Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Filipino Customs, Culture and Traditions Affecting Christian Faith

Erwin P. Sanchez


                We, Filipinos are rich in customs, culture and traditions.  Most of these customs, culture and traditions are inheritance from our ancestors. Some of them are adopted from the different colonizers of our country which until now, we are bond of celebrating each of these in different part and different time in our country.
            The culture, customs and traditions of the Filipino, shaped their beliefs as their lifestyle. Because of this, the paper was created to provide in one way or another a proper way of celebrating religious festivities. The festivities are basically present to remind Catholics that the love of God is open and all of our sins maybe forgiven if we will try to pray by celebrating the festivities in a proper way. Celebrating religious festival shows our devotion to God the father and because we are sinners we feel as Catholics that we are worthy of asking for mercy so we ask for the intercession of Saints and Angels to intercede for us.
             The paper presents different views of how Filipinos celebrate cultural and religious tradition.

1.      To understand our customs, culture and traditions.
2.      To deepen our understanding of faith through Filipino customs, culture and traditions.
3.      To identify the challenges in living our Catholic faith.

Comparative Review

            Our Catholic Faith was introduced to us by the Spaniards (1521- 1898). The Spaniards taught us Christianity from our pagan dwellings, by putting Christ as the center of our lives, honoring Mary the Virgin Mother of God and Saints through devotions and fiesta celebrations. Since we can never turn back on our culture in gatherings and celebrations, the church allows us to inculturate our Christian faith in our culture. On the other hand, even if we are already Christianized some of us still have superstitious and errors in celebrating religious cultural festivities.
            Since the study focuses on our customs, culture and traditions, we have to discuss about our festivities, in relation to our Catholic faith, site some errors and superstitions and identify challenges in correcting each of the traditional festivities that we have. Here are some of the Traditional festivities that we celebrate yearly: The Black Nazarene (January 9), The Fiesta Del Santo Niño (January 16), Semana Santa (Holy Week), Flores De Mayo (May), All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1&2), Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and Media Noche (New Years Eve).
            The celebrations stated above, are the famous cultural, religious and traditional celebrations through out the year.
The Black Nazarene
            The image of the Black Nazarene was brought in the Philippines by a Spanish priest (J. Nepomuceno, 2010). He was on board a galleon (a Spanish ship used in trade) with the image of Jesus of Nazarene when it was on caught fire. The image burned and thus known as the Black Nazarene. It was celebrated 9th of January, started in early year since it arrived in the country. It was the image of Jesus carrying the cross to Mount Calvary (a place where he was crucified). According to history even the ship where it was on board was burned and sunk, the image only turn into a black color but the image seems to be complete as if nothing changes.
            In 1950, Pope Innocent X, issued a Papal Bull establishing Cofradia de Jesus Nazareno (Phil. Daily Inquirer, 2011). This Papal bull allow or encourages faithful to have a devotion to the Black Nazarene. Today, millions of Filipinos are becoming devotees of this miraculous image of the Black Nazarene. They make pilgrims and join the procession during its Feast day of celebration.
            Millions of devotees of the Black Nazarene were fanatics of this belief that if they touch the image or rob a hankie in the image of the Black Nazarene they will be cured from different illnesses. By belief, some of the devotees of the black Nazarene who are related to the woman who wish to touch the fringe of the cloak of Jesus (Luke 8:40). However, doing this beliefs, they might be at risk in pursuing to get closer in the image of the Black Nazarene. Millions of devotees also gets hurt and some, if not avoided, died in pursuing their erroneous beliefs about the devotion of the black Nazarene.
The Fiesta Del Santo Niño
            The feasts of Santo Niño have different cultural celebrations in different places here in the country. The Etravel Pilipinas Tourism News cited some of the most popular celebrations in honor of Santo Nino: Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo Aklan, Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Binanog Festival in Lambonao, Iloilo City and Sinulog (Kabangkalan Festival) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental and many others (Etravel, 2008).
            The historic event of Feast of Santo Niño is based on April 7, 1521, when a Portuguese navigator, Fernando de Magallanes in his expedition brought with him the image of Santo Niño.  He landed in Cebu on April 14, 1521 and claimed the area in the name of the king of Spain. He gave the image of Santo Niño to Rajah Humabon’s wife, Hara Amihan as a baptismal present. Rajah Humabon and his wife were baptized in a mass held in the shore of Cebu. Hara Amihan was baptized as Queen Juana.  Rajah Humabon was a native chieftain and was Cebu’s ruler at that time (Sinulog, 2011). From this event, the Sinulog Dance revolves, when Hara Amihan dances with the image of Santo Niño in her hand and give people a blessings.        
