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!