agreed to and the order placed.

The day before the Christmas Party the two live pigs were delivered to the ward building. Several ward members were there to receive the pigs and locked them in the gated parking lot for the night. Early the day of the party, ward members arrived, slaughtered the pigs, and spent eight hours slowly roasting by turning both pigs on a stick over an open fire.

The party was a smashing success because members of the ward rarely get such delicacy as a roasted pig. They ate the entire pig – skin, legs, ears, and of course the meat. After this feast ward members were ready to party. The remainder of the day and evening was filled with festive dancing, singing, and gratitude for being expressed for such a special blessing of having such a feast.

The two pigs set on a table in the Cultural Hall was the highlight of the Ward Christmas Party

This pig roasting event reminded Marcia and I of the years we spent living and serving in the Oakland California Stake where there were several Tongan and Samoan wards that had Luau’s all of the time and a pig roast was a common event. Although, I don’t recall any pigs being slaughter in the parking lot. I think being a part of a multi-culture church is fabulous.

A Short Music Clip – A Winter Wonderland

The Philippines is a country of contrasts. As I mentioned above, the Philippines and snow causes me with cognitive dissonance. This short video clip was taken (in a shopping mall not to far from where we live), with Christmas shopping in full swing, if you are out for a walk, a light show set to a Christmas song launches every hour.

If you can’t experience snow , you can sing about it.

It’s Christmas Time

You can tell it’s Christmas because the mall is crowded with people hurrying to finish their shopping. Shortly after the above video was taken, there was a fireworks display that lasted for nearly ten minutes something that happens on most nights.

As I said the Philippines is a country of contrasts. Less than a quarter of a mile from where the shopping mall is located there is a barangay called Bagumbayan. This is a traditional barangay that’s overcrowded with homes that have storefronts where food, restaurants, and shops of all kinds. There is also a school and a large Catholic church in the barangay. This area would be considered a poor community with a backdrop of Eastwood City an affluent community which sits in the heart of the Filipino Call Center industry.

Even though many Filipinos live at or below the poverty line, Christmas is a time of extravagance. The average Filipino household spends over five hundred dollars in US dollars (nearly 28,000 Filipino pesos) at Christmas time on food, gifts, and decorations. This is hard for me to fathom given their poverty of many families but apparently accurate because the Filipino culture is really into celebrating Christmas in a big way.

Out for an evening on the Eastwood City Plaza on a Friday night

Elder and Sister Meyer and Squires who are a few of our good friends enjoying the holiday lights together

Choir at Eastwood Mall without the Orchestra

One of the blessings of serving a mission as a senior is the opportunity to serve with other senior coupes some of which are extremely talented – especially in the musical arena. Case in point, I was asked to take on the project of getting permission for our small group of senior couples to sing carols in the mall. Although, it took me a while and going to several different offices to get this figure out, I was a able to get what I thought were all of the necessary signatures authorizing us to sing.

After we had been singing for twenty minutes, the security guards showed up in force to ask me for the permission form which I promptly produced. After a few terse words, I was told that I needed three signatures and I only had two. We were asked to leave because there was another group (with three signature on their form) and as it turns out they were much more professional than us with amplifiers, huge speakers, mics, guitars, horns, etc., and five singers.

However, during the nearly half an hour, we were able to draw a crowd who videoed and took pictures of our band of gypsies. After the other group began to perform, we faded away into the night.

The Choir at Eastwood without an Orchestra

Singing for Ice Cream

After we left our mall caroling stint, we went to our apartment building and sang carols. Then it was off to get ice cream. As it so happened, the soft serve machine was out of ice cream and were told that a new batch wouldn’t be ready for ten or fifteen-minutes. The ring leader of our choral group wouldn’t give up on an evening filled with caroling and coxed everyone, while we all waited for our soft serve cones, to sing Christmas carols while shoppers in the shop waited to be served.

Singing in the lobby and for our soft serve ice cream

Our Christmas Wish for You

Thought of the Day: There are a lot of things that we can be grateful at Christmas time but for us, especially this year, is the significance of what this holiday really means. I wonder what Christ’s mother thought when the Shepards showed up unannounced to show homage to their new born son. Then later when the wise men brought bearing gifts bowed down to worship their child. While she had some idea of how special her son was, she couldn’t have truly understood what significance her son would have for you and me.

May we all remember the true meaning of this season the Christ child and the warmest Christmas wish to you and your families from us in the Philippines…..Marv and Marcia

Scriptural Thought: Luke 2;19: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. “