Celebration of Christmas in the Philippines is as diverse as its islands’ flavors. One of the best (and still most hospitable) tropical countries to spend the holiday season, the Philippines offer warm beaches and picturesque mountains; Thus, the influx of holiday tourists and Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) during December. This year, my sister-in-law flew home to spend time with the family. Together, we spent Christmas in Catarman, Northern Samar.
Whilst past Christmas in Manila were spent endlessly devouring Noche Buena until the wee hours of December 25, we had a quiet dinner in Catarman and capped Christmas Eve early. It was raining and we had postponed attending mass to the next day. It’s a good thing the kids did not know that the stack of gifts was mostly for them or they would’ve pleaded to stay late as they enjoy their opened gifts. They opened Christmas presents after breakfast.
Christmas Day was started with a mass. It was custom that the priest celebrant present the infant Jesus to church goers. After mass, attendants lined up to kiss baby Jesus to welcome him. At home, Cocoy was asked to give candies and lollipops to children who caroled during daytime. It was pretty quiet in our street with a band or two singing Christmas Carols in the neighborhood. It was a rainy weekend – yep, it rained on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
80% of the time, it rains and residents expect more frequent power outages. In University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) Town, there is a weekly 12-hour brownout or power outage schedule. The town proper also has its own schedule. When it rains or when it’s windy, power goes out for 3 to 6 hours. Last week, power went out for more than 12 hours in our block. They said it was due to a blown transformer. Obviously, the local electricity provider cannot supply the power needs of Catarman.
I had noticed the same last March when we visited for summer. It was Graduation Day and it rained so hard guest speaker Rep. Jinggoy Estrada was not able to address the crowd live. I admired the perseverance of the graduating batch because they remained in their places despite the sudden downpour. Celebrations in Catarman were made in candlelight that night. Hopefully, these future leaders have been enlightened to bring hope and progress to their respective towns.