TINGOG KABATAN-ONAN: Fiesta and hospitality

By Carl Ace R. Parilla/Bukidnon News

IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon (Bukidnon News/31 May) Upbeat music, lots of people on the roadside, sweet noise of laughter, and a sight of banderitas hanging along the streets—these and other things woke me up from a pretty slow trip to Brgy. Managok, Malaybalay City.

The whole place depicts a welcoming atmosphere. Homes open up for mamistahay (fiesta-goers) like me. I was with family to visit an aunt and other relatives.

As always, Filipino hospitality is outstanding and at no time is it more evident than at fiesta time.
Fiesta is a time of the year that most Filipinos love. It is a season of thanksgiving. It is a celebration of constant blessings the town folks received all year long. It must be right to say that as people noted to be joyful despite problems, celebrating fiesta is part of being Filipino.
Since when did we start celebrating fiestas?

Some historians claim that fiestas (as in the linguistic origin of the word itself) came along as Spanish conquerors arrived and Christianized a greater extent of the archipelago. But there are also some who argue that the festive spirit of the Filipinos is of pre-Hispanic origin—as evident in the celebration of Tengao and Fagfagto which are rituals among the Ifugaos, Bontocs and Kalingas of Mountain Province.

Fiestas are basically the integration of the existing pre-Hispanic folk rituals and what the Spanish missionaries were trying to impart. It is created in every Christianized town for the attempt to change the “pagan” tradition of honoring local gods into days of remembering the local patron saints through procession and celebration.

This has been a tool to attract the natives to come and visit towns to participate in the celebration, and eventually be Christianized. How the tradition evolved is a long story. One thing is clear: celebration of fiestas has become a proof of our people’s fun-loving and undying hospitable spirit.
When we reached my aunt’s house, food was already served on the table. We were told to attend mass first before taking lunch. Over lunch, I was surprised to see only a few visitors. My aunt said it is typical in Managok, where a big portion of the population is non-Catholics. She added that she intended to invite only a few to avoid overcrowding.

In my mind, I thought if this preference was shared by others. What does it imply to our concept of Filipino hospitality?
I think Filipino hospitality is indefinite. It varies from households, towns, or through time. For example, I have observed that fiestas in barrios are livelier than in cities. Notably, people in barrios welcome random visitors or mamistahay. In cities, it is not the case. They usually allow only invited visitors into their homes. Even so, hospitality in varying degrees still lingers in both situations.
During fiestas some households offer loads of food and drinks ‘til visitors drop. Others are more prudent and offer only food. Others invite only very few visitors, as manageable.
Another thing we observe about hosting fiestas is hoarding of food by some visitors.

I remember, one day in class, our Pharmacology teacher shared about two types of mamistahay.

According to him, they are either the invited or the strangers.

We laughed when he said some strangers bring a bag and pack food from the table. It was funny because most of us have observed this at home, too!

Our teacher then told us that whenever he finds someone packing food, he just let them do it. We were puzzled of sorts because if we allow that, there might be no enough food for other visitors.

Yet, he clarified that when strangers pack fiesta food, it only means they were thinking of those left in their homes.

Our teacher’s point somehow gave us the other side of the picture.

He is right in saying that at least food will not be wasted. Some mamistahay put too much food on their plate than they can chew. So there will be a lot of leftovers. The usual practice of “bring home” food however is done when all expected visitors have finished eating so the host can share portions of what’s left.
This trait of some visitors however does not stop people from opening their homes to strangers and acquaintances alike during fiesta time. I think this is hospitality at work – part of the endearing traits that make a Filipino.

Otherwise, the costly culture of holding fiestas should have died long time ago.
(TINGOG KABATAN-ONAN (formerly Bata’ng Bukidnon) is the sub-section in BUKIDNON VIEWS dedicated to young contributors’ opinion pieces. Carl Ace Rojas Parilla, 20, is a student of veterinary medicine at Central Mindanao University. He hails from Impalutao, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.)