How do I Visualize Christmas Season like a Typical Town here in the Philippines?
How do I visualize Christmas Season in the Philippines geographically?
Christmas Season is said to be “the longest” in the Philippines. Though “officially” the season starts in the four weeks of the Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas Day or around last week of November), the secular or sometimes commercial nature of the holidays have extended it beyond its original period.
In the light of this conversation, here is how I visually interpret the Christmas Season in a typical Philippine town:
1. WELCOME ARCH/MOHON (1 September)
September 1 or September usually. The connotation of months ending in “-ber” have become an indicator that the Christmas Season is here. Malls and radio stations start playing Christmas songs. But we’re not yet there. In fact, we’re more than 3 months away from Christmas Day. Kaya papasok pa lang tayo sa arko to which typical towns (especially in the provinces) demarcate the borders (sometimes inaccurately). It is at this time when Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" and Jose Mari Chan's "Christmas in our Hearts" are teasingly played.
|Welcome arches are typical markers of towns.
2. BARRIO/ARRABAL/SUBS (September to November)
This is the long space between September to November. Like the countryside, it is mostly green pastures or residential areas.
|Not much to see in between these times.
3. DISTRITO NG UNDAS (30 October to 2 November)
This is betwen 30 October to 2 November or “Undas Season.” It’s pretty close to the town/city proper but still a bit within the barrio/arrabal/subs area. Described as a large cemetery full of commercial establishments of floral arrangements and tombstone makers. Another fact that in Philippine reducciones, cemeteries later in the Spanish colonial era were relocated outside of the poblacion due to sanitary reasons. In the early days, cemeteries and crypts were near or within the church premises.
|The time of the year when the living visits the dead, or the spirits of the dead is believed to visit the living. Passing through Undas District is said to be either an "inter-dimensional reunion" or sulking up with horror stories.
4. POBLACION/DOWNTOWN PASKO (Advent)
This is where Christmas Season starts, four Sundays before Christmas. It is known as the Advent or “adbiyento” in which Western Christianity traditionally prepares for the coming of Christmas season. In Catholic Churches, we know it’s Advent when the Advent Crown is displayed and lit up during Mass. Poblaciones also remind me of the “taga-loob” concept of Filipino society during the Spanish occupation.
|Now this is Christmas. By the time the Advent crowns are displayed and lit, that's the time where the "Christmas Season" starts. In other words, welcome to Poblacion Pasko!
5. DOWNTOWN/PALENGKE AREA (Simbang Gabi Days)
This is how I describe the 9 mornings leading to Christmas Day. It is also known as “Simbang Gabi/Misa del Gallo days,” it starts from the 16th of December towards Christmas Eve. The morning/evening Mass reminds me of Novena Mass somehow, since it is 9 succeeding days. It is also the time when Christmas rush of parties, Noche Buena, Divisoria shopping raids, among others occur. Madedescribe natin na matrapik at very busy ang panahon na ito.
|Commercial districts may be described as the downtown area of Pasko. It's busy. It's buzzing and a lot of things going on between 16 December to 24 December--a time of Simbang Gabi.
6. PLAZA COMPLEX (Christmas Eve and Day)
This is the center of the city/town, where you can find the plaza, the municipio or city hall, and the church. Reminiscent of the reducciones, plaza complexes in the Philippines are the beating hearts of the old towns. It is the center of administration, religious exercises, and entertainment as suggested in the Leyes de las Indias of the Spaniards. This is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in this journey—the center of the season itself.
7. BAYWALK / ESPLANADE/ PARK (26 December to 29 December)
This is the interregnum part. Yung pagitan ng Christmas at New Year. At this point, most workers are like “a walk in a park.” Much of the Christmas rush has died down at this point. This is more of the chillax days. For others, “purgatoryo," since some of the people still work on these times but their minds are somewhere else. The Dreaming perhaps?
|It is either a walk in a park or purgatory for this time of the year. Some are working at this time but the mind is somewhere else.
8. LUNETA (30 December)
Sabi nga nila, di kumpleto ang isang bayan without a monument to Jose Rizal. This is December 30. It is the time of commemorating the martyrdom of Rizal.
|Luneta or a park with a monument for Rizal for 30th December.
9. AIRPORT/PORT/BUS TERMINAL (31 December and 1 January)
Like the busy halls of these transit points, this marks the transition towards a new year. Departing from Bayan ng Pasko to a new year. This is New Year’s Eve and Day.
|A transition to a new beginning, as we depart the downtown of Pasko Bayan to a new year.
10. POBLACION MARKER / THANK YOU COME AGAIN ARCH (Epiphany / Tatlong Hari)
Depending on how strict is your interpretation of Christmas Season, for most of Catholics, the Three Kings or Epiphany marks the end of Christmas season.
|The opposite of a welcome arch is always "Thank You Come Again." :D
However, the celebration or festive mood continues somewhere else:
11. BAYAN NG QUIAPO (9 January)
A pilgrimage town, this is 9 January for Manileños and the devotees of the Nazareno. A Basilica Minore and a historical plaza is located in this neighboring town.
|The "neighboring town" of Quiapo during the height of its celebration.
12. FIESTA ISLANDS (3rd and 4th Weekends of January)
The 3rd and 4th weekends of January is known for its revelry to the feast of Santo Niño—from Cebu, Panay, Manila and all throughout. Street parties are a trend here in these islands. The towns and cities of these islands just go merry.
|The neighboring outlying Fiesta Islands is known for celebrating on the streets with fervor and gusto.
13. PROBINSYA MOHON / BARRIOS OUTSIDE THE TOWN (2 February)
It ends in the Purification of Mary, or Candelaria Season. To some Catholics, this ends up the Christmas season. We leave the Bayan of Pasko once again.
|Nasa labas na ng Panahon ng Pasko. Dito nagtatapos ang paglalakbay sa Bayan ng Pasko.
However, one may ask why visualize it as a typical Philippine town that was established during the reducciones? The concept of Christmas came in when the Spaniards conquered the islands. They brought in Catholic faith along with urban planning policy in a bid to control the islands along with its mission of evangelization (and conquest). These colonial legacies would then become part of the very complex identity that makes up the Filipino nation.
Like the imagination that I have in interpreting the temporal nature of a Christmas season into a spatial visualization of a typical Filipino town, it is reflective of the society that I have grown up with. It may be contested depending on nature or even the background of the one who writes, as David Harvey (1990) mentioned in his article "Between Space and Time." However, since this is not an academic journal paper, I won't go deeper into it. 😁
Balik na lang para sa susunod na kabanata. For now, ADVANCED Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat! 😁