There’s no fiesta like Christmas  holidays.  And it is aptly called the holiday season.  A season that extends from as early as the first days of December to the last days of January.  It even spills to mid-February, or up to the so-called Feast of the Candelaria among the older folks.  I knew this from my parents who belonged to conservative Catholics.  And they inherited their own Christmas culture from their own parents who were  “saradong Katoliko”.

But the Christmas culture  as it has reigned in the consciousness of Filipinos is a happy hybrid offspring  of Spanish colonization and American imperialist domination of Philippine society.  The noche buenaand media noche hype coupled with the devotional attachment to the Belen and the extraordinary flair for the paroland the fireworks are obviously of Spanish influences.   But the Christmas tree  and the  Christmas carols are  a part of the culture-transfer of  American lifeways to the Filipino social life.

More than  four centuries of  foreign acculturation of the Filipino has effectively woven a cultural matrix that has welded both Spanish and American influences in the Christmas consciousness of present-day  Filipinos.   All together, what  has evolved as a typical Filipino Christmas culture is an overflowing  enthusiasm for  customary practices attached to the celebration of the season.  At the core of all these brimming enthusiasm is a fiesta culture.

And in a Christian  Catholic country like the Philippines,  a fiesta day is always pegged to a religious worship of a patron  saint.  And there are countless fiesta days in different villages and places, including towns and cities,  each  one  supposedly dedicated or held  in honor of a citizen  in heaven, such as San Jose, San Roque, San Antonio, and all those saints and martyrs  of the Faith.   On top of these is the fiesta of the Sto Nino (Holy Child) and  the Blessed Virgin Mary in all her various  appellations such  as Nuestra Senora del Pilar, Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Soccoro,  Virgin of  Lourdes, Virgen de Regla, Mary the Immaculate,  etcetera,  etcetera,  etcetera.  In the month of May, almost all the barrios in the archipelago claim devotional worship of the Santa Cruz (the Holy Cross), and elaborate this to hyperbolic celebration which transforms it  into more of a fashion show  or a beauty pageant than a religious festivity—the Santacruzan,where by movie stars are  made to  render pomp  and glamor and glitter  to the occasion.

But nothing  defeats Christmas as a fiesta.  It is, in fact, the fiesta of all fiestas. All sorts of premises and attributions are given to the Christmas season. It is a season of love and charity, a season of grace and blessings,  a season of forgiveness and reconciliation,  a season of giving more than receiving,  of caroling as fund-raising for a worthy  project.  It is also a season for family reunions, for coming home of OFWs and or  the estranged family members.  And perhaps, the most popular of all conceivable characterizations  is  “Christmas is a season for children”.

Now, a special accent is infused into this dedicatory attribute of Christmas. The  new Pope would give special  attention and concern to the youth in a special celebratory  event during his visit to the country this coming January.   However, one wonders if this rare species of a Pope  also gives  special  premium to the fiesta character of Christmas such as how we Filipinos do.  I doubt that he does, for all his display of  simplicity and apparently deep concern for the unfortunate humans of the world has a mark of revolutionary  “down-to-earthness”  as an act of empathy — in his words and conduct  as leader of the Christian Church.

I would like—or I wish for him to  come out of his way to bestow honor  from his very lips to the struggles  of the Indigenous Peoples and other doubly marginalized sectors of our society and bring to centerstage  their miserable  plight under this hypocritical government of President Noynoy Aquino  which has militarized their dwelling places and  whose military  troops have been violating  with impunity their human rights.

Nothing else matters for me in dragging the good Pope’s  eminent name into a discussion of  the extraordinary fiesta-ness of the Christmas. culture among us Filipinos.  Maybe, I can be more sympathetic and tolerant of the season’s jingle — Tenk you tenk  you,  ang babait ninyo  which  our neighborhood  young children  shout  in front of my house every one-minute interval  every evening since the start of “simbang gabi”.

But in my heart of hearts I would have wished these children—as I would have wished for all adults of  our society—to shun this pernicious propensity  for fiestas in our consciousness.  Much more so, this flair for outward glitters and “pasiklaban” that only complicate, or rather, obliterate the perduring misery and suffering of the masses of our people.  What our religious and secular leaders have been doing   has been to wage  pompous show of merciful acts of charity—deceitful cajolery—that  only  perpetuate  poverty among the masses.

And the extended fiesta fever of the Christmas season is like a narcotic   drug that push the  masses—and in effect training the little children— to the flourish of mendicant  acts and practices.  Certainly, our government officials, by their very own habits and conduct, demonstrate their seemingly unintentional encouragement of these attitudes among  their constituencies,  making them eternally dependent on their patronage,  hoping for their generous blessings during  the Christmas fiesta season as well as the fiesta-like  electoral  season.

And so, the fiesta of all fiestas run to almost a quarter of the days of the year.. And it is little wonder why underdevelopment and backwardness are a continuing plague in Philippine social reality.

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