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Filipinos Celebrate Traditional and Modern Christmas

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Download The Philippines is the largest Catholic nation in Asia.

In the past three months, you can hear Christmas songs playing everywhere.

And at the beginning of December, everyone starts getting ready for Christmas.

Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos take us to Palawan, the Philippines, to see how local people there are celebrating the festive season.

The festive mood is in the air. The city’s Christmas tree was just lit followed by a 30-minute fireworks display.

The city is famous for having the country’s tallest Christmas tree.  

And carol singing is one of the most important Christmas traditions for Filipinos.

We talked to a group of carolers who do this every year.

“When we go on caroling, we feel a spirit of solidarity. We even go to far places so we bond while we’re having small talks. Everyone feels happy while doing this.”

They enjoy making others happy with their songs.

“One experience that we won’t forget was when we went to this village. When we knocked at the gate of the house and said that we will sing Christmas carols, all of a sudden, the owners’ dog came (imitating a dog’s angry sound), looking angry and was ready to attack us. So we ran to different directions and to our service vehicle.”

But for many Filipinos, Christmas is more than just about carol singing.

“Christmas is special in the Philippines because here there are no poor and rich. Everyone celebrates Christmas (pause, almost crying), even those who really don’t have anything. They don’t have anything but you see them celebrating. They are happy even if they don’t have gifts or other material things.”

But the recent Bopha typhoon in the Southern Philippines which killed more than 1,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, has made people think twice about celebrating.

Many groups, such as a local radio station RGMA, are cancelling their Christmas party.

The radio station’s budget for its Christmas party will instead be donated to the victims of the typhoon.

Lily Mae Uy is the station’s manager.

“The victims of typhoons in Davao have nothing to eat. The sad thing is there are reports that some of them are forced to salvage dead animals so that they can slaughter, cook them and eat. I realised that during Christmas parties, we eat a lot of delicious food but I cannot afford not to think about those people who are forced to eat dead animals out of desperation. I won’t be able to appreciate whatever food is there during Christmas parties.”

They are also donating relief goods to less fortunate communities in the province.

For other Filipinos, there’s a long tradition of attending Catholic masses before Christmas.

This teenager regularly attends the Christmas mass.

“There’s a belief that if we complete the dawn masses for nine consecutive days before Christmas, a wish will be granted from God. I wish for my family’s good health. I wish good things in all the aspects of my life especially my studies and that I will be successful someday.”

This tradition, known as ‘Simbang Gabi’, dates back to Spanish colonial times more than 400 years ago.

Farmers started their day with a dawn mass. The tradition still carries on today.

60-year-old Zeny Tanael has been a devotee of the Simbang Gabi since she was a teenager.

“The nine dawn masses leading to Christmas are only observed in the Philippines. It’s so nice to see families and even small children waking up so early to attend this Church service. This kind of sacrifice will not happen if you don’t have love for God.”

And Christmas is also the perfect opportunity for Filipinos who work abroad to come home.

Verdandi Tagapulot is a musician on an international luxury ship. He travels more than nine months in a year.

He’s one of almost 10 million Filipinos longing to go home every Christmas.

“I’m not planning anything special on the day itself but ever since I got here I have been spending time with my wife and kids. Cooking for them everyday, taking my son to school, fetching my daughter from school. Yesterday we went to a movie.”

He dedicates this song to his family.

“Christmas won’t be the same without you. Christmas won’t be the same if you go. All I need to see standing by my Christmas tree is you. Christmas won’t be the same without you...”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 December 2012 17:10 )  

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