#7,084: The Filipinos’ way of New Year’s Eve Celebration!

For 24 years, it’s my first time to wake up this morning without hearing any sound I used to hear and somehow expect during the last day of each year. Ooopppsss, Oh well, I woke up in the Lion City where Fireworks are prohibited, where you’re not allowed to just light up that five star anywhere in the street, where there are no busy and noisy neighbors preparing for the new year’s eve with all their torotots, videoke, soundsystem and anything Pinoy. So much as there are 200,000 OFWs here in Singapore, we really had no choice but to visit the areas intended for New Year’s Eve if we really wanted to watch some fireworks and get a feel of how it’s supposed to be and how it is being celebrated in the Philippines.

But it’s not just about the freewill to light up your own fireworks; welcoming a Brand New Year in the Philippines is really irreplaceable because of other simple joys…

In the Philippines, you get to hear different kinds of sounds that are, for some, quite disturbing, but nonetheless, waking up every single cell in your body, reminding you that you are just few hours away from saying goodbye to a year it was and a Hello to an awesome coming new year.

The tradition of having round-shaped fruits, and then there goes our moms, scolding us whenever they see us trying to steal and eat some grapes or oranges, reminding us not to eat it until it’s midnight…

And then there are our grandmothers who are really excited to wear their polka-dots dusters…

There are the coins ready for scattering around the house…

The fountain, the Kwitis, the five star, the bin laden, the sinturon ni hudas (Satan’s belt), bawang (Garlic bomb) and during my time- the watusi, haha!

Then there is SM Mall of Asia’s annual countdown, East Wood, Luneta Park and other recreational areas where you can safely welcome a brand new year.

And for a safer way of celebration at your house – the ever reliable Torotot!

Then you have your neighbors setting up massive sound systems in front of their houses, the videoke, the drinks, the party til down!

The essence of a Family is really felt, that no matter how easy or hard the year it was, you still look forward to a coming year with high hopes and great faith- as a Family and as Filipinos.

I don’t see anything wrong with these practices because it makes the Filipinos’ way of a New Year’s Eve countdown really unique, more fun and crazier than the rest of the world. In a lot ways; I see this as a tradition, a culture, a preservation of our own way of welcoming the New Year, one of kind and really irreplaceable. If you were to ask me, I would say it doesn’t make you less of a person when you exercise these practices, because at the end of the day, what is important is your faith that as you welcome a brand new year with these practices, you welcome this year with so much faith, that it’s going to be another year that you’ll be blessed, loved and guided by our Lord Jesus Christ and awesome God.

The Filipinos’ way of  New Year’s Eve Celebration! – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,085: The 24th of December, for the Filipinos!

24th of December, few hours left and it’s Noche Buena time!

A very special feast for the Filipinos, one best way to conclude a year “it was,”  celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with your loved ones, 6 days before a brand new year comes.

If you were to ask me, I probably would say that the 24th marks the busiest day ever during December, the last day of “pre-Christmas,” this is when all Filipinos are really wrapping up everything:

Breaking dawn, Filipino parents would wake up, running towards the nearest wet market in the community, getting the ingredients needed for a wonderful Pinoy Noche Buena.

The Filipino Kids are very much excited as they are just few hours away from unwrapping their Christmas gifts… (though a lot of Filipino Kids have already opened their gifts even before Christmas Eve, including the not-so-young too, hoho).

In the morning of the 24th, you get to hear your neighbors playing Christmas Songs, loud and proud. And for your other neighbors, Videoke is up and running too!

For some Filipinos, it’s time to do your very last minute shopping. Take note, you don’t have much time so hurry up, we all know that malls in the Philippines would close earlier than their regular closing time during the 24th.

Food? Whether a Filipino Family has different dishes served on the table, or just a simple set of meals, what is more important for the Filipinos is they celebrate the real spirit of Christmas as a Family.

And since there are a lot of Filipinos around the globe, for some reasons wont be able to go home, we still give thanks because there’s technology to keep us connected with our loved ones.

Much has to be said about a Pinoy Noche Buena, and generally speaking, Christmas in the Philippines. So I’m going to limit what to share, with hopes that by the next coming Christmases, you are still with me reading this blog, as  we celebrate the goodness of Jesus Christ, the greatness of the Philippines as a country, and the Filipinos as a race. And anything and everything in between the Philippines and the Filipinos.

