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The Rights Of May

In the infancy of the human race, man developed a complicated pattern of ceremonials to ensure a bountiful harvest. Time has eroded the basic rituals but so deeply engrained is their meaning, which is universal, that portions have survived to this day and become part of religious. observances.

In the Philippines, harvest festivals and fertility rites abound, reenacted in a local habitation under different names. The summer month of May is a favorite, when flowers bloom for the last time and droplets of rain presage the arrival of the monsoons and the growth of new vegetation.

The town of Obando in Bulacan celebrates its noisy three-day fiesta in May It is known far and wide and has . been an honored institution since 4 Spanish times

The annual rites consists of day long dancing - and singing - by barren couples desperate to have children. Driven out of the church by stem edicts early in this century, the Obando dancers spilled into the streets and into every available space in the town.

Manila’s Amazing Jeepneys

Meant as a temporary answer to post-Liberation Manila's transport crisis in the mid-1940s, the public utility jeepney (PUJ) continues to confound critics with its swaggering staying power. Periodic attempts by lawmakers to phase it out as a traffic and ecological hazard since the Sixties have been just that. Besides, how does one bump off a landmark widely hailed as Symbol of Filipino Ingenuity?

What the Filipino did four decades ago to tons of G.I. jeeps his U.S. Liberators left behind is a revelation of national character. Finding the original body too square, too bare, for his Latin-Asian taste, he transformed the vehicle into a cozy twin-benched minibus, and much else: a surreal carriage out of some Arabian Nights fairground. He called it jeepney, a word now in the international lexicon, a phenomenon uniquely Filipino but for its engine block and chassis, and thereby hangs a Third World tale. That much of it is handcrafted - and that no two PUJs are ever alike - should be welcome news to those who deplore mass cloning in today's high tech.

The Filipinos Ultimate Community Expressions

In his City of God, St. Augustine conceived of a state as a community of beings bound together by the things they love. What it's citizenry cherish determines it's national characters . The fiesta is the most beloved institution in the Philippines, the microcosm of everything the Filipino hold dear. What does this tell us of the Filipino? The answer lies in the summary of the fiesta's part in his formation.

At the time of the Spanish conquest, there were few barangay, or clan groups in the islands, Cebu. manila and Vigan had barangay of 2,000 families. Clan groups consisted of 30 to 100 family units . The great majority of the archipelago's half a million population lived solitarily in the wilderness. Primitive life was anything but idyllic. The concept of the noble savage had no factual basis. Arcadia was supposed to be a place of sylvan simplicity and happiness. But it's god Pan was depicted with the horns, ears and legs of a goat because it's bestiality dominated his being. Pan's etymological contribution is panic because every sound heard at night was cause for alarm and ascribed to him. The cock became the universal sun-bird because it's crow her-laded the dawn , making monsters and evil spirits vanish. To this day, when a Filipino knocks at a door, he announces his presence by saying. Tao po! It's a person! it is a linguistic throwback to his primitive past. What he means is that he is not a monster or malevolent spirit.

Sagada’s Little Secret

When one has become particularly weary of the city's trivial frenzy - that is the perfect time to take refuge in Sagada.

It has to be at that time when one feels that he has spent his life in unimportant exertions: an endless getting in and out of motor vehicles, in and out of elevators, up and down escalators, in and out of the office, in and out of the supermarket. And so on.

And it has to be a time when one has gotten especially frustrated at seeing no more than snippets of the sky, one's fuller view of it blocked by those towers of concrete and steel that would, for all their arrogance, look pitifully ugly and puny beside the primitive majesty of any old mountain.

Now, then: anyone who begins I to take it personally against city j buildings is ripe for Sagada. There, one may, if one deserves it, discover a little secret.

The way to deserve it - or at least to appreciate the place better - is to go there through a difficult route. Fortunately, unless one has a private plane or a chopper, there is no easy route.

The Two Faces Of January

January was named for the Roman god Janus who has two faces - one in front, the other behind - and can thus come to stand for beginnings and endings or the confluence of opposing elements.

The Philippines fiesta calendar, true to Roman lore and popular idiom, starts off with two faces, two masks of ritual: one for the Feast of the Black Nazarene the other for the Ati-Atihan. Each by itself is a compelling spectacle of folk celebration; viewed together, they reflect the striking contrast in the Filipino psyche.

The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held in Quiapo, the brave and battered heart of powster Manila. Quiapo is the main artery where there is a massive traffic jam daily: where the din of vendors mingles with the noise of horns and metal rock blaring from record shops; where Manila's working class scrambles for a ride. Quiapo is the historic Plaza Miranda, the center where the promises of old time politics hang suspended, and where younger voices of protest have mobilized people to a cause.

 

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