There seems to be a festival in every region of the Philippines. Provinces have several festivals in different locations. I have much to learn about them. Again, rather than me telling you what the Philippines are like, I’m asking you to help me and others.
Traditions, Central Part of Philippine Culture
Now one thing I’ve noticed is, many times, Filipino are oblivious to the traditions that are different from their own. The country is a group of islands, known as archipelago. In my last post, I spoke of traditions that Jessie (my GF) told me about in her hometown of Tacloban. When she learned that others had never seen the same kinds of things, she found it hard to believe. Other Filipino, found it just as hard to believe about her heritage.
Who knows how things developed so differently. I do have one possibility that came to mind. Jessie comes from the Waray-Waray tribe. Much of Tacloban is the same. Their roots go way back, hundreds if not thousands of years. The Waray-Waray are known as the warrior tribe. I’ve been told to watch out because they are the “red heads” of the Philippines. Jessie though, she’s like me, stubborn as a mule, but she’s much more mellow than I am. Pretty even tempered but she may pretend to agree with you. Hmmm, Women in the states do that too. She’s just more quiet about it. LOL She reminds me so much of me just quieter and a lot better looking.
Anyway, she mentioned that the Filipino mountain people come into town in search of gifts on Christmas day. This is what she knows. She participated in it as a child herself. Going door to door for gifts. People coming to her door and even a bit picky about the gifts they received.
I’m guessing, that the mountain people performed some kind of service to the towns people in ancient times. Maybe they were the look outs for other tribes coming into their territory. Perhaps they provided protection or food while the people in the cities may have had it a bit easier.
In most areas of the Philippines, it seems that the people providing the more difficult services for you commonly ask for Christmas gifts by leaving envelopes. Such as trash men. This somewhat fits with what I’m speculating about above. It is sheer speculation. I would love to take some university history courses here but with only a tourist visa that is not possible it would also put further demands on my limited funds.
When you stop to think about it there are good reasons for there to be so many different traditions. Until very recently, travel between the islands was very limited. Even today, many people never leave their Island unless they are on one of the many very small islands.
It has helped to keep families close as well. There are at least 12 major languages of the Philippines. So that is another condition that separates Filipino by area. We generally think in words. Ability to communicate is critical in sharing of culture and information. Jessie can get by in Cebu but many times she doesn’t understand a word that is said to her. She speaks waray-waray and the main language in Cebu Province is Cebuano. Even the language of Cebuano has many different names. I’ve seen expats teach her words here. Where a word from where she comes from is in both languages, they have different meanings in each place.
I’ve come to the conclusion that when a Filipino tells you how life is in the Philippines, you might not want to take that and apply it to the entire country. Even Catholicism which dominates in most areas does not dominate the culture in the extreme southern part of the country. In some places Islam dominates as much there as Catholicism does in the majority of the country.
While the basics of the traditions will usually be the same, that is all Christians celebrate Christmas, they may have different ways of doing it. The Philippines are rich in culture and I look forward to exploring many parts of the Island to learn as much as I can first hand. Until then, I’ll be asking and expecting many different answers, sometimes conflicting. This conflict is creating the richness.
It would be helpful if you could tell me when festivals happen in your area and what they are intended to celebrate. All the history you can provide and send me a direct message so you can send a picture or two if you have them.
Rusty Ferguson is an American Expat living in Bogo, Cebu.