The Past In Past Tense


A LOT OF SINGING AND DANCING Music plays a huge part in many of our country’s local customs

Filipinos celebrate Mother’s Day with the rest of the world in May and on Father’s Day in June. But it wasn’t like that during my childhood. I remember in grade school we celebrated Parents’ Week in the first week of December. We wore a corsage during those days. It was made of a leaf as the backdrop and flowers in the middle. Red flowers would indicate that one’s parents were both alive, one red and one white meant that one of the parents had passed away, and all white showed that both parents were gone. The leaf was usually a fern or “pilik,” a plant with very fine leaves, which I no longer see. The flowers were usually either kalachuchi or bougainvilleas, which were then the favorite flowers in our town. Parents of the Year were chosen and honored during the celebration. I don’t remember when that practice was stopped, replaced by the western practice of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Initially, I hesitated following the western tradition but my love for my parents prevailed over my desire to preserve our Pinoy tradition.

We also celebrated our own Thanksgiving Day on the feast day of San Isidro de Labrador. Houses along the route of the procession displayed the products of their labor, to be given away for “paagaw” as the procession passed their houses. Some houses just hung items that were not related to their source of livelihood as a form of thanksgiving.

Then, All Saints’ Day, in addition to the visit to the cemetery, which is still observed today, was celebrated with “pangangaluluwa,” very much like caroling. I remember the songs sung then. The more popular one had these lyrics:

Kami po’y kaluluwang tambing

Sa purgatoryo nanggaling

Ang gawa po namin doon

Araw, gabi’y manalangin

Kaluluwa’y dumaratal

Sa tapat ng durungawan

Kampanilya’y tinatangtang

Ginigising ang may bahay

Di ba ninyo natatalos

Na ngayo’y Todos los Santos

Kaluluwa’y lumilibot

At humihingi ng limos

Kung kami po’y lilimusan

Dali-daliin po lamang

At baka kami’y pagsarhan

Ng pinto ng kalangitan

There was another one which was mellower and more melancholic, with a slower tempo.

Kung gabi ng mga kaluluwa

Tayo’y nagdarasal para sa kanila

Hinahandugan ng mga bulaklak

Ipinagdarasal sa magdamag

The song was followed by a greeting “Magandang gabi po!” Or “Nangangaluluwa po.”

My parents also told us kids then the All Saints’ Day tradition in their youth, which already disappeared during our time. But they had mixed reactions, a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of gratitude. It was a night for pranks. There was that neighbor who left clothes in the clothesline overnight and found them at the town plaza the next morning. Then there was a town mate whose chicken in the yard was found hitched in the neighbor’s yard.

"Sometimes I wonder how some of our traditions were forgotten. I partially attribute this to media. But it could be due to changes in our political situation, too. A family member once said ‘harana’ disappeared with Martial Law when curfew was implemented."

Our school celebrations—commencement exercises, recognition days—always featured folk dances. Now they have been replaced by modern numbers, the ones usually shown in television variety shows. I no longer see little boys and girls in our native costumes dancing our folkdances, imbibing our customs.

There were gatherings or parties called “Yubakan” from “yubak” or pounding. “Niyubak” is more commonly known as “nilupak” in Metro Manila. Young men and women gather to prepare “niyubak,” the main ingredient of which is either “balinghoy” (kamoteng kahoy) or “saba” (banana). The girls usually took care of cooking the ingredients and the boys took care of pounding. Together, they had fun in plating the “niyubak” and eating them after.

Another fun activity, especially during summer was “Pagmumura” from “mura” (young coconut) or “buko” as it is known in Metro Manila. “Mura” is pronounced slowly with accent on the last syllable or “malumi na bigkas.” People would go to coconut farms where they would bond while eating young coconut meat and drinking young coconut juice.

Back then, removing the footwear as we entered another’s home was not optional. I see this practice still observed in some Asian nations. The Pinoy way was slightly different because the homeowner did not have spare footwear for guests, unlike in other Asian nations. Our guests entered the house barefoot.

Then there was “harana,” which was practiced until the early ‘70s. The songs, however, were no longer kundimans as our ancestors sang them, but were instead mellow love songs, still accompanied by the guitar.

Sometimes I wonder how some of our traditions were forgotten. I partially attribute this to media. Television shows feature the newer traditions, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Advertisements show gifts for mom and dad, and showcase restaurants where to take them. In the process, these propagate the practice. It’s probably because of the Filipino diaspora. Our migrant countrymen adapted to their host countries and adopted their traditions. But it could be due to changes in our political situation, too. A family member once said “harana” disappeared with Martial Law when curfew was implemented.

Sometimes I wish that, if a single decree could make a tradition disappear, then a single decree could restore a tradition too.