Many Filipinos around the world and most especially in the country are preparing to celebrate Christmas together with their families. Those who are unfortunate to go back home most likely 90% of them would probably call their loved-ones in the Philippines just to greet merry Christmas. High rate of remittances to the country is always anticipated during the year-end. Filipinos working abroad prefer to go back home during December month. The said month is the most expensive trip and airports in the country are expected to be a bit crowded. If you are a foreigner and planning to spend time during the said month you better get early reservation to avoid inconvenience or costly travel package.

I have watched news recently and I am not quite surprised why some of the foreigners prefer to celebrate Christmas in the Philippines. Like for example, the group of Jamaicans from Japan preferred to spend Christmas here. If I will be given a chance to talk to them I would probably advise that they should not just spend Christmas here they have to wait until the celebration of the coming year and surely they will enjoy fireworks and firecrackers everywhere.

Due to many occurrences of firecracker-related incidents the local health officials had many campaigns in the past years about the implications of the accidents made by firecrackers through infomercials in televisions and newspapers. Since this is part of the Philippine traditions many are still doing it but more cautious than before. When I was 11 years old I myself had tried to play with it. We used to call it “bawang” in our native language. For those who do not know what “bawang” is, well it is an onion-like firecracker. It exploded on my left hand and I still remember what the doctor told me if I could still move my pinkie and the ring fingers. I was afraid to move actually that time because if I could not move them then these two precious fingers of mine might get amputated. To cut the story short (not my fingers), l only got 4 stitches at my pinkie and 1 stitch at my ring finger. I just needed to heal the wounds with medication and of course before my discharge from the clinic anti-tetanus had been injected to one of my veins.

Despite of some unfortunate stories during holidays here the tradition is still alive. Firecracker is part of the practice during the year-end celebration. This was the influence of the Chinese who migrated here in the Philippines. During Chinese New Year they used to play with fireworks and firecrackers and the Filipinos had adopted it and became part of the Philippine culture. As we all know cultures and traditions are the result of many factors that affect our way of living regardless where it came from. Philippines had adapted many foreign cultures and traditions that became part of life of every Filipino. Perhaps this is why Filipinos can easily adapt to the new environment because of the long history of colonization and education attained from other countries. If you are a foreigner here, it is like hitting many birds at the same time since by looking at the Philippine customs is like looking at other countries’ customs but the only difference is with a mixture of our very own culture which had been there from generations to generations. Next time I will share our native cultures and traditions, I promise.

Nobody can stop the spirit of Christmas in the country. This river in Marikina City was devastated by typhoon Ondoy in September 2009 and after 3 months you can find bazaars and Christmas lights! I had seen the big shoe icon here after the typhoon that got dirt on it. Marikina is known as shoe capital in the country. In addition, if you manage to buy a pair of shoes that has a tag "Made in Marikina" certainly it came from the Philippines.

Celebration of Christmas and New Year here in the country simply I would say that it is about fun and excitement. You can buy lots of souvenirs here. You could observe fireworks and hear firecrackers. Despite of global economic downturns there are high demands on goods especially toys, foods, and pyrotechnic materials here. It is a must for everyone to celebrate Christmas, give happiness to others by exchanging gifts and most especially for the children despite of small budget for the celebration.

Giant Christmas tree in Araneta Center Cubao. It was taken in November this year.

Here are the common mouth-watering foods prepared during Christmas and New Year:

1. Spaghetti – Strong in taste and sweeter than Italian spaghetti but not that sour.

2. Pancit - It refers to pansit. Dried noodles with a mixture of vegetables and meat.

3. Salad- It might be fruit salad with buko, macaroni, or fruits and vegetables.

4. Lechon – Litson in our native word. Well done in Philippines. Crispy and juicy. We have secret sauce for it. Truly mouth-watering and stomach-craving delicacy!

5. Crispy pata – Our very own. Most foreigners who came to our country can remember what crispy pata is!

6. Adobo – Commonly it’s either meat of chicken or pork and it is possible to mix both as well. Even without occasion it is commonly prepared for lunch.

