Despite the modernization of present times and the majority of the Filipinos adapting to Western culture, I was dumbfounded to find out that there are still places in the country that practices true Filipino family culture and values. I mean, I should have not been shock, the Philippines, after all, is one of the most diverse countries in the world. We still even have a lot of different native tribes scattered all over the region, still preserving their culture, living their way of life as their elders has lived before them, not succumbing to the changing times, though able to adapt but still holding on to their identity and tradition.
Last May, I was fortunate enough to have joined a friend for a family reunion at their ancestral home deep in the province of Maribojoc, Bohol in Brgy. Busao – yes, I was a gate crasher. It felt great to have experienced first hand what was it like to be part of a true Filipino family. It was like a journey back in time, all of the stories I heard at home and in school about Filipino culture while growing up, about respect, hospitality and all that, I got to live through.
A Culture of Respect
It was almost evening when we arrived at the Namoc residence in Brgy. Busao. The place was surrounded by hills and had a very jungle-like feel because of all the towering trees and the sound of crickets filling the background. The moment we stepped out of the vehicle, we were met by my friend’s cousins and naturally they would give my friend’s mom a ‘Mano-po’ or more fondly called as a “Bless” – taking an elders hand and gently touching their knuckles with the forehead as a sign of respect - its one of the more common Filipino tradition and is very much practice here. In the modern times, this gesture is typically reserved for the Lolo’s and Lola’s (grandma and grandpa) and to the Ninong’s and Ninang’s (godparents). I for one, do bless the hand of my grandparents and my friend’s parents whenever I go visit their place and that’s about it, and so imagine my shock when a teenage girl reached for my hand to say ‘mano po’. I thought she was kidding at first until I looked at my friend and saw him obliged to his other cousins. It was then I realize that the tradition of ‘Blessing’ is not just to show respect to the elderly but to anyone who’s older.
A fifteen year old boy would take his sixteen year old sister’s hand to be blessed whenever she arrives, even an eight year old shows respect to his nine year old cousin, not even adults are spared of this tradition. For the span of my stay in Bohol, every morning and everytime I arrived back at the house, more than just the ‘hi po/hello po’ and the ‘good morning po/good evening po’ which what I normally say, I would instead greet the elders by reaching for their hand just as the young ones would reach for mine. I just wish that habit extended when I got home, but didn’t.
Starting the Day Early – Productivity
The morning after the day of our arrival, I awoke around 6 am. For some reason, I always wake up early whenever I’m on trips just to get ahead of everybody; yet again I was surprise to see that I was the only one left in bed. Everybody has gone down and has been busy cleaning, cooking, packing, any chore that you can find as long as it keeps you busy. I felt embarrass just standing there doing nothing, yet I’m a guest, every time I try to help they would respectfully refuse and offer me food instead, that’s Filipino hospitality for you. Lolo, every now and then would even offer me beer, do I really look like a heavy drinker?
Watching the family being busy so early in the morning brought me back to my childhood days when I got to stay with my grandparents. Every morning I woke up around 7 am then and always find my Lola already sweeping outside the house, she has been to the market earlier, and after seeing me she would stop at anything that she’s doing to prepare my breakfast. Fast forward to how many years and here I am reminiscing the good ol'times.
Religion backed by Faith and Devotion
For the almost three whole days I got to stay with the Namoc’s, one of the things I became fascinated most was their faith in the church and in God. The small children would pride themselves in playing roles in church presentations during festivities, the teenagers serve as sacristans to the priest during mass, and I believe this type of devotion can only be attributed to the elders.
One particular moment that was etched in my mind was when one of my friend’s cousins missed church to be with his friends; he was lightly scolded that evening and as a penalty, was made to attend mass the whole day next day. Three straight masses in one day, and he served as a sacristan the whole day too.
I was glad to have postponed any plans of spending my Sri Lanka Holidays to come to Bohol. It didn’t occur to me that the Namoc’s timed their family reunion during the barangay fiesta and I’m sure you’ve heard about Filipino Fiestas, even back here in my province, some of my friend’s family still practice the tradition of preparing food for the festival and inviting friends over at their home to join the festivities. But that didn’t even came close to what real fiesta meant to the people in Busao. Imagine this, a Carabao (Water Buffalo), three pigs, and I believe there were also goats that had to be sacrificed during the preparation of the feast that was fit for two kings.
Thinking that I was a city boy, they woke me up early at the day of the fiesta just to witness (and document) the slaughtering of the Carabao. Though I’ve already seen my Lolo, a well-known cook in our town, butchered a hundred pigs, it was my time to see a Carabao go down and I also didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I gladly obliged.
Being the guest (of honor??) I had the privilege to be the first to touch the Lechon (Roasted pig) and let’s just say after I finished, my heart palpitated like crazy due to all the crispy-licious skin I consumed. It really felt like a Fiesta that day, paired with the cholesterol-raising, artery-blocking, heart-stopping, but mouth-watering, cant-stop-eating dishes was Red horse beer to calm me down. People came and went until evening; it didn’t matter if they knew you as long as you knew someone that they knew, you are very much welcome to dine. People from other barangays, even from other towns came, yet the food was still plenty, and drinks were free-flowing. Truly, it was an amazing Filipino occasion to witness and be part of and I can't think of a more perfect way to end this wonderful experience.