The Philippines was founded by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who did some colonization works for Spain thus the name Philippines was in honor of then Spain’s King Philip 2, during the Villalobos expedition in 1542.
Magellan landed in the Philippines in 1521, made some friends with some local muslim chieftains and introduced Christianity in the process. But when he landed in Mactan Cebu, he met a resistance from the feisty local chief Lapulapu & was killed. The rest of his group was able to escape and returned to Spain victorious to report that they found the spice island Limasawa and other things in the pacific. The galleon trading then started years later, and the full colonization of the archipelago lasted for 333 years.
The celebration of fiestas in honor of saints and other Christian feasts mixed with the local way of enjoying fiestas was magnified at a later part of 18th century and even after 1898 when America took over the colonization of the archipelago after Spain. The natural nature of Filipinos of enjoying everything festive, gave extra splendour of celebrating fiestas including the Advent Season or Christmas.
Guess when is the start of the Advent Season for the locals? September! Yep, its September. How was that possible? The locals believe that when the ‘ber months’ start, the smell of Christmas is not far off. At dawn, some radio stations will start playing some Christmas songs, and department stores will start displaying some decors as well.
But wait, how about the commercialized Halloween or All Saints Day celebration? Don’t worry, this is another celebration by the locals in honor of their dead. November 1 is always a public holiday and if it falls in a Friday or Monday, it will mean a long holiday to celebrate and would mean visiting relatives in the provinces. All Saints & All Souls Day has been considered a chance to have reunions with cousins and other siblings in the provinces. Time will be divided between going to church for masses, and visiting cemeteries to visit the tombs of relatives and lit some candles, offering of fresh flowers and short prayers.
Of course, the celebration of All Saints & All Souls Days will never deter the locals very focused attention to the coming Christmas. Plans should be starting in November what would be the color theme of the Christmas tree: the standard red & green or lavender & silver or gold or pink & lavender? Even the very poor, you can see a small representation of the Season. It could be a simple ‘parol’ or lantern, a Christmas accent paper poinsettia flower or a simple picture of the Holy Family.
The Catholic church declares the last Sunday of November as the start of the Advent Season. You would notice this because the catholic churches will then be full of decors and twinkling lights and especially, the altar will have the 4 Advent Candles. The 4 candles signifies the four Sundays to the birth of Jesus or on Christmas Day, December 25. By the way, count back 9 days from December 25 – its when the midnight or dawn masses will be done. Its called the ‘Misa de Gallo’. In most big churches, they do fund raising during these days by organizing light hot meriendas or snacks to sell after the mass for church goers to buy. There is the rice cakes matched with hot ‘tebleya’ or choco drinks and others. Its fun and very nostalgic. On the eve of Christmas Day or at midnight of the 24th, families will share another meal called ‘noche buena’ to enjoy, after the light fireworks and some gift sharing, if ever.
Then New Year comes. But wait, do not take out the decors yet. The local Catholic church declares the end of the season the day after the Christ the King feast which is on the first Sunday of January. Previously, it was after the blessing of the Candles or ‘Kandelaria’, which could be in early February. So, can anyone beat that? Wait, in the central part of the Philippines lies Cebu province. Their fiesta is on the 3rd Sunday of January and my, what a celebration. It’s a week-long preparation of masses, offerings, more than a mile long procession, then a whole day street dancing or the ‘Sinulog’. It is during this period when Christmas decors are replaced with decorative masks, and other colourful native costumes with feathers & beads and shout: Pit Senyor!