            The celebration of the feasts of Santo Niño is in honor to the infant Jesus (who uses to be the patron Saint of Cebu City) and known to be celebrated in the month of January. In the Liturgical Calendar, the celebration of the Feast of Santo Niño is on the third Sunday of the month of January.
            According to the Philippine Insider, the Sinulog Festival is rooted from the word “Sulog”, which “the current of Cebu’s Pahina River”. It identifies the historical pagan dance to Christian dance. The natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos already danced Sinulog, but after they are Christianized, they dance Sinulog not with wooden idols but with the image of Santo Niño.
            In celebration of the feast of Santo Niño, is that necessary to put the image of Santo Niño in the head of the devotees or to dance the image of it? The statue of Santo Niño was virtually and literally worship (Bartolo, 2011). Most of the devotees make the image as an object of worship and not a symbol of faith, she added.
            Same in the celebration of the Black Nazarene, were some of devotees have an erroneous thought of celebrating the feast of Santo Niño. Some would go to dance the image of Santo Niño or do sinulog and some are fanatic of touching they head by the image of Santo Niño. They believe that if they do so, they can send away bad spirits and receive more blessings.
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
            The celebration of Holy Week lay upon the last week of Christ’s mortal life. The duration of holy week is from the Palm Sunday and it will last on Easter Sunday. Among the church activities for the Holy Week, includes the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday, the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
            As the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said: “This is the most holy week of the entire year, because we remember how dearly God has loved us, by dying for us” (CBCP, 2008). It is the time we’re going to commemorate Jesus from the celebration of his last Supper up to his resurrection.  Archbishop Lagdameo invited us to be prayerful as we enter into the spirit of Holy Week. He also clarifies that, it is the only time we are going to give life to our spirit through deep reflection and prayers. In everything we do, it must be God Centered always, he said.
            The preparation of the Holy Week is starting from Ash Wednesday, (exactly 40 days before holy week) in which we are going to do abstinence. Today’s generation, some of our brother Christians, instead of doing reflections and repentance of the things they have done wrong, they prefer to go outings and picnics. Worst of this they go for Mountain climbing, which some of them might be at risk.
            Because of these, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines reminded us that even we bond with our families and relatives; “we should not forget to reflect and pray”. As what Imus Bishop Chito Tagle, chairperson of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Doctrine of the Faith, said families who prefer to relax in the provinces must also spend the Lenten Season meaningfully by remembering its true meaning. It’s not bad if they get together, bond and relax. However, prayer should also be considered, he said (Carcamo, 2009).
Flores de Mayo
                According to Ozamiz Achbishop Jesus A. Diosdado, the celebration of Flores De Mayo is a whole month Celebration of flower festival in honor of the Virgin Mary (Talibong, 2009). He said, “Flores” a Spanish term of “flowers” and was known to be the “Flores De Mayo” (Flowers of May). The custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 after the publication of circa 1867 of Fr. Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional Flores De Maria.”   Connection with this, the Catholic Church invited all the faithful to offer flowers to Virgin Mary. In addition, this time also the faithful sent their children to Churches or Chapels for catechism given by the Church workers. In which the children were taught about the doctrine, faith prayers and devotions, especially the devotion to Virgin Mary through praying the Rosary.
             At the end part of the celebration of Flores De Mayo, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was in procession followed by the devotees praying the Holy Rosary and with the Sagalas. The procession was known to be the Santacruzan.
            Santacruzan is a novena procession in honor to St. Helena, the Mother of Constantine the Great to her mythical finding of the cross of Jesus. According to some account of history, the celebration is commemorated in honor of the search of the Holy Cross of Christ on May 3 by Queen Helena and her son (the new converted Imperor at that time) Constantine the Great (Bayani, 2011). Constantine the Great adopted the cross and pledging his faith in Christianity after the battle against the Romans. It was majorly participated by “Sagalas” (Spanish term of young Ladies). This was introduced to us by the Spaniards and later on was became part of our culture and traditions, identified with youth, love and romance.
