Sat, December 14, 2002  3:46 pm

[Note: Originally posted on Kaming Danawanon, Vol V, No. 5 Nov-Dec 199.]

20021214154557271_1.gifAs signs of the holiday season, from radio music, to mall decors, to the cool weather get into our systems, older U.S. Pinoys start to get nostalgic and feel an irresistitble urge to visit their hometown and reconnect with old friends and relatives for Christmas.

But it seems this doesn’t hold true among Danawanons in the U.S. Rather, the city fiesta in September actually beckons more Dananawons than does Christmas.

Someone said maybe we’re just very kuripot (stingy) scared of our many friends and relatives asking for pinaskohan so we don’t go home on Christmas.

Since my high school in 1967 I have never spent a hometown Christmas and I have almost forgotten what I was missing.

I guess there was nothing much happening at Christmas in Danao that would draw Danawanon back home at this time of year.

In many Filipino literatures, travel brochures, magazines, in Christmas jingles, so much we read or heard about this unique Filipino tradition of Pasko, such as “Misa de Gallo’, musikeros, aguinaldos, ‘mano po ninong, mano po ninang”, etc.

As a young kid growing up in the poblacion I couldn’t claim it could be also my hometown’s tradition. But I could be wrong.

I have attended maybe once or twice a ‘misa de gallo’ (mass at 4:00 a.m) at the church in Danao. I could not recall there was anything fun or any excitement right after the mass.

There was no such thing as ‘kantahan, sayawan, kainan’ awaiting church goers as what we see being depicted in Christmas cards, travel brochures, or even on TV, etc.

Danawanon my age or older probably had nothing much to reminisce Christmas memories in Danao other than the display of parols, ‘panaygon’, overeating biko, hand injuries from rebentador explosion and lantaka (bamboo cannon).

As a kid the only thing I looked forward to at Christmas was the two or three week vacation from school. No gifts from a ninong or ninang either it was not their custom to do so or more likely they had no money at all.

At the elementary school there was some little excitement on days before Christmas break. Our teachers would tell us to make a nice parol to be entered in a contest or for display at the tennis court during a Christmas presentation. Some pupils would be practicing songs or dances to be presented at the Christmas program at the stage fronting the town’s tennis court.

The star lanterns (parol) was and probably still is Danao’s most popular Christmas symbol. A belen (a scene depicting the birth of the Child Jesus in a manger with several figurines from Mary and Joseph, Child Jesus, to the sheperds, the Three kings, the animals, etc.) was only always displayed in the church, some more affluent families also had their own at their homes.

All that were needed to make a star lanterns were ten long bamboo slats of equal length and 5 short.

Almost everyone knew how to make a parol, because students were made to make one. Some would come up with imaginative lantern designs, like an airplane, a rocket, a ship, even a house and many others that had nothing to do with commemorating the birth of Jesus.

At the start of the Christmas break school kids would gather tansans (soda bottle crowns) and they made them into some kind of musical instrument, called “pandaritas”.

Early evening they went house to house, in the neighborhood, singing “Ania Kaming Nanag-awit, Kasadya Ning Taknaa, O kam olye petpol or O holi nai”. In the end they would shout ‘maayong pasko tagbalay’.
Some would give a few centavos, some wouldn’t.

They would go around and cover as many as twenty houses in one night, earning as much as two pesos for the night. About half would give 5 centavos, or at the most 25, the other half, would not give at all and scream at and drive kids off their house or had their dogs do the job.

Christmas caroling had so much competition, so many groups trying to get money from the townfolks, young kids, old and not so old. Some groups had complete rondallas, portable sound systems and even hired a passenger jeep to drive them around town. and some would be showing a permit signed by an official of the Social Welfare.

There was one family, I recall, said to be from Maslog, that literally signaled or fired the Christmas salvo. Three young girls were dressed up in outlandish outfit, made from colored paper and face made up with too much red lipstick.

The father played the guitar, the mother, the tambourine, an uncle played the banjo. The girls sang and danced, wiggling their hands with castanets. It was the most vivid Christmas memory I had while in the elementary grade in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s. I even remember the ending lines:

“Alabado kay alabado, si Jesus atong
Ginoo, si Adan atong puno-an, si Maria
Birhen nga ulay, maayong pasko

I don’t know what ‘alabado’ meant and surely the singers didn’t know either. Definitely not Spanish or Latin. Like the pied piper, kids followed them as they performed around town.

Another popular Danao caroler was Dencio Y. K., also from Maslog. How he got his last name, nobody could tell, but apparently it must be because he was gay or ‘bayoton’.

He earned his living selling candles in the church. But he looked forward to Christmas as it mean extra income – caroling all over town, singing Christmas songs – solo, no guitar, not even pandaritas to accompany. His caroling starts right after All Saints Day (Adlaw sa Patay)

Even without a sound system Dencio Y.K. could be heard three blocks away and sounded like a carabao slaughtered at the ‘ihawan’ or a cow in heat attracting a bull.

The man or woman of the house would immediately come out to give Dencio a few centavos even before he could start, so that he would go away and not hear him sing (which they termed ‘tawag sa hilanat’, literally “call of the fever’).

Something I haven’t witnessed, but always heard about (I missed six Christmases in Danao while a student in Manila) was another very popular caroling family – the Villareals led by their mother Citas.

The Villareal children were neatly dressed in nice costumes, six very beautiful young girls, and two boys under seven years old, sang like angels and could all dance gracefully. They said they must have earned much because people tend to be generous, impressed of their fabulous performance.

On Christmas eve my Tatay and Mama would attend the midnight mass or noche buena. Children stayed home because the church was overflowing with people and it was hard to get a seat unless you went early.

Before midnight we would visiting the homes of relatives around the block. There was biko in every house. Biko was made from a special variety of rice (sticky or pilit), brown sugar and coconut milk and flavored with anis. Wherever we went, we were treated with a plate of hot biko until we threw up and swore to God never to eat biko again.

At noche buena kids would be sleeping past midnight. We would wait for our parents to come home from church. As soon as they come home, we would be eating again – another biko and a hot chocoloate drink (sikwate). Probably, my fourth serving of biko that Christmas eve.

Early the following morning we would be awakened by the sound of the tiling-tiling. Pax Te *censored* time. Collection for the church.

Three sacristans going house to house, dressed in red and long white garment, one carryied a tiny figurine of Little Jesus, the other was a bell ringer and the third held the collection box.

As soon as the sacristans got inside the house, we knelt down to kiss the perfumed baby jesus, the young sacristan said ‘pasti*censored*’ and we responded ‘amen.’
My mother would then drop a coin into the collection box.

One week after Christmas would be Bag-ong Tuig – New Year. Danao kids would try to have the most over-sized rebentador or firecracker that could produce the loudest bang on New Year’s eve.

My preference was the bamboo cannon or lantaka. It was a mixture of kerosone and carburo put into a 5-ft bamboo and lighted to produce a loud boom. Too dangerous, some kids lost an eye or severed a hand, yet we went for thrill.

So, what I must have missed was the loud bang on New Year’s eve.


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