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Bus To Tacluban

If the Philippine countryside were tapestry, it would be woven with patterns of water, mountain and sky. The bus from Manila to Tacloban in Leyte, an island in central Philippines, wends through 900 kilometers of this tapestry's lovely design.

The bus rolls out from a crowded terminal where vendors peddle assorted comforters for the 24-hour journey: fans made from palm fronds, menthol candies, bottled liniment. Passengers mill about, tugging children along and lugging cans of biscuit, thermos bottles and other provisions. The bus leaves past noon with an army of friends and relatives in attendance; a warm send-off is part of Filipino tradition.

After only a short drive southward, the city's noise and grime already seem so far away. The silver-grey waters of Laguna Lake glisten in the sun, girded by the blue of distant hills. Soon the legendary Mount Makiling emerges. Its form, resembling that of a reclining woman, gives the landscape a languorous look. Through the centuries, large prosperous towns rich in history and lore have thrived in this mountain's shadow.

By the roadside, bamboo stalls peddle fruits, fresh coconut and lambanog, liquor made from sugar cane and guaranteed to knock out the uninitiated. The bus driver, unable to resist, stops to buy an armload of pineapples.

The countryside gets prettier the farther the bus drives from Manila. Streams weave curly paths through coconut groves. Women in cotton sarong wash clothes by riverbanks. Occasionally, a fire tree in bloom stands out amid the greenery.

Riverline Imprint On Philippine Culture

The people of Jolo, most southwest of the 7,107 islands that comprise the Philippine archipelago, believe that their forbears were towed a shore by a big fish: probably a dolphin. Dolphins abound in the surrounding seas and often figure in stories of survivors from ship disasters who say they rode to terra firma on a dolphin's back.

Philippine waters have often figured in the shaping of Philippine destiny. Rivers, lakes and other waterways have left an unmistakably marine and riverine imprint on much of Philippine culture and way of life.

Maykapal, the Filipino word for God, which means Provider, has of late caught the interest of scholars of Philippine studies. Maykapal derives from kapal, the Malay term for water vessel. Scholars see a link between the Filipino and the Malay usage of the term, Filipino being a branch of Malayo-Polynesian language. Both usages combined may well give the Filipino divinity a new attribution - as Maykapal, Provider of Water Vessel. This is no mere exercise in etymology. Early Filipinos believed that when they die their souls are transported into the sky world by a spirit boat. This ritual artifact recurs in Philippine mythology. A version sculpted in clay gracing the lid of a burial jar was discovered in the Sixties in Manunggul Cave in Palawan Province.

The Longest Christmas

Of the many Philippine festivals, Christmas takes longest to celebrate and works most sweetly on the Filipino heart, soul and senses.

The celebration, rooted in Christianity brought by the Spaniards, is a mix of religious ceremony, native habits and foreign customs.

The Filipino glorifies the blessed event before and beyond December 25 and, at the same time - with folk ritual and joyous pageantry - celebrates himself, the Christian whose veneration harks back to the worship of anitos, the spirits that early Filipinos paid obeisance to.

The story is told that in the 17th century a priest combined Catholic rites with the native thanksgiving offered to the harvest gods. Farmers welcomed the new ritual, which satisfied their chaplain, the old gods and their own love of feasting. Daily Masses held before dawn from December 16 to 24 were followed by a hearty breakfast after which farmers went to their fields.

Truly, a pleasant path to piety. The' practice quickly spread all over the land. The Misa de Gallo named after the cock who crowed with the first peal of church bells, had come to stay.

A Pagan Passion

Filipinos celebrate Holy Week with a pagan passion. On Holy Monday eve, under a sky the color of congealed blood, barefoot men drag a dark-wood image of the Cross-bearing Christ through streets smoky with candle-flame in old Manila's worker-district of Quiapo. Bigger than life, the baroque Black Nazarene crossed the perilous Pacific in a galleon from Spanish Mexico over 200 years ago. Gaunt and wracked with pain, a crown of silver thorns on its brow, it wears purple garments hemmed with gold. Women in purple gowns, with wreaths of vine on their heads, follow the Christ, jostling to kiss its musk scented feet.

Philippine Catholicism disdains the bland, sweet myth of the Nativity - preferring the stronger emotions of the Passion and the Resurrection. Christmas is an American, cultural import, laden with overtones of commerce. Lent is taut, austere, inexorable - satisfying the tragic sense of peasant folk still living close to the cycle of the seasons.

As Wednesday brings down the searing heat of summer the whole earth writhes under the white-hot sky. The warm wind blows scented with withered herbs and ripening grain. The odor of Cuaresma, the old people call it, sniffing the air in anticipation.

Philippine Fiestas/Filipino Fiestas

The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture. Through good times and bad times, the Filipino fiesta must go on. Each city and barrio has at least one local festival of its own, usually on the feast of its patron saint, so that there is always a fiesta going on somewhere in the country. But the biggest and most elaborate festival of all is Christmas, a season celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry the fun-loving Filipino can manage. The Philippine fiesta is a lot more that it seem on the service. It is the tie that binds Filipinos from a region or an area together, a time to reunite with your extended family and you kababayan (countrymen/women.) No mater where you are, your are expected to attend. It is a time to rejoice in friendship, spend all you have, forget the expense, just be happy you can afford to entertain and feed others, if you can.

Below are the major Philippine Fiestas / Filipino Fiestas

 

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