The Philippines is known to be a nation with fun-loving, celebrating, and joyful people. Amidst the history of colonization and poverty, the Filipinos maintain their resilient spirit. This resilient spirit may be attributed to the ability of the Filipinos to celebrate even how little an occasion or how simple a success is.
Not only do Filipinos celebrate individually or with their family, but the Filipinos are known to celebrate in the context of the community. Every little event of a certain individual or group is shared and made big by the community. One perfect example is the Philippine Fiesta.
Fiesta is an event marked by celebrating a certain patron or saint in the Roman Catholic belief. Fiesta is a word which is festival or feast in the English language. The Spanish colonizers brought the Roman Catholic religion in the Philippines and along with the belief came the Fiesta. Up to the 21st century, fiestas still rule the community events and marked by a feasting of food, fun, and activities. Fiestas are always full of colors, loud and flamboyant. At the same time it is solemn and reflective as evidenced by the practice of the religion and the Filipino’s faith.
The Philippines have more or less 20 plus major fiestas (provincial or city level) known in the whole country. This number does not include the smaller scale fiestas celebrated in a town level or even in a barangay or barrio level. The objective of the fiesta is to celebrate a saint or a patron and pay tribute to them by the feasting. It is like celebrating the birthday of a famous person. Fiestas around the Philippines are visited by both local and foreign tourists. Fiestas show that they have something culturally and socially important to show the world.
Fiestas are usually a one day event. However, preparations can last from three days to even a month! The whole province or barrio is decorated with colorful ornaments to indicate that the certain place is celebrating. Banners, tarpaulin, and streamers are hung in the whole province to remind everyone of the upcoming event. For richer provinces, they announce their fiesta through the media such as over the radio or through the television.
The next preparation step is to invite performers and famous people to celebrate with them in the fiesta. This is done to attract a lot of visitors to their fiesta. Usually, they invite performers to perform to a main program. The main program is held along with several mini programs during the one day affair. Famous people are invited to gain attention not only to the community but also outside their province or town.
The residents of that particular province also prepares by forming their groups and participating in the contests in celebration of the fiesta. Singing contest, dance contest, and even drama contests are vital parts of any fiesta. Sometimes, residents dress up and wear costumes to join in the best costume contest.
A big and very important part of the preparation is the food preparation. There is always a main feasting that is usually held in the province center where everyone is invited to partake of the food. Residents help-out in planning, marketing, cooking, serving, and even cleaning up after the feast. Aside from the main feasting, it is also a practice of every household to join the feasting by preparing their own feasts inside their homes. Everyone is welcome to drop by anyone’s house and eat.
At least three days before the fiesta day, men and women are already busy in cooking and preparing the meals. Large cauldron and pots are seen outside the house stirred with a big and long ladle. Every household knows that they should prepare a feast that could feed everyone in their town! Food preparation becomes an activity itself as a household does not prepare on its own only. It is customary for a household to help in another household while preparing food. Kitchen utensils are normally passed from one house to another.
During the day of the fiesta, one can normally see ice cream carts and other food carts that offer free ice cream sponsored by a politician. Roasted pigs manned by people rule the side streets. The smell of feast is in the air.
Loud marching bands and a lot of majorettes and street dancers rule the main streets. They function as the entourage of the patron or saints images that will go around the whole province. People who are devotees of that patron will follow on the back holding a candle and saying vigil prayers.
Poverty and lack of money cannot be used as excuses to not join in the feast. Borrowing money is a normal custom during fiestas. Not joining the fiesta is like breaking the cultural tradition and like disrupting the spirit of unity in the community. Even the poorest in the province always have something to serve no matter how simple their feast is. The only important thing in the Philippine fiesta is that everyone should join and be a part.
The Philippine fiesta is not only ruled by the loud and colorful tradition. It is also solemn and reflective in a way. As the main objective of the fiesta is to celebrate the Roman Catholic religion, people always mark the start of the fiesta with a procession of the saint and prayers- very early in the morning. This ceremony also finishes the whole day affair. There is another procession at night.
The Philippine Fiesta shows a lot of the cultural, social, and historical values Filipinos have. Filipinos value celebrations in order to show how they cope with big problems in life. Fiestas also show the religiosity of the Filipinos and their attitude of giving their best for their faith. Moreover, fiestas show that a Filipino can be flamboyant and solemn at the same time. And lastly, fiestas show how united Filipinos are in terms of preparing and celebrating fiestas as an activity of the whole community.
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