WITH the cold breeze of December, some would want to sleep longer under the warmth of their blankets. But starting December 16 of every year, Filipino Catholics would brave the cold and wake up early to attend the Misa de Gallo. Misa de Gallo means Rooster’s Mass in English. But to most Filipinos, it is simply known as “Simbang Gabi.” Simbang Gabi is a novena mass that Filipino Catholics attend for nine days before Christmas. Many believe that when one attends mass for nine days, his or her wish would be granted. No wonder why many people are motivated to attend the mass. But more than obtaining special graces, the Simbang Gabi serves as an avenue where family and friends gather and celebrate. Simbang Gabi would not be complete without bibingka and Puto bumbong. After receiving spiritual food from the mass, people would eat bibingka and puto bumbong, which have also become part of this yearly tradition. Simbang Gabi also signals the start of the festive celebration of Christmas. Here's a video report done by INQUIRER.net multimedia reporter Anna Valmero about this yearly tradition.
OF all the Christmas decorations that we put during the holidays, Filipinos have a unique symbol for Christmas—the parol. In the Philippines, star-like lanterns or “parol” light up streets and houses in the Philippines as early as September. Compared to the Christmas pine trees that symbolize the yuletide in other countries, the parol has a unique place in Filipino Christmas celebration. According to the book “A Christmas Compendium” by J. John, light adds an atmospheric and magical feel to Christmas, whether they are on a tree or in the streets. Historians suggest different origins for the parol. In the website myparol.com, it said parols were brought by the Spaniards when they spread Christianity in the country and was originally used to light the way or streets when people attend Misa de Gallo. Simbang gabi or Misa de Gallo was another tradition brought by the Spanish, according to Father Rufino Secson Jr., chancellor, Archdiocese of Manila and chaplain at Greenbelt 1 chapel. As an agricultural country then, he said friars made the masses early so Filipinos can attend the mass before going to work. After attending the masses, Filipinos would hang their parols on their window and streets become aglow with lights. At one point or another, each of us have tried doing a parol project for a school project or might have watched Lantern Competition in Pampanga and UP’s Lantern Festival in Diliman or “Parolan” in Los Baños. I can still remember how I would cut papel de hapon in grade school for my parol wooden framework. But for the high school students of Bauan High School who made the lanterns on display at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), parols showcase their creativity. When I visited the CCP last weekend, different lanterns from the Batangas high school were on display at the lobby made up of everyday materials like painted palay, mongo beans and garlic and onions. Truly, the parol is a unique Christmas symbol and a showcase of our Filipino ingenuity. I hope in this financial meltdown, families can also be ingenious in celebrating the Christmas season like what the Bauan high school students did. Do you have a parol at your window? Have you made one before? What does it mean for you?
THE Christmas shopping rush seems chaotic in one mall that I visited. It was a mass of humanity. A child caught my eye as she fancied the Santa Claus display. It reminded me of how the kid in me once believed that there was a Santa Claus who owned a toy factory in the North Pole. Back then, I made it a point to write my Christmas wish to Santa Claus. I placed my wish inside a big sock and hanged it outside my window before Christmas Eve. I was one of those kids who pretended to sleep before Christmas eve. But I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus and his reindeers. I was not able to catch him, though. Nonetheless, the eight-year-old kid in me continued to believe until I learned the truth one Christmas morning. My world of make-believe was shattered when Santa Claus did not grant my wish. Instead of a tiny world toy which I wanted so badly, Santa Claus gave me a sock of candies and chocolates. As I proceeded to the kitchen for breakfast, I saw the same candy brand on top of our refrigerator. That Christmas, I cried. Parents should be responsible to explain to their children who Santa Claus is and what he symbolizes, according to child psychologist Ma. Soccoro Villariba. “The important thing is you teach them the values being symbolized in Santa Claus’ presence, such as being generous and selfless,” stressed Villariba. According to Villariba, children tend to become materialistic if they grow up without a clear understanding of Santa Claus. Villariba said parents should show that anybody can be a Santa Claus even children themselves. She suggested that parents can bring their children in homes of the less fortunate where they can share their old clothes and toys. “We don’t want to instill in them greed. We don’t want to instill in them selfishness. We want generosity and sharing. The more you share the more you become blessed,” said Villariba. As a parent, Villariba said she presented Santa Claus to her children as a symbol of sharing and giving. Nonetheless, she taught her children to focus more on the real essence of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ. Discovering that Santa Claus is not just one person may be painful for kids. But it is great to learn that anyone can be a Santa Claus.
