Philippine Culture: March in the Philippines

March heralds the start of summer here in our country. The days get hotter when you thought it was not possible. Kids rejoice as they take a break from school. When I was younger, I would just laze around the house during summer. I would read all of my brothers' old books stashed away in some boxes around our house. I learned to type with a typing book and our old typewriter. I would play. With the advent of all-day Cartoon Network and the Nick channels, summer life is not as simple. There's now an onslaught of all sorts of summer classes (e.g. painting, sports, performing arts - you name it, we have it) competing for parents' share of wallet. Parents, just wanting to keep their kids from vegetating in front of the TV the whole day, spend mega-bucks just to cope.

If summer means the start of vacation for younger school kids, it also means graduation for those who have completed grade school, high school, or college. Education is a top priority for parents and it is usual for both poor and well-off families to exert all effort to provide the best schooling they can afford. This is a time for parties and gifts for the graduating student. Now that I'm sending my own kids to school, I say, it's the parents who deserve our congratulations more than anybody else.

March is fire prevention month. With the heat, comes the fires. It is no coincidence or irony that during the month, I think I hear more reports of fires so people are reminded to be extra careful.

March and April also see the celebration of Holy Week. Some people take this as an opportunity to hie off to the beach -- where there are lots of tourists and where room rates may double! Metro Manila is the best place to be during Holy Week as this is one of the rare times when there will actually be no traffic jams on the streets. Of course, there's the Holy Wednesday rush as people troop to the provinces but after that, the streets are practically empty.

Those who find themselves doing the church services will go through the usual Washing of the Feet, the Way of the Cross, the Veneration of the Cross, processions, vigils, the Salubong and the Easter Vigil. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country so expect the churches to be fuller than usual. In the provinces or more rural communities, you may still chance upon the pabasa (or the reading of the passion or pasyon) during the Holy Week. The Visita Iglesia where families visit 7 churches to pray and to visit the Blessed Sacrament is still done the night of Holy Thursday till morning of Good Friday. Of course, in other places, some men and women, actually get nailed to the cross -- to atone for their sins and as part of some panata or promise and this draws tourists from all over the globe.

As for festivals, there is the Paraw Regatta during the first Sunday of March. Outriggers race from Guimaras to Iloilo City. The Moriones Festival is also held during Holy Week in Marinduque where participants play centurions and soldiers wearing colorful masks -- as they recall the life of Longinus. Good Friday itself sees the Turumba Festival in Pakil, Laguna and the Pagtaltal in Guimaras. For the Turumba, there is parading in the streets with the image of the Virgin Mary while Pagtaltal involves a Lenten Presentation.

[By Angelica Viloria | Wednesday, March 30, 2005]


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