Last week, our town celebrated it’s town fiesta. Fiestas are always big things here in the Philippines. They are colorful, delightful and happy events as per expectation. And yes, what is a feast anyway if it will not be so. The fiesta and being Filipino is so intricately woven. It is a core in our culture. Fiestas are also often times associated with extravagance and grandeur that it is placed on a platter for critics to pick on. There’s even what some have coined as a Filipino bad habit; the fiesta mentality. Fiesta mentality of Filipinos they say is much like the “one-day millionaire’ mentality. We celebrate extravagantly and feast like Kings for a day, only to be scarce and buried in debt the days after.
Is fiesta and being Filipino a bad combination? Is it a waste of money and a waste of time? It is just a spectacle for tourists?There’s always two sides to a coin. I’ve turned the coin. Here are my afterthoughts to a fiesta and being Filipino in the past few days of celebration, particularly on two aspects most people criticize about it.
- Fiesta is a time for thanksgiving; not boasting.
Fiestas are first and foremost celebrated in relation to a Patron/ess revered by the town. It can be a Saint, for our town, it is Mary, the mother of Christ. We celebrate the feast of the Lady of Light on the same day, Catholics celebrate her birthday. It is a day of thanksgiving for ll the blessings we have received fro our Patron/ess. Hence, we have a novena nine days before the big day. We hear Mass, we offer prayers and light candles devoutly.
As we celebrate the blessings, we also share it to others. Hence, we prepare a feast. Big or small. Mostly, big! The food may be extravagant. They are not everyone’s daily staple. The dishes and silverware that had been kept aside are brought out for use. The houses cleaned and decorated. Why not? People are coming. We take a bath, fix ourselves and dress up when we meet people right? We put our best foot forward. Normal!
On the flip-side, some may have had the urge to exaggerate. Their preparation has been more than what they can afford? They may have tried to “keep-up wit the Jones”. They wanted a social media post appropriate image. Is that a Filipino fault? It’s human nature. we see it everywhere. We see it on social media everyday!
In the very essence, we Filipinos celebrate fiestas to express our gratitude for having been blessed. Fiesta and being Filipinos mean being grateful. The extravagant color and celebration is to make it joyful. You cannot be grateful and not show happiness. You can’t be thankful and be sad. We are not boasting. Yes, we elevate ourselves to express the joy. it is not to crown ourselves.
My daughter has had her first take on house-hopping this fiesta. I had her dip herself in the culture of hospitality that is signature to us Filipino. To her, it was simply an adventure to take.
2. The Perya Culture
Literally translated, perya is funfair. Tagalog.com defines a perya is a location or event to which people go to enjoy a variety of fairground activities, such as amusement rides, carnival games, and shows. Mostly, a perya is erected durig fiestas for amusement pursposes. Most games in the perya is actually a betting game. hence, many dislike the perya culture.
I hardly go to a peryahan, not because, I think it as bad amusement. I just stay away from possibly squandering my money…lol! Seriously, I grew up with very little perya adventures. so, I hadn’t developed fondness for it. what I have always liked about my little perya adventures though, are rides!!! And luckily, there were three rides this year for my daughter to enjoy. But, she just tried out one.
I also allowed her to take chances on the betting game. Yeah…I hear you loud and clear! And yes, I am the permissive mom! The perya doesn’t happen everyday. I chose to let her live that moment. I gave a specific budget for the night fun. She takes the chance. She gets lucky, she wins, she has additional money to use for other games. She even told me her 25 pesos went a long way allowing her to play more than it’s actual worth. And that was the purpose of visiting the perya, to get amused and have fun in a usually quiet town.
I would have loved it better if there were more games in the perya besides betting games. Those kind of non-betting games may not really earn as much though. Or if the rides open a little bit earlier, so that more younger crowds can enjoy it too.
I understand gambling is not good. But we all know too that life is the biggest gamble. and everything or anything in excess can be bad. Everything and anything in moderation will not hurt us. I tried my best to explain to my daughter why we have to set a fixed amount for playing/betting. I tried to tell her the consequences of addiction to the thrill of winning by luck. But as these things don’t common in a small quiet town very frequently, we can live the moment, be grateful and enjoy.
And well, just us having fun…
Fiestas are wonderful. It is even more wonderful if you’re Filipino. There’s lechon!!!
Kidding aside, fiestas are great reminders that there is a power Supreme over us, who watches us, guides and blesses us. We have to be grateful for that. It is a good time to feel blessed and hence, bless others by sharing food. Extravagant meal…maybe…as long as there is food. Filipino life can’t be without food!!! And yeah, the betting games can be a breeding ground for gamblers; but who isn’t walking this life without a gamble. From the other side of the coin, it’s risking and living at the moment.
There’s always two sides to a coin. Instead of bickering on our capricious tradition; let’s see it from a positive lens. We are not perfect but there’s a good in our tradition and values.