"Pagmulat ng mata, langit nakatawa sa Batibot..." Long before numerous cable shows aired 24/7 on TV, these are the lines greeting young viewers at around 9 o’clock in the morning. Filled with humor and original Filipino stories, the Batibot show was part of every Pinoy kid's life from the early 80s to the mid-90s. For the very young, Batibot is the local alternative to “Sesame Street” some decades ago. Originally named “Sesame!” when it premiered on TV in early 1980s, Batibot was produced by Philippine Children's Television Foundation in partnership with Children's Television Workshop, the creator of Sesame Street. Years after, the show’s name changed to Batibot and followed an all-Filipino format until its last year in 1998. Kids stay glued to the TV in the morning to watch stories, music and features as hosted by Kuya Bodgie and Ate Sienna. Add to that a lively, colorful bunch of talking animal puppets. I bet the generation who grew up with just five channels watched Batibot as a daily ritual. Mornings are spent with Pong Pagong, a big turtle with baseball cap likened to Big Bird; Kiko Matsing, a purple monkey likened to Kermit the Frog; Manang Bola, the fortune-teller with crystal ball, twins Ningning and Gingging and Irma Daldal, a talkative actress with chuwariwap dancers. As I was channel surfing in the morning, I looked back a decade ago when kids would stop playing under the sun to catch a glimpse of these characters, learn a story and memorize a song. Some of these kids like me still remember these stories and songs. In Tagalog, Batibot is said to mean “small but strong robust,” which is true of its production then. The show was an initiative of two nonprofit organizations and produced by Fely De Los Angeles-Bautista. It was sad the influx of canned cable shows from Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, and newer children’s show from some local stations made it harder for Batibot to redeem its glory. Add to that several licensing issues which up to now are left unresolved. At present, the Sesame Street still finds airtime in local stations in the afternoon and I thought again of the plight of Batibot. I was sad and happy. I am sad that the show is left only in memory and nothing but a tale to tell kids of today. I am happy that in the early 1990s at five, I stayed glued on my seat during 9 in the morning and sang “Pagmulat ng mata, langit nakatawa sa Batibot…” What’s your fond memory of Batibot?
I AM not sure if today’s Internet generation of kids have the faintest idea about the Escalera brothers and their (mis)adventures. But I might be wrong. After Vic Sotto revealed last year that there are plans to revive this Filipino sitcom, news about their comeback was all over television this week, as they announced their participation in the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival. Who can’t forget the antics of comedy television’s famous trio? Iskul Bukol is about the lives of three students: Tito (Sotto) and Joey (De Leon) Escalera brothers and Vic (Sotto) Ungasis, a teacher’s pet who often attracts pretty girls in class. All are students of Wanbol University. During a television interview, De Leon jokingly declares that usually movies produced for the MMFF bring along lessons in life. “Sa pelikulang eto, wala kayong ikakapulutan ng aral [In this movie, there are no lessons],” says De Leon, as the Sotto brothers tried to suppress a laugh. Being part of a generation of kids who grew up watching reruns of Tagalog movies on television, Iskul Bukol offered respite from hours of melodrama during primetime. Iskul Bukol has created characters like cafeteria operator Mang Temi (Bing Angeles), a name that plays on the word Filipino word “Itim” or dark-complexioned. Of course, who can’t forget Miss Tapia (Mely Tagasa), a professor at the Wanbol University who hates the Escalera brothers? Another is Redford (Redford White) who plays Mang Temi’s houseboy. Recently, news that Richie D’ Horsie who plays one of the characters in Iskul Bukol, was bailed out from prison to play his old role was revealed. During one television interview, Vic Sotto said the group decided to give D’ Horsie another chance to reform and be part of a reunion of sorts of the original cast of the hit TV sitcom. D’ Horsie has been languishing in prison for an offense related to drugs. Here's the sitcom's theme song, which is actually borrowed from Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," which my dad would often jokingly sing, "Amoy Suka." ;-)
By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MANILA CITY, Philippines -- Christmas will be brighter in Metro Manila figuratively and literally as the Meralco Corp. once again launches the annual ‘Maliwanag ang Pasko’ campaign in Manila Cathedral. Maliwanag ang Pasko is known to give recognition to the households and churches that embrace the tradition of lighting up every Christmas with their most creative display of lights and decors. This year, the project is themed as “Campaign of Hope,” as Meralco hopes everyone to share hope and brightness in their communities by lighting up for Christmas. The word “share” is emphasized since the winners for the best decoration will be given the chance to grant donations to orphans of their choice, allowing the winners to share their blessing to those in need. Manuel Lopez, chairman and CEO of Meralco, said the company is working with local government units in helping spread the word on the project. Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim gave his full support on this project and his administration also plans to add additional lights in some streets for safer and brighter Christmas in Manila. The chosen beneficiaries of the said project are charitable institution which primarily advocates children’s welfare. Lopez admits that the children would always have a soft spot in his heart and though it may sound cliché, ‘they are still our future,’ Lopez added. With this, the supporters of the said project foresee that this Christmas season will definitely be a bright one with everyone lighting up their homes and bring brighter light to the children.
