Holy Week in the Philippines

Good Friday 2017 was on April 14.

Kwaresma is Lent. It is the season when Filipinos remember Christ’s passion (his suffering and death) and resurrection. It starts on Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter Sunday. On this day, you will see Catholic Filipinos returning from church with ash smudged on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.  If you don’t have the mark, you will be asked if you have attended Mass. Continue reading “Holy Week in the Philippines”

New Year’s Eve in the Philippines

Media Noche (Spanish for “midnight”) or Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (“New Year’s Eve” in Tagalog) is a festive time in the Philippines. There are a lot of traditions that Filipinos follow in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year. Many of these customs you may recognize as bearing Chinese influence.


Continue reading “New Year’s Eve in the Philippines”

Christmas Food in the Philippines

Here are a few of the foodstuff and beverages that Filipinos typically enjoy during the holiday season of Pasko.


purple-colored rice treat cooked in upright bamboo tubes

Puto Bumbong on Coconut


flat cake served on banana leaves and topped with a pat of butter and grated coconut

Bibingka on Banana Leaves

Continue reading “Christmas Food in the Philippines”

Noche Buena: Filipino Christmas Eve

Noche Buena derives from the Spanish for “A Good Night.” It is the traditional feast Filipinos partake in after the midnight mass.

Noche Buena: Philippines

Simbang Gabi is Tagalog for “Night Worship” or “Night Mass.” Filipinos attend pre-dawn masses in the nine days before Christmas Eve. It is known as Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Cock / Rooster) in Spanish. Roosters crow very early in the morning, and this season’s masses take place at 4:00 am. Continue reading “Noche Buena: Filipino Christmas Eve”

Filipino Christmas Traditions

Being mostly Catholics, Filipinos start a novena (a series of nine masses) on December 16th. The masses are part of the cherished religious tradition of Simbang Gabi, which literally means “Night Worship.” It’s an accomplishment to attend all nine masses!

Filipinos go to church at four o’clock in the morning and afterward have breakfast together. A traditional drink during this season is a warm ginger tea called salabat and a traditional treat is a flat but thick yellow rice cake called bibingka.


The Tagalog word Pasko derives from the Spanish word Pascua. Although the word Pascua means Easter, Pascua de Navidad refers to Christmas.

The Philippines is known for having the world’s longest Christmas season. The four months that end with the syllable –ber are considered Christmas months, which is why stores and households start playing carols on the first day of September! And the holiday season extends beyond December 31st. It doesn’t end until the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings (Tatlong Hari) which falls around January 6.

If Mexico has piñatas, the Philippines has its parol. Of course, a parol is not something to hit with a stick. It is a Christmas lantern, most commonly in the shape of a five-pointed star. The bamboo or rattan frame is covered with rice paper, tissue or cellophane. Almost every family either builds or buys one to hang by the window or door. Shopping malls construct giant versions of parol. Traditionally, a candle was placed inside for light to shine through; for safety reasons, people now use bulbs or even a flashlight.

Families, schools and other places also display a creche or nativity scene called belen. Christmas trees made of plastic are decorated with lights, tinsel and balls. Continue reading “Filipino Christmas Traditions”

Chinese New Year in the Philippines

Lunar New Year 2017 started on Saturday, January 28

In the Philippines, a Tsinoy is a Filipino of Chinese heritage. It is a combination of “Tsino” meaning Chinese and the slang word “Pinoy” meaning Filipino. (The term Intsik has fallen out of favor.)

There has been a significant Chinese presence in the Philippines even before the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century. Chinese Filipinos currently number close to five million, making up five percent of the Philippine population.

Chinese Filipinos celebrate the Lunar New Year in January or February. The government has designated it a special non-working day.


The food most fondly looked forward to during Chinese New Year in the Philippines is tikoy, a treat made from sticky rice. You can buy it from stores only at this time of the year (January and February) but don’t forget that you have to cook it first before eating!


Red is considered the luckiest color and everyone tries to dress in it and have red things all around. Children expect to receive fresh peso bills inside bright red envelopes on which are written Chinese characters. They are called hong bao in Mandarin or ang pao in Hokkien, the language used by Chinese Filipinos.

Chinese Dragon Dance. Notice how the body is propped up with poles.


There is a parade of dancing lions or a dragon in the Binondo district of Manila (the primary Chinatown) and even in a few other cities in the Philippines where there is a sizable Chinese presence.

Continue reading “Chinese New Year in the Philippines”