THE Christmas lights went on in the streets of Makati City’s central business district last Friday, November 3.
While Metro Manila’s radios started airing Christmas carols on the first day of September, most people wait until after All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, November 1 and 2, before turning their attention to Christmas. On November 3, Makati became the first to turn on its holiday lights.
Most other cities in the country will be installing their own native “parols” along main streets any time now. Quezon City will soon light up its annual Christmas tree – a giant pine with Christmas balls – at Araneta Center in Cubao.
An automated Christmas pageant featuring the Nativity and the Three Kings will be, as in previous years, at Greenhills, San Juan. The Cultural Center of the Philippines has set up its distinctive Christmas tree featuring woven fabrics identified with various cultural groups in the country.
The “parol” reaches its grandest dimensions, in size and design and color, in the annual competition among the barangays of San Fernando in Pampanga. Tarlac focuses on the Nativity Scene with its annual Belenismo competition among the province’s towns. The celebrations in other towns of the country may not have reached the scale of these well-known festivals, but each has its own way of celebrating this most beloved of Christian traditions in the country. There will be lantern parades in schools, concerts, parties, and exchanging of gifts.
These are the social celebrations, developed over the hundreds of years that the Philippines was under Spain and the half-century under the United States. The religious ceremonies will begin with the four Advent Sundays before Christmas Day, but most Filipinos consider the Simbang Gabi on December 16 as the beginning of Christmas in the country.
We truly welcome this season of joy in the wake of so much difficulty and suffering in our country all these many months – the thousands of deaths related to the police campaign against the drug menace in the country, the rebellion and terrorism that hit Marawi City, the earthquakes and typhoons and floods that struck many other parts of the country. We have survived all of these, as we have always managed to survive and endure them.
Now we look forward to the coming holiday season. It is at its core a religious celebration of the birth of Christ, one we share with the rest of the Christian world, but it is also a cultural celebration, a part of the Filipino way of life, one filled with Christmas trees, street lights, lanterns of all sizes, Christmas shopping and gift-giving, and carols. Through it all shines the faith of our people, a never-flagging hope in the future, and a love that binds us all as one nation.