By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- Serenity. That is what Paco Park offers to the tourist who strolls inside the park’s adobe walls built during the Spanish occupation. But before this place was renovated into a park, did you know that it was actually built as a cemetery? Paco Park is a recognized cultural heritage primarily because this was the place where the remains of our national hero -- Dr. Jose Rizal -- were first laid to rest. Later on, Rizal’s remains were transferred to Bagumbayan, or what we call today as “Luneta.” The three martyr priests -- Fr. Mariano Gomez, Fr. Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora -- were the first men buried in Paco cemetery. Ironically, Rizal dedicated El Filibusterismo to the three martyrs and later on the four of them met each other in death in this same area, but not for long. However, even if their remains were already transferred, there are still markers inside the park to commemorate the four heroes. It was only in 1948 by virtue of a legislative act that Paco cemetery was transformed into a park in accordance with the guidelines set for all national parks. There was also a need to transfer all other remains to Manila North Cemetery because of cholera epidemic during that time. "This is a place to reminisce the Spanish era," says Carlito Fajardo, Executive Director of Paco Park. The walls and the structure of the park bring flashbacks of what has happened through the years -- endless toil are etched in every building block of each wall, marked by the sweat and blood of our ancestors under the unjust hands of the Spaniards during that era. “Tranquility -- how peaceful and quiet,” Fajardo adds when asked what Paco Park offers to the public. Who would have known that one can find a place such as this in the heart of a busy city like Manila? I was fascinated with the silence of the place -- for a moment I even forgot I was still inside the city. All you could hear is the humming of birds and -- if you close your eyes -- you would feel like you were sitting near a serenely flowing river. In reality, a fountain in the middle of the park is the source of that sound. This is a perfect venue for those in search of peace of mind, away from stress and pollution. Every Friday, the park holds a concert called "Paco Park Presents" where cultural organizations are the main performers. It may be the Rondalla concert rendering folk music, a chorale group filling the place with their angelic voices or a dance troupe performing the Tinikling and Pandanggo. The presentations, according to Fajardo, are primarily for the enrichment of our culture in the right place in a new age. The park is also open to wedding receptions and the couple may use the chapel to exchange vows. During my stay at the park, I saw Aling Remedios, one of the park’s caretakers, and she shared with me some occurrences in the area which she could not explain in her five years of tending the park. She says that, at times, she would hear someone walking behind her, but upon looking back she would discover the place was empty. On one occasion, a group of students took a photograph of themselves at the park, and it came out with a shadow that filled a portion of the picture. Aling Remedios says these events were creepy but that she did not pay attention to such things and instead focuses on her job. I also interviewed Angela, a tourist visiting the park with her friends. The peace and tranquility of the place were the main reasons why they stayed in the place, despite the knowledge that the park was a former cemetery. When asked about the feeling of sharing serenity with the dead, Angela says: "I do not want to come here at night. It would be scary so I prefer to come here during the day." My short visit to the park gave me a sudden rush of adrenalin, but I was certain it was not because of any paranormal things that might occur while filming the place. It was more because of pride that we managed to preserve our cultural heritage in places such as Paco Park where future generations would get a glimpse of the sacrifices made by our ancestors. Fajardo later mentioned: “As Filipinos, we should know our culture, values and how we became a nation.” My short visit to this place made me feel like a brand new citizen -- someone who is indebted to our ancestors because of enjoying a life built on the sacrifices of our heroes to preserve our freedom. I hope that in time, more and more Filipinos would appreciate a place like this instead of going to malls or bars where they tend to forget where we really come from.
