Once upon a time (or about 30 years ago), I still dreamt of having a Christmas Panunuluyan in our neighborhood. For three hours, we would close a strip of street in front of my house. In the last house would be the belen. I would provide the costumes.
Mary and Joseph and a doll wrapped in swaddling clothes would go from house to house seeking shelter, and be turned down. If available, they would be accompanied by a tame, uncomplaining horse.
I knew I would have no trouble with the Constantinos and Bitos and Iras and other close friends who lived around us; they would be willing victims. But I’d have to sell the idea to the residents of the apartment next door. The apartment was then run-down and occupied by strangers.
So I invited the strangers to a sumptuous merienda of champorado and tuyo in my house. They agreed to everything I proposed. They even suggested a young girl for the Virgin Mary.
But by week’s end, one of the tenants got evicted by the owner for non-payment. Another day, a woman from another unit came to my house borrowing money and offering her battered jeep as collateral. Husto na! Tama na! my husband said, and so the project got stillborn.
Around this time of the year, the gated subdivisions would be lavishly decorated with skeletons, scarecrows, witches in pointed hats and brooms, lighted jack-o-lanterns, Dracula and Frankenstein. I hated it! We had skeletons and skulls, but the rest was a culture imported straight from America or Europe.
Didn’t we have our own a Pangangaluluwa on All Soul’s Day complete with trick-or-treat? Provincial folk would go from house to house, singing a verse and threatening to steal the chickens and eggs from under the dwellings. The owner never refused to come across with something to take home.
How easy for even a genteel neighborhood to adapt! Save me from lighted pumpkins and Salem witches and Dracula! But then I conceded that maybe they just never heard of those native rituals. It was just a matter of giving a pep talk to some meeting of influential residents. One exclusive subdivision setting its heart to being Filipino could change the country!
“But some of my friends live there!” warned my exasperated husband, my bastion of strength. “Why do you want to embarrass me?”
Embarrass?! And so has gone my Filipiniana campaign. But it’s never too late. I can still write, can’t I?
Here’s an acquaintance list of spirits that can be used to decorate your doors and your fences with.
Aswang: A witch that divides at the waist.
Tikbalang: A half-horse, half-human creature, sometimes horse head with human body, sometimes human head with equine body.
Kapre: Eight-foot tall, dark and hairy creature smoking a big cigar.
Nuno sa punso: Old man, guardian of the termite mound.
These creatures protect the environment by frightening away, or leading astray loggers or miners. They also reward people who care for nature with gifts and treasure.
Have a happy Halloween!