Thursday, November 03, 2005

on thanksgiving in the philippines

ok, sorry about not updating this for a while; midterms and papers have been taking most of my time.

anyway, here's the article i wrote for the november issue of the alam mo ba, due out today.

Filipinos in the Philippines don't really celebrate Thanksgiving in late November like the people in the United States do. Actually, many Filipinos aren't really aware of when Thanksgiving is actually celebrated in the Philippines.

Thanksgiving in the Philippines is celebrated on September 21. There were other dates that were considered to celebrate Thanksgiving before the decision to make it the 21st was made. When Prof. Gabriel Fabella succeeded in changing the day of celebrating Philippine Independence from July 4 to June 12, he also proposed that July 4 become Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines. But that never happened.

The decision to celebrate Thanksgiving on 9/21 came in 1974, when President Marcos declared it a "national thanksgiving day". This was also the anniversary of his declaration of martial law; many think he declared Thanksgiving on this day in an attempt to conceal the repressive character of his dictatorship.

Perhaps it's the fact that it was Marcos who declared the 21st Thanksgiving that not too many people know about it or celebrate it. Nevertheless, Filipinos show thanksgiving all the time through the multitudes of festivals held in different parts of the country throughout the year. Here's a couple of examples:

  • The Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, Panay (3rd weekend of January) is like a Filipino "Mardi Gras"; it celebrates thanksgiving and the anniversary of the sale of Panay island to Malaysian immigrants from the Ati tribespeople.

  • The Carabao Festival (feast of San Isidro) is held on May 15 in the farming towns of San Isidro, Pulilan, and Angono (all north of Manila). A parade is held on this day to give thanks and pay homage to the carabao, "the farmer's best friend."

  • The Hari-Raya Puasa is a thanksgiving feast among the Muslim communities in the Philippines. This commemorates Ramadan--the 29-day Muslim fast--and is a fast-breaking holiday. It is held on the first day of the ninth lunar month in the Muslim calendar (changes every year--this year the fast began on early October).

So even if Filipinos in general don't really know when Thanksgiving is formally celebrated in the Philippines, there are a ton of festivals happening throughout the year that essentially do the job that Thanksgiving does here--all in unique ways.

Besides, around this time of year, Filipinos are already playing Christmas tunes on the radio.

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