7. Inihaw – A Filipino version of grilled meat, fish, or squid and many more varieties.

8. Bebinca – It is called bibingka as well in Filipino (Tagalog). A flavoured rice cake

9. Dinuguan – One of my favorites! Chopped pork with mix of its blood and spices.

10. Puto – It is best served with dinuguan.

This is a tarpaulin showing a commercialized bebinca.

Actually there are many more and I promise to feature some of them here.

Why are we celebrating Christmas?

This is what I had written to my Facebook.

For non-Christians: It is just holiday seasons!

For Christians/Believers: It is the celebration of nativity of Jesus Christ. Every Christian should be delighted that God has sent His only begotten Son to save the people from sins. Existence of Jesus Christ gives hope to everyone! He was born and became a sacrifice to cleanse the people from sins. We do not need to die on the cross anymore in order to be saved and enter the kingdom of is the matter of faith and belief that He died for us, saves everyone who believe in Him and to join Him in heaven! Consider the verse below:

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" --- Ephesians 2:8

We are saved not by our good works but because of Jesus who is now celebrating His birthday. We should be delighted and thankful. This is why we celebrate Christmas and hope that the real meaning and spirit of Christmas will be within us. It is not a matter of money it is an everlasting joy and happiness.

Christmas shoppers in the Philippines

If you go around to public places like in malls or to bazaars you would never notice that despite of global crisis there are many shoppers buying gifts and foods for their families. The best places to go for shopping are Divisoria, Greenhills, SM Malls, Greenbelt, Glorietta, and many more. You can buy clothes, novelty items, souvenirs, etc. Next time I will feature all these here!

Shoppers in one of the well-known malls in Metro Manila.

Shoppers in Greenhills, San Juan

I am running out of time and I need to prepare food for Christmas so until next time!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Truly the best gift that we had received from our parents aside from their love is education. It is more precious than any material things that we have. Through education we have developed our skills and better judgment that direct us to what we are right now. This is why I remember the greatness of our national hero known by many as Jose Rizal. By remembering his good example it is again gives justice to the saying that pen is mightier than sword.

Every Filipino knows his contribution that resulted to solidarity of the Filipinos against the tyranny of the colonists. It was so sad that independence had been achieved only after his death, he was 35. Today, he is being remembered by commemorating his execution every 30th of December. His death led to unity of Filipinos in fighting for independence.

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda or Jose Rizal in short was a polyglot conversant that at least knew 10 languages.

The following were the languages spoken by Rizal:

1. Spanish

2. French

3. Latin

4. Greek

5. German

6. Portuguese

7. Italian

8. English

9. Dutch

10. Japanese

11. Arabic (translation)

12. Swedish (translation)

13. Russian (translation)

14. Chinese(translation)

15. Greek (translation)

16. Hebrew (translation)

17. Sanskrit (translation)

18. Tagalog (translation of Schiller poetry)

19. Malay (some knowledge)

20. Chavacano (some knowledge)

21. Cebuano (some knowledge)

22. Ilocano (some knowledge)

23. Subanun (some knowledge)

After 300 years of slavery the Filipinos had been awaken and Jose Rizal became one of the keys in achieving freedom. He wrote books and within his books he set some examples about the cruelty of Spanish that time. Some of his famous books were Noli Me Tangere ( Social Cancer) and El Filibusterismo (The Filibustering or the Reign of Greed). His books were originally written in Spanish and followed by El Filibusterismo which is considered a sequel to the first book. He is the prominent advocate for reforms in the country during Spanish colonial era.

Rizal was calm even until he was about to be executed in Bagumbayan (known as Rizal Park today). There was a rumor that he wanted to face the Filipino native firing squad backed by Spanish troops but he was instructed by Spanish to turn his back as sign of betrayal. His famous last words were those of Jesus Christ, “consummatum est” – it is finished.

This is the picture taken in Cavenagh Bridge, Singapore. I had worked in Singapore for 1 1/2 years and I promised before I return to Philippines to visit this. This was visited by me a day before my flight going back to my beloved country. Thank you Rizal for your contribution to our country.

