As an OFW, I'd been asked by people on "what I missed most from the Philippines?" And I always answer them, "it's the FIESTA", and with a smile I close my eyes and let my mind drift into the images of colorful banderitas, carrozas, marching bands and a surfeit of food.
A fiesta symbolizes our unique faith and identity as global Filipinos. OFWs across the world plan their holidays in conjunction with their town fiesta schedule or the Flores de Mayo festival.
Fiesta is a “cultural anchor,” helping us define our national character. Most of us, Filipino Migrant Workers, renew our identity and sense of belonging to a home and familial village during these occasions.
Town fiestas like the Santacruzan or Flores de Mayo are rich and colorful cultural events that represent not only the largely Catholic population of our country. They are also national traditional occasions that fill the hearts of every Filipino with new hope amid the economic uncertainties and political upheavals in our country. Beneath the innocent smile of each Filipino is a resilient spirit that enables us to weather the worst economic and social conditions - because hope is founded in our faith, in our religion and in our hearts.
However, fiesta has its own critics as many have noted the extravagance and lavishness in the celebration. At one time, Sen. Raul Manglapus tried to outlaw fiestas as "social evil", but as expectedly, the proposed legislation did not gather support from his colleagues in the Senate.
Some people really have a short memory of our national history. In 1986, it was a fiesta that brought down a dictatorship. During the People Power at ESDA, people arrived in groups representing not only political groups but also their parishes and their religious beliefs. Many carried religious images of the Santo Nino and Blessed Virgin Mary - there were no political speeches, no violence and no anger. The air was filled with prayers and joy - it was a festival of faith where everyone became a hero.
Resilient and optimistic in the face of adversity, the Filipinos are spontaneous and convivial in our celebration of life and thanksgiving for nature as best exemplified in town fiestas which provides a general venue for our Filipino culture, faith and expressions.
As we and our families look forward to the May festivities in our respective town and provinces, let us take the celebration as a two-pronged challenge. One, may we be united in our faith and race and remember that fiesta is celebration of the community, among the Family of God, the Church and for Filipino people; and two, let us observe the fiesta celebration with creativity and frugality (the best things in life need not be the costliest).
"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." (Psalm 105:1)