Friday, August 3, 2012

Fiesta Celebration in the Philippines

The Philippines was colonized by Spain for more than 300 years, and the Spaniards introduced Christianity and Roman Catholicism in the country. Despite the entry of other Christian sects, the Philippines is still overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. About more than 80% of its population adheres to the faith. The colonization of the country is one of the factors that shaped its present social and cultural characters. Aside from their religious belief, the Filipinos have adopted some traditions that show traces of colonial influence. These include the celebration of their most cherished occasions such as Christmas and fiesta.  

Fiesta is a Spanish word which means feast, festival or party. It is a date for the celebration of the feast day of a city’s, town’s or village’s patron saint. In the Philippines, fiesta is next only to Christmas in terms of the popularity and grandiosity of its celebration. Unlike Christmas which is celebrated by the whole country on the same date, the fiesta is celebrated in different dates in many places depending on the feast day of the place’s patron saint. 

Some Filipinos think that fiesta is a negative tradition that should be done away with. Indeed, some people need to save money for months or even a year in order to have something to spend for it when the day comes. Worse, others have to borrow money if what they have is not sufficient to spend for the occasion. But Filipinos are traditionally generous as far as spending money on occasions that they consider important or especial such as wedding, birthday, Christmas and of course the fiesta.

On the other hand, the fiesta is a time when Filipinos can show the positive side of their culture such as their hospitality and their close knit family and friendly relationships. Fiesta is the time when family members wherever they maybe get back to their hometowns or place of origin to have a reunion with other family members, relatives and friends. It is also the time when a person treats other people with the most sumptuous foods and especial drinks that he could offer to them. And he even extends his generosity to a complete stranger who happens to come to him during the fiesta.

Although originally a religious occasion for the Catholics, the fiesta over the years has been infused with cultural traditions that are indigenous to people of a particular place where it is celebrated. Indeed, the manner of celebrating the fiesta in the Philippines has taken its own Filipino character. During the fiesta local people show their native dances, plays, cuisines, costumes and other things that are peculiar to their place. Fiesta is the time of the year when the locals can showcase to people from other places what is distinctively their own traditions and culture and being proud of them. Fiesta celebration is also a way to promote the economic and cultural development of a place and to promote its tourism activities.   

In the past the fiesta celebration lasts only for several days. But nowadays, it lasts for a week and even more. In the province of Bohol most of the dates of the fiestas fall on May so that it seems that the people there are celebrating the occasion all month long. Some major festivals such as the “Sinulog” in Cebu are celebrated to coincide with the date of the fiesta. And this make the occasion merrier and more entertaining.  

At the start of the fiesta period people begin to decorate the town by hanging banners in the street. In some towns the period is started by a novena or a nine-day mass that culminates on the date of the fiesta. Other fiesta related activities include carnival shows, sport competitions, beauty pageant, folkloric and street dances, fluvial parade and street parade participated by military, students, civic and other groups. The street parade also displays floats of business, government, and other sectors of the community. One of the main attractions during the parade is the winner of the beauty pageant who along with the other contestants is on her float as people watch her pass on the streets.    

The eve of the fiesta is highlighted with fireworks displays in prominent places in the city or town. For some people especially for those who have the means, the serving of foods and drinks to the guests starts on the eve of the fiesta. The merriment in the evening includes singing and dancing in selected venues that are either private or public. On the day of the fiesta a mass is held for the faithful, and virtually the whole day is celebrated with the serving of drinks and sumptuous foods on the table for all of the guests to partake. The foods on the table are not complete without a lechon or a roasted young pig on it.

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