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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.
To spread the gospel, the Spanish friars launched a program to bring the scattered populace under the bells.The parish perimeter was the hearing distance of the bell, the sound of which reputedly kept evil spirits at bay. The fiesta was the magnet that attracted the secluded to life in the settlements. Folks were totally fascinated with the medieval religious plays, the candle-illumined processions, the music and dance, games and exhibits that were standard fare of every fiesta. Least spectacular but most beneficial feast was Sunday. it revolutionized life by providing intervals of the rest from drudgery that stunted mind and spirit. The practice of going to the Mass in one's Sunday best started the evolution of the Filipino attire. There were few who would not abandon their forest clearings. And there were those who failed to adjust to communal life. They would not attend catechumen cal classes or contribute labor to community projects. Unable interact, they remounted to their earlier environment. But even these diehards and misfits attended the fiesta. Typhoons, fires, pestilence and droughts could convert a flourishing settlement into a ghost community. it was so difficult to sustain a settlement that the parish priest kept a census of the cemetery. The day the dead outnumbered the living was an eventful day. It meant that the community had firmed its' foundation. With births, marriages and deaths recorded. Filipinos began to see themselves as historical beings. The towns was the nation in embryo. This explains why the Filipino word of town , bayan, is also the word for nation. The Filipino saw his nation as just an expansion of his hometown.
The Christianization of the Roman Empire underwent a parallel process. Heathens were people who lived in the heath; pagan, was from the Latin pagan us, which originally meant a peasant.; The pivotal points were also the festivities. The early Church replaced heathen divinities with their saints and gradually transformed pagan celebrations into Christian holy days. Natalis In victim, the birthday of the sun held on the winter solstice was transformed into the Nativity of Christ. Eastre, Teutonic goddess of dawn and spring, whose festival was celebrated during the vernal equinox became Easter, Christianity's feast of Christ's resurrection. These two major feasts were based on the European season. Fortunately, when transplanted to the Philippines, -the feasts coincided with ideal local conditions. Christmastide concurred with the most pleasant Philippine weather and, more important, the rice harvest, which made the long and lavish celebration possible. The fields play a vital role in all fiestas. The saying was Cuando no dan los campos, no to han los santos: when the fields yield not, the saints have not. Lent fell during the canicular months of March and April; the oppressive heat set the tone for the fasting and penitential period. Fields were fallow, permitting the people. to conduct Passion plays.
Another happy concurrence was the feast of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers, whose feast day coincided with the coming of the monsoon. He becartle the rain god. San Isidro was ichnographically represented by an ox pulling a plow. Spaniards introduced the carabao and plow to the islands which farmers saw as gifts of their titular saint. No other invention has done more to lighten man's daily work. Civilization starts with the plow, the reason why the Greeks regarded Triptolemus, its inventor, as the founder of Greece. With the plow, the Filipino graduated from subsistence to surplus farmer, releasing other members of the community for other pursuits.
The fiesta is the Filipino's ultimate community expression. It is the community's eternal moment, when the present is collectively experienced now, with the past brought to bear now, and future expectations entertained now. , In short, eternity in an hour.
The fiesta has its detractors, who claim it is a waste-of energy and resources. The energy expended should be channeled to production. The fiesta, however, is not a natural bounty. It is one of the benefits of production. Unproductive communities cannot celebrate fiestas. The fiesta, in fact, is an accurate barometer of progress.
It was a fiesta that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos. People Power was not the work of any single cause oriented group. People arrived in droves representing not only political groups but also their parishes. Many carried the images of their patron saints. There were no political speeches. No violence. No anger. Only prayers. And joy! It was the Filipino affirming his faith in the Filipino. Everyone was a hero. It was the City of God.