So for now, Happy Christmas everyone, share whatever you have – love, time, hugs, tangible or intangible- we celebrate Christmas because we celebrate the goodness of Jesus Christ, as we should, day by day. And by the goodness of Christ, one thing we can do is to share. In the Philippines, and for the Filipinos, Christ is really remembered, and love is really shared and felt.

The 24th of December, for the Filipinos!  – one simple joy of being a FIlipino

#7,086: Christmas Shopping! (The Filipino Shoppers)

The time of the year wherein you write down names of your lucky Christmas gifts recipients and you somehow plan out as to when are you going to buy and what to give them. In our tribute to the Filipinos way of Christmas Shopping, let’s talk about the kinds of Filipino Christmas Shoppers…

(Photo by Howell Santiago at SM Mall of Asia, 2011)

2 kinds of Filipino Christmas Shoppers:

1. The Early Birds – In the Philippines, since Christmas season starts as early as September, expect the good mindset of Filipinos who try to gather gifts already as early as possible. They’re the ones who grab every opportunity to buy gifts especially at shops with pre-Christmas sales. The bargain hunters who have this thinking that shopping should be done as early as September to avoid the price increase and human congestion. I even got friends who buy gifts even before September. Buy as early as possible, stress free indeed.

2. The buzzer beater shoppers –  I am guilty to be of this kind, and like my other friends, we just cram all together. These Filipinos would often buy gifts during the few remaining days before Christmas Eve. This kind of Filipino Christmas Shopper usually comes to shopping malls or bargain areas, rushing, panicking, and literally rubbing elbows with the other Buzzer beater Filipino Christmas Shoppers. I remember last year, I got my mom a magic sing as a Christmas present, and I just got it around 8pm on the 24th, just before I went home for Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Feast), Buzzer beater indeed. Who’s stressed and tired during Christmas eve? This kind of Filipino Shopper. But there’s this wonderful feeling that makes you proud to say – “I just made it, I just completed the list and finished my Christmas Shopping, just in time for Christmas Eve.”

It’s that thought that counts they say. Whether you are the kind of Filipino Shopper whose gifts have been kept inside the closet months before Christmas or you just got it around 8pm on Christmas eve, what is important is the gesture – that for our loved ones, no matter how early we buy a present, or a bit late, it brings a simple joy , because we come home to remember, we come home imagining the reactions of our loved ones as they unwrap the gifts you got for them.

Christmas Shopping! (The Filipino Shoppers) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,087: The Filipinos’ pursuit of their godfathers and godmothers during Christmas!

Move way Santa Claus… Filipinos got a lot of names on their minds first before they can even think of you!

(Photo with my dear coco, a friend told me I was really like a godfather (Ninong) here, hoho)

Not for anything, we all know that Santa Claus is one of the famous figures during Christmas (I got a simple joy to share about my Santa Claus experience soon), but in the Philippines we got a bunch of uncles and aunties, our parents’ college buddies and officemates that could satisfy what we wanted during Christmas from “Santa Claus.” Better replacement indeed =)

Time to visit, if not hunt, your godfathers (Ninong is the Filipino term) and godmothers (Ninang is the Filipino term) during Christmas, you get to see these people during this season, they’re excited to see you also and how you’ve grown since the last time they’re able to be with you.

Yes, it’s part of the Filipinos tradition, through the unwavering support of our parents to bring us around, all day, sometimes even days, just to complete the list the people who owe us some Christmas presents.

I remember my mom listing down the people we need to visit the entire day. She has a “to-visit list” for me, and for my sister too. Amazing Race? Yes, it started in the Philippines, talk about 20 houses to visit a day? We can do that in the Philippines! All for our longing to see our godfathers and godmothers, and of course, our much awaited presents. And the entire day I would ask my mom, “Ma, san na po tayo pupunta?” (Mom, where are we going next?)

Then she would mention names of my godfathers and godmothers I actually didn’t mind, I was just hoping that it keeps coming and it only gets better and better.

Managing expectations:

Two things every Filipino Kid expects when getting inside his/her beloved godfather/godmother’s house –

1. The Christmas Tree with lots of gifts under it, eyeing for the biggest present out there, with high hopes – that gift’s for you.

