Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nothing like Christmas in Iloilo

Christmas Park in Oton

Christmas in the Philippines is a rich mix of cultures and traditions.  From our Spanish ancestry, we got the Misa de Gallo, the Noche Buena and Media Noche, the Belen, and the parol.  The Americans introduced us to Sta. Claus, Christmas tree, candy canes, snow, reindeers, Christmas cards and Christmas carols. 

Filipinos probably observe the longest Christmas season in the world as we have been known to get into the Christmas mood as early as the month of September (the first of the so-called “ber months” or months ending in “ber”) where shopping malls and a number of radio stations play Christmas carols as shoppers start on a spree for the December holidays.

lighted trees in New Lucena
In the province of Iloilo, the tradition of the yuletide season is celebrated and felt in the towns with lots of fun. Ilonggos decorate their houses and even streets with the traditional Christmas symbols to commemorate and give a holiday spirit around the community. Christmas lights are strung and shaped like stars or Christmas trees or in a large variety of other ways.  Homes are adorned with multi-colored star lanterns locally known as parol made from simple materials like bamboo sticks with rice papers, cellophanes or plastic. Others use a more expensive material like ropes or capiz shell.

Janiuay municipal plaza
Many towns have their own ways of showing that it is the holidays. The most popular is creating Christmas parks which had been the forefront for many years as everyone enjoys walking around the park and seeing the different Christmas lights and decorations. It is an amazing local tradition that helps bring much a much needed sense of community to many Ilonggos. Many are happy that some towns were able to afford the Christmas in the Park concept for many years. Ilonggos have been visiting these holiday attractions almost every year and for them, it is more than just a park with decorated trees, it is all about the holiday experience and cherished memories.

The festive lighting of the municipal park of Pototan is a long standing tradition for the last 16 years. Not only known as the leading rice producer in Western Visayas but also the region’s Christmas Capital. The town will celebrate its annual “IWAG Festival of Lights” from the 16th of December till January 2. This longest-running Christmas event in Iloilo draws tremendous community support. Since then, illuminated park trees grew with mounting enthusiasm in the neighboring towns and elsewhere around Iloilo. The celebration is accompanied nightly holiday entertainment and food festival.

Janiuay Municipal Hall
The annual “FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS” of the municipality of Janiuay is celebrated every December 16-31. Park trees are decorated with hundreds of thousands of spectacular animated and stationary holiday lights that twinkle along to Christmas music, illuminating the roadway. This festive yuletide celebration started in 2010.

Belen made of sand in Oton
Christmas belen masterpieces in all shapes, sizes, materials and colors are displayed around the municipal park of Oton, a beautiful and a great way to share the magic and joy of the season with its annual “LIGHT A TREE” program that started in 1999 and opens every December 15-20.

The municipality of Dingle on its 5th year this year will hold the “12 NIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS” where it features the magnificent brightly-lit Christmas Floats parading around the poblacion area where all the lights on the float after dusk are turned on in order to give viewers an unexpected treat. Other activities include the drum, bugle and lyre competition and the inter-provincial fireworks display. Event runs every December 16-30.

The town of Mina has its week-long Christmas event celebration entitled, “Paskwa Halad sa Banwa” that opens every December 14-23. The spirit to serve the community is a core value of the local government of this town which gives all the opportunity to give back to the community through this event which started in 2011. However, in 1994-2010 the town had been celebrating Christmas with series of activities that include street dancing, ceremonial lighting, fireworks display and food fair.

trees with blinking Christmas lights in New Lucena
The Christmas displays, albeit the majority of them have been reused and abused, many still look forward to the creative themes that many of these towns and the city come up with to decorate their trees. Over a period of time, strings of Christmas lights found their way into use in the municipality of New Lucena with their annual “KASADYAHAN SA PASKWA” celebrated every December 16-31 and caps with a countdown and fireworks display on the eve of December 31st.

The agricultural town of Alimodian will also open its Christmas event entitled “PAGHILIUSA PARA KAY KRISTO,” an annual Christmas Festival that started in 2007 and celebrated every December 6-29 as Barangay districts of the area take turns in the nightly holiday showcase featuring the talented people of this town.

Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through many of Iloilo’s spectacle of Christmas lights display where many towns become big-time destinations at Christmas, and a family destination with theme parks, a favorite holiday tradition of so many Ilonggos.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Whole Bunch of Fun for Oton’s Annual Sandiya Festival

In Iloilo, one good way of keeping track of time passing is keeping an eye on which fruits are bursting at the seams on the tables of roadside stalls. And during the month of December, in the southern portion of the province, watermelons start to come into their season.

Watermelon. Everyone loves it. Watermelon had always been well-recognized not only for its healthy properties but most importantly its contribution to the local economy where it is grown.

The Municipal Government of Oton in cooperation with Oton Watermelon Growers Association (OWGA) and East-West Seed annually celebrates its Sandiya (Watermelon) Festival. This year, the event is scheduled on December 5, 2013, 1 p.m. at the Oton Amphitheater Green.

A family event for all ages, the Sandiya Festival celebrates one of Iloilo’s favorite fruits.  The celebration is a great opportunity to not only discover more about this delicious fruit, but have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Each year the Sandiya Festival committee works hard to improve the festival and its activities. The watermelons are always provided from local growers and given to the festival goers for FREE. Most of the favorite festival activities started eight years ago are still continued today which include fruit relays, PINAKA (biggest and heaviest) and fruit carving contests. 

Watermelon is a very popular fruit enjoyed by people all over the world. This spotted, striped and solid green-colored fruit grows on vines on the ground and shares some relationship with cantaloupe and honeydew. It comes with varieties in rind or in flesh colors. Most popular variety is of red or yellow. Watermelons grow in various shapes such as round, oblong or spherical.

Watermelons can quench your thirst as it mostly consists of water. However, it is very rich in nutrients and offers numerous health benefits as well. The nutritional value and health benefits of the fruit are not limited to its flesh, even the seeds and the rind are very good sources of vitamins and minerals.

Watermelon is very popular for its health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants beneficial in preventing some forms of cancer, like, breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in watermelon, protects the genetic material of white blood cells and also prevents oxygen damage in cells which has been found to be linked to the occurrence of cancer in humans.

Many farmers in Oton have discovered watermelon to be usually more profitable to grow than many other crops because the fruit yields high and do not take a long time to grow. The fruits are also well liked by consumers and so the market is big. The East-West Seed, a long time and loyal partner of the municipal government in coming up with this festival has also been largely responsible for the popularity of watermelons as well as melons in Oton today.

Sandiya Festival is a great family-fun event that entertains all ages.  People get into the spirit by participating in competitions.  What is even better is that all of them are free to attend.

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