He will always be remembered. When I was in Singapore I have managed to visit a tribute to Rizal in Cavenagh Bridge. During my stay in Malaysia, I have spoken to some Malaysians and I was surprised that they knew our national hero. Filipinos are mostly Malay by race and they (Malaysians) should be proud of him as well.

For more about Jose Rizal in full details you can check out Wikipedia.

Christmas is just around the corner. Filipinos everywhere in the world celebrate Christmas from September until January (The Philippines is known for having a long period of Christmas celebration). Today, Christianity is the largest predominant faith in the Philippines and the latter is recognized as Asia’s largest Christian country.

In China, the number of Christians is rapidly growing. Unaccounted Christians in the Mainland may be as big as in the Philippines or even bigger.

About 90 percent of the population celebrate Christmas in the country. Here are the images taken in Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila:

Giant Christmas tree can be seen anywhere in the central business areas in Metro Manila as well in some areas in provincial cities.

Real trees with Christmas lights.

There were many predictions before the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. The much awaited fist-to-fist combat of the year has resulted with a glorious victory of Manny Pacquiao, the pride of Filipinos against the Puerto Rican fighter.

I like how Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports described Cotto as "raw hamburger" after the fight. On that day of the event almost all of Filipinos (Pinoys) around the world were focused on the said fight and delighted when referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight by TKO.

In fairness to Cotto, he was great in the fight by keeping himself up until the 12th round despite of devastating punch made by Pacquiao like typhoon that struck Philippines few months ago. His will to fight and survive was still there but his body was unresponsive from the thrown flash punches from his opponent and that's why the referee decided to end the fight with 55 seconds remaining.

That was one of the best fights I have ever seen from Pacquiao. Although we have not seen a knock out which was anticipated by many boxing analysts on the first 1-7 rounds but still the crowd enjoyed especially the Pinoys. Cotto went down from the ring bleeding.

That is boxing, it is a sport and for every sport there will be declared winner. I believe Floyd Mayweather, Jr had watched the fight and the people are looking at the fight between him and Pacquiao. Can Floyd still use his way of boxing against the unorthodox way of rumble of Pacquiao? Who is the true pound-for-pound king? Let us find out soon!

Photo was taken before the fight inside the Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City Philippines.

Thousands of Filipinos have gathered to watch the PPV (pay-per-view) in Araneta Coliseum.

Photos of Miguel Cotto before and after the fight.

Many Pacquiao has declared winner by TKO and now the new WBO Welterweight title holder. At the back wearing eyeglasses is his head coach Freddie Roach. For the record, he is the Filipino boxing superstar and the first boxer to win 7 world titles in 7 different divisions.

It was a morning of Friday, 13th of November at around 9 in the morning when I switched on my television to check out for the latest news. I was surprised that Hillary Clinton has already being interviewed by the known news anchors and journalists in the country. While I am drinking my hot coffee the phone rang, ohh! I almost forgot my appointment on that day. Before I decided to leave for my meeting of course I have to take a shower. I bought some time to listen on the answers of the US Secretary of State from the questions which were mostly raised by the youths. Some of the questions were focused on the US Foreign Policies and its particular relation with Philippines but the most popular was her reply on the question about who will win in the much awaited fight of Manny Pacquiao against the Puerto Rican boxer Miguel Cotto this coming 14th November ( Sunday morning in Philippines). She said Pacquiao will be going to win.

The venue of the interview with Hillary was held at University of Santo Tomas (UST). It is considered to be the one of the oldest universities in Philippines, considered the largest in Manila, and also known as the only Pontifical University in Asia. This historical university is very remarkable for both the Philippines and United States. Way back in World War II during the Japanese invasion it had been used as the concentration camp for civilians, foreigners including Americans, and POWs. In addition, most of the brutal crimes were held here and many American soldiers lost their lives.

Hillary with husband Bill Clinton dancing together on this undated photo. Bill Clinton was a classmate of the present Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service located in Washington, DC.

Clinton departed the country on the same day for the APEC Summit in Singapore.