By Anna Valmero Inquirer.net The transience of the live theater makes it special and unique. Watching a two-and-a half hour stage performance of ‘Ibong Adarna’ at the AFP Theater is an invigorating experience to the senses as actors portray live the triumphs and tribulations of each character, bringing flesh and blood to the story. All of us are required to read Francisco Baltazar’s ‘korrido’, as it was one of the required readings in the secondary level. Back then, I thumbed back and forth from one chapter of the book to the glossary and back, to work my way with the archaic Filipino ‘korrido’ verses. As I look back, I wished I had watched this kind of performance then. Luckily, I sat with thousands of high schools to watch the play last October 5. Though I knew how the story would go, I sat expectantly from the start until the show ended. In terms of the technicalities, I would say the performers, stage crew and the director of the play did a good job. While remaining faithful to the material, the play has injected modern elements to appeal to the young audience. Effective tool With over thirty years in the industry, the foundation started as Bulwagang Gantimpala at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. “We focus on the educational role that live theater provides to our audience,” said Tony Espejo, founding president and artistic director of Gantimpala Theater Foundation. “We also emphasize the values inherent in the stories such as love for country, honesty, truth and justice.” Understanding the theater is a good tool to inform, entertain and educate, the Gantimpala Theater Foundation has been producing curriculum-oriented plays to supplement teaching of secondary level literature. “The ‘Ibong Adarna’ play has been performed for over 15 years and has been proven to cater to the young and the old alike,” said play director Roobak Valle, proving the universality of the theater as medium for expression. Valle added that as part of the group’s commitment to honor artistic legacies, the dance sequences in the play pay tribute to the late National Artisr for Dance Ramon Obusan. In this generation hooked up with the Internet and television often for leisure, taking a trip to the theater is a good way for this generation to appreciate these classics that are part of our heritage. Think about transporting back in time to watch things unedited — no reshoots, no line editing, no CGI effects — only performance at its finest. That’s how classic entertainment is.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net WITH malls installed in almost every key city and town, flashing the spirit of consumerism -- spending a lazy weekend afternoon at Rizal Park (also called Luneta Park) was a refreshing experience. My afternoon stroll last Saturday brought vividly to life personal archives of Sunday family picnics and class field trips for history. The visit breathed life to the sepia prints of my childhood photos and reminded me of my former classmates whom I studied “Kasaysayan” with. The park offers locals and foreigners a refuge. The green expanse of Rizal Park is a relief from the toxic environment of the city -- 24/7 air mixed with carbon monoxide and other pollutants, noisy, traffic streets and the like. The free benches, open spaces and shade entice visits from families and lovers, tai-chi practitioners, chess players, photographers and bikers. Away from the mall shops that lure us to buy more than what is needed, the park brings simplicity on spending quality time with those dear to us. To top this all, a stroll at the park is a good way to learn and teach history. The last I think is an important take-away when visiting the park. Bagumbayan, as it was called in the Spanish era around 1800s, is witness to significant moments in the Filipino history, such as the execution of national hero Jose Rizal and the Gomburza as well as the 1995 World Youth Day mass. During my walk, I wondered if the vagrants at the park knew who Rizal was or the events that happened in the park. It led me to thinking if all the people visiting the area knew the flagpole west of the Rizal monument is the starting point of Kilometer Zero for measuring road distances in the country. As they eat the contents of their picnic baskets, have parents tried teaching their kids about Jose Rizal and the busts of national heroes erected on both sides of the Luneta pond? National parks such as the Rizal Park are a great venue for building memories and teaching history. There is so much to learn from the National Museum, National Library and other centers located in the area. Think of it as an adventure: all it takes is an inquisitive mind and a healthy spirit as you embark on an afternoon journey to ask questions, discover and learn insights about our heritage from these historic sites.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net WHEN you hear bells ringing in summer, it means Mamang Sorbetero is just a few meters away selling his dirty ice cream. But when the bell rings in June, it may be a wedding bell for couples or a school bell for elementary and high school students. As June marks its start on the calendar, you bid goodbye to your companions -- pillow and bed. And, even if it is not music, your ears have to get used to hearing the alarm clock. Hearing the school bell ring makes you run so as not to be late for the morning assembly. But when the clock strikes past 7 a.m., it means that you would be falling in line at the back of your tallest classmate. And as you walk toward the end of the line, the teacher’s eyes follow you. And if those eyes can talk, it would be saying, “You’re late!” That’s why waking up when the rooster crows at the break of dawn is like eating ampalaya. It is good to eat but hard to chew. Listening to a long lecture makes you sleepy. But then the teacher knows the best alarm clock. “Get one whole sheet of paper, long quiz!” Surely, you will become as alert as a military man. And if you have no paper or ballpen, you will then smile at your seatmate and say, “Pahingi naman ng papel.” If you are like a snail in answering, you will again here the familiar line, “Finished or not finished, pass your papers!” In the middle of the day, you are again waiting for the bell to ring for your stomach to be filled with a sumptuous meal. The bell rings again ending your out-of-the-blue chat with your classmates and friends. Then you will again be waiting for the clock to strike at 5 p.m. and for the bell to ring. You will then hear what you have been waiting to hear, “Class dismissed!” When June approaches, it is like the familiar bell that you don’t want to hear when you are thinking that you will become a busy bee again. You will once again say hello to cups of coffee to keep you going while finishing a project to be submitted the following day. You will once again be best friends with your books and handouts while cramming for a mind-boggling exam. You will once again rush assignments before the deadline. Stress and pressure will be once again be your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But when you think of school as a beehive of honey, you will then be looking forward to your weekly allowance, your timeless chats with your classmates, your perky teacher, and thought-provoking discussions inside and outside the classroom. Though school may sharpen you like a pencil, it is where you learn not only the theoretical but also the practical aspects of life.