2. Or nothing’s under the Christmas tree, either yours is inside his/her room. Or it’s monetary! And the famous line: “Pacencia ka na ian ha hindi na nakabili si Ninong ng regalo” (apologies ian, I was not able to buy you a present) then he would suddenly hand over a small red envelope to me with money inside! And in my mind – “yes Ninong, no worries, forget the present every year, this one’s super fine! Hoho”

and more than the actual Christmas gifts, it’s the reconnection during the visits that brings simple joy. You won’t be spending the entire day in one house for sure, but quick as it seems, once a year, you share with your Ninongs and Ninangs much awaited stories, much awaited observations as to how you’ve grown up and the achievements you did all year round proudly shared by your parents and most importantly, much awaited love.

The Filipinos’ pursuit of their godfathers and godmothers during Christmas! – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,088: The Filipinos’ Christmas Gift-giving!

Because Christmas is also about giving!

Whenever Christmas comes, expect that there are a lot of gift giving activities everywhere in the Philippines. Companies, schools, organizations – ready to share what they have to those who have less.

Filipinos visit orphanage and home for the aged to share time, resources and love. Filipinos visit these people who were left behind by their own families. Because we want these people to feel the essence of Christmas through our presence, that much as Christmas is about a well spent time with your family, during this season, it bonds even people who are unfamiliar with each other, one great magic this season brings.

We come to orphanage and home for the aged as strangers, after some hours spent with these people, we leave these institutions with smile on our faces. We leave these institutions with this simple joy, that we were able to share ourselves with them.

The Filipinos’ Christmas Gift-giving! – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,089: The Philippines’ Christmas Cool Breeze!

Time to bring out your jackets! Christmas in the Philippines becomes an opportunity to bring out your collection of coats and jackets!

One way to really feel the Christmas in the Philippines, literally, weather becomes colder, especially during nights.

The simple joy of realizing it’s cold, but not too much that it pains your body (like the coldness in other countries). Just the exact coolness the country needs to remind the Filipinos, literally that – hey, It’s Christmas, weather’s cool already!

So it motivates everybody to bond more, to go out, and feel the Christmas season. When you get out during nights, you would see a bunch of friends, or families, each wearing their wonderful jacket. Everybody’s enjoying the coldness together, laughing their hearts out.

Not a white Christmas for sure, never will be, but such coolness of the weather is somehow enough to feel that yes, it’s a wonderful season again, then add the wonderful Filipino smile, and everything else in between. That what makes the Philippines’ Christmas celebration really special.

The Philippines’ Christmas Cool Breeze – one simple joy of being a Filipino.

#7,090: The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Playlist)

After the venues and caroling gears, what is caroling without the famous Christmas playlist?

As to how many songs your group must sing really depends on the owners of the house where you are currently showcasing your wonderful voices, customized musical instruments and most of all, your prepared playlist.

So what are the common songs we would often hear?

“Whenever I see boys and girls selling lanterns on the street…”

Back when I was a kid (just some few years ago), with my playmates in Paranaque, that used to be our signature song – “Christmas in our Hearts.” And even before we reach the fifth stanza of the song, the simple joy’s being handed over already – our Aguinaldos (Aguinaldo is the Christmas Caroling reward – usually in the form of money) plus some candies, Simple joys! And after receiving these simple joys, of course there’s our thank you song..

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

With my playmates in my grandmother’s place, we used to have a different set of songs:

“Sa may bahay ang aming bati, Merry Christmas na maluwalhati…” (To the houseowner our greeting is a glorious Merry Christmas!)

“Tuwing sasapit ang pasko, bumibili ang nanay ko..”  (Whenever Christmas comes, my mom buys….)

And after receiving our reward, we would sing: Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo (you are all so kind), thank you!

Reality bites…the most painful thing to happen during a caroling?

That while you’re singing such feel good Christmas songs, with all your enthusiasm, someone from that house suddenly shouts – PATAWAD! (Sorry).

So how does Filipino kids make fun of such a disappointing reply? Louder than the way they sounded earlier, they would sing:

“Thank you thank you, ang babarat ninyo (you are all stingy), thank you!”

It sounds bad and mean I know, but if you were a kid, that’s only a way of making fun after a rejection.

And then the kids move on, with hopes that the next house they are about to share they’re wonderful songs wont be as hard as the earlier one.  That whenever they stand in front of each Filipino home to share their wonderful Christmas songs, they’d be rewarded, not because they’re really good in singing and their songs were superb, but because it’s Christmas, and it’s enough reason for the owner of the house to share a little of anything for these dedicated carolers.

The Filipinos’ Christmas Caroling! (Playlist) – one simple joy of being a Filipino.