            Nowadays, the celebration of the Flores De Mayo and Santacruzan was commercialized by others. In some parts of the country, the procession or the Santacruzan was participated by homosexuals as their sagalas and make the celebration as a beauty pageant. In the other hand, some of the local churches used the celebration for fund raising. Because of this, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said the Santacruzan is a religious activity for women (E. Macairan, 2009). In addition, because we Filipinos still have the wrong perception and practice of these activities, Fr. Genaro Diwa of the Ministry for Liturgical Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila called the local churches to teach the faithful of the true meaning and essence of the celebration (Macairan, 2009).
All Saints Day
            The celebration of all Saints day, is the day established by the Catholic Church in honor of all the Saints and Martyrs, known and unknown, through out the Christian history. According to early Church historian, John Beleth, it was originally celebrated on May 13 and transferred or moved to November 1 when Pope Gregory IV asked King Louis the Pious (778-840) to proclaim Nov. 1 as All Saints Day throughout the Holy Roman Empire (Saunders, n.d).
            The celebration of all Saints also known as All Hallows' Day or Hallow mas means the day of Holy. In which, we Christians believes that the Saints and Martyrs are holy even if they are only human.
            In connection with this, Protestant argued why we worship Saints and condemned us of having devotions with the Saints. In response, we Catholics insisted that we worship God alone and Saints are only honored and venerated as humans and blessed by God (Catholic Encyclopedia).
All Souls Day
            Along with the Feasts of All Saints day, the Feast of All Souls day was proclaimed. Nowadays, the Church continues to encourage us to remember and offer prayers for all the faithful departed.  Accordingly, it is helpful for the souls in Purgatory. The Church believes that the souls in Purgatory are not perfectly cleansed from their venial sins and thereby deprived of Beatific Vision (Saunders, n.d).
            The history of the celebration was influenced by the Celtic Paganism (The Celts lived as early as 2,000 years ago in England and other parts of Europe). For them, the souls of the departed return to their earthly homes that evening in the forms of Ghosts, witches, goblins, and elves in order to harm people (Saunders, n.d). However, this might not be true but some of us use these kinds of faith or beliefs.
            In fact, the celebration was rooted and adopted in 1048, when Abbot of Cluny, decreed the Clunaic Monasteries to offer special prayers for all the souls in Purgatory on November 2. Later, the Benedictines and Carthusians adopted the same devotions and soon it was adopted by the entire Catholic Church (Saunders, n.d).
            At present, some of the faithful celebrate this day commercially. Some of the faithful believed that it is a truly pagan practice. In addition, some are fun of celebrating Halloween party in the cemetery and trick-or-treat, wearing some like witches and ghost to treat others.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)
            The word “Noche Buena” is a Spanish term of good night in which, it is a celebration for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, born through the Virgin Mary in a manger. In the Catholic teachings, before celebrating the birth of Jesus, we should prepare ourselves through repentance and reconciliation during the advent season (Bennett, 2009). In which we are opt to forgive people who trespassed against us and ask forgiveness to people where we commit sins. In addition, in preparing to ourselves we are invited to attend Mssa de Gallo.
            For us Filipinos, the best time to celebrate with our loved ones. It is part also of our tradition to go Novena Masses as our preparation for the coming of our savior, Lord Jesus Christ.
            Aside from our family oriented, we Filipino are known as table oriented. We are fun of eating. It is a good behavior for Filipino and shows how joyous we celebrate Christmas. But the implication is that, because of being table oriented, we forget to do the most important thing during Christmas, to go to church and pray and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. In thanksgiving, yes, it is part of our cultural celebration to have mouth-watering dishes on our table. However, it is not the real essence of the celebration.
New Years Eve
            For us Catholic, the celebration of New Year’s Eve is in honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary being a Mother of our God. Thus, in the solemnity of Mary Mother of God, we are not only honoring Mary as a mother of God among all women and give birth to Jesus but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully human and fully God (Bennett, 2009).
            As the year-ends, the Christians and all the people alike excitingly celebrates New Year. Just like Christmas when on the eve of the next year we prepare food, some are going to church to thank the lord and pray for a blessed and prosperous new year to come.
            In addition, some were preparing round shaped- fruits believing that for a continuous blessing to be receive for the New Year. Some beliefs of ours adopted are from the Japaneses and Chinese colonizers. In which, the ways of preparation have nothing to do with the reality.
            There were many ways that superstitious and erroneous belief could affect our Catholic faith. This includes making great noise or having fire works in the belief that it could turn away bad spirits. In fact, as what we have experience or seen on the television, there are a lot of accidents, destroyed properties and in some instances harms and kills not only one l but many lives.