Culture and Religion definitely mix. Especially when you’re in Predominantly Catholic Philippines, almost all celebrations revolve around a Patron Saint’s feast day. Though nowadays people maybe inclined to think that Fiestas only happen in the Provinces, there are still some popular Fiestas in the Metro – if you’re a Manileno you’d probably have a friend or relative who would invite you to their town Fiesta to eat, get drunk on Emperador Brandy and San Miguel Beer and sing your heart out with the Videoke machine. I think the more popular ones are that of Tondo (Feast of the Sto.Nino, around January) and the San Juan basaan (Feat of St. John the Baptist, around June?). I live around the Pandacan area in Manila and I think what makes our Fiesta a bit known through the Metro is the Buling-Buling – a long parade of folk dancing people dressed in Filipinana, considered an offering to the Sto.Nino, which is surprise, surprise, our Patron saint. It usually happens in January so what am I doing posting this in November?
Our parish is actually celebrating its 300 years of establishment this November – not that the Church has been around for 300 years (it would’ve been a heritage site by then), but the institution itself has been around for 300 years. People have been in our area for 300 years, venerating the Sto.Nino throughout the Spanish, American and Japanese period. Just being able to stay around for that long deserves a celebration, especially now when Catholicism is slowly losing its relevance in today’s generation.
But how do you actually organize and stage an event like this, get everybody excited about this, a Catholic Event, your Parish’s 300 year anniversary? Well, this is how our Sto.Nino de Pandacan did it:
1. Get the whole town involved as much as possible: Do not limit it to the Church organizations, involve the Barangays. Appoint 2 people, which will be known as the Hermano or Hermana, for each Barangay. Get them to organize people to participate in recreating your yearly fiesta tradition, which generally happens in January, in November. Make it a contest for good measure. Soon you’ll have people being competitive with their Costumes, with their Choreography, with their props. Get the councilors of the district involved, they’ll appreciate the extra exposure since election season is coming.
2. Have a spectacular launch: Get an Event Coordinator, Invite the famous personalities in your town, i.e., The former First Lady who apparently resided in your Area before, all Councilors (and Aspiring Councilors) of your District, the Mayor if you can, the Bishops and the Archbishop. Dramatically Light up the Church. Create a Program and get a lot of people to participate in the program. Make a huge formation saying “Pandacan 300” out of people carrying candles which looks awesome from afar.
3. Make the celebration Religiously Significant: Probably 300 years is not really an ordinary feat, and so the door of our Parish was designated as a “Jubilee Door” by the Vatican. I’m not sure if we as parishoners understand this, but being able to pass through a Jubilee Door basically grants you Plenary Indulgence (Plenary Indulgence: You can forego your punishment for your sins. You might be forgiven during confession, but you still need to pay for it somewhat, in the spirit of justice). Jubilee Doors only exist in the Vatican, and it’s only opened once in a blue moon. So it’s supposedly kind of a big deal for Catholics, but I’m not sure a lot of people realize this.
Being able to participate in an event like this, I realize that really, as someone who’s exposed to a lot of things, especially foreign culture, you don’t get to appreciate your own culture, the fiestas that you celebrate, the traditions that you keep. It may hurt to admit that sometimes, you may think of it as boring, or things being done by old people. But then, when you travel to other countries, and you see them celebrate their own traditions, you’re amused and you’re interested. Probably it’s because it is something different from the things that you’re used to. But then you have to realize that it’s basically the same thing – a celebration borne out of faith, just like the festivals in Japan (Shinto or Buddhist in origin), or in India (Hindu in nature). And then you’d be curious what it is for, and somehow appreciate it by looking at it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know anything, realizing that yes, right here is a festival, a cultural thing, something you’ll observe and appreciate like those that you’ll be appreciating in your future foreign travels.