As the world grows smaller, many of our distinct Filipino traditions are being passed over in favour of adapting to whatever the rest of the world is doing. Regrettably, here are 8 Filipino traditions that are rapidly vanishing!
1 – Merienda
Dating back to the Spanish colonial era, merienda is a snack eaten in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. Like tea for the English, this afternoon meal used to mark a special time to put down responsibilities and commune in the middle of the day.
Foodies have called merienda a vanishing tradition. With the entry of global cuisine, traditional merienda fare like kakanin gets passed over in favour of fast food and gimmicky, newfangled restaurants. On top of that, working hours meant to keep up with clients abroad turn our body clock upside down. If you’re a call center agent on the night shift, for example, you’ll probably still be asleep at 3PM. Today’s demanding pace simply leaves no time to sit down for merienda – unless it happens to be a working break.
2 – Christmas lights
Yes, we’re aware it’s June! I distinctly remember Decembers of old though, where every home on the street would try to outdo one another in terms of lawn and window decorations. (If your home had Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer parked on your roof, it meant your family was loaded.) And Christmas lights shopping was A Big Deal – strings of fairy lights from Divisoria, handmade parols from Las Piñas, visits to Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong.
But the older I got, the less lights and reindeer appeared in the windows, likely due to the rising costs of electricity. Now it seems Christmas lights at home are used sparingly (and mostly only indoors, as decking your home in Christmas lights attract hordes of carolers). Today, Filipinos enjoy Christmas lights in public places instead, and the lights shows at Ayala Triangle and Bonifacio High Street are now the new Big Deal.
3 – Jeepney art
Jeepneys were originally US military jeeps leftover from WWII that were repurposed into public utility vehicles. Since then, they have been an ineradicable part of Filipino culture.
Every inch of a jeepney used to be personalised – the louder and more audacious the design, the better. The body would have paintings or stickers of religious images, pictures of family members, flags of foreign countries or branches of service where the owner previously worked, and characters from Hollywood films and Japanese anime.
However, rising costs mean Filipino jeepney art is fading. CNN prices jeepney customisation at P100,000 – way too much for a jeepney driver who earns only P1,500 a day on average. And with e-jeepneys being pushed in favour of modernisation, Filipino jeepney art might soon fade altogether.
4 – Traditional Filipino games
Only a few years ago, a movie called Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo came out, and while it was pleasantly nostalgic for many adults (and a terrific movie in its own right), it didn’t really bring in the young crowd.
That’s probably because society pushes Western sports and the latest digital offerings on children rather than traditional Filipino games. Traditional Filipino games are still taught in P.E., and kids still play patintero, tumbang preso, sipa, and other laro ng lahi on the streets, particularly in places where technology remains inaccessible. However, in many intramurals and barangay events, Western sports like basketball and volleyball are given more prestige, so children tend to gravitate more towards these sports as they grow up and leave their traditional childhood games behind.
5 – Traditional music
No, OPM is certainly not dead, but traditional Filipino folk music might someday be. Our traditional songs have been around since before the arrival of the Spanish, with the music played on indigenous instruments and lyrics centering on rural life and nature.
However, traditional Filipino folk music has never been popular in a mainstream sense, earlier because of the variety of dialects and later because of Americanisation and the access of global pop culture via television. (Can you say colonial mentality?) Like the laro ng lahi, traditional Filipino folk music is considered to be merely for children – much like our version of nursery rhymes – and is in danger of being forgotten.
6 – Folk dances
Of course, where there’s music, there’s also dance. The Philippines has plenty of traditional folk dances: pre-colonial dances that celebrated harvests, marriage, war, and daily life; Spanish-influenced dances that honored Christianity and European traditions like waltzes, mazurkas, fandangos; Muslim dances from other Malay countries with their elegant arm and finger movements; tribal dances of indigenous tribes; and rural dances like the maglalatik that tell stories of life in the barrios.
As with music and games, Western styles of dancing are favoured over traditional folk dances. While traditional dances are still performed for show, you aren’t likely to see them being danced in the streets for amusement.
7 – Panliligaw
Then, harana. Now…hugot. Romance today seems to be about who can win their beloved’s heart by dropping corny one-liners…or otherwise brook sympathy by bemoaning their binasted state. And contrary to choosing your words with care around your beloved, nothing is sacred to hugot culture: everything from current events to taboo topics can be mined for a line.
While we’re free to love the way we want to love (it’s 2019, guys), there was something to be said about the sincerity of old-school ligaw – harana! Love letters! Paninilbihan and pamamanhikan! – that just isn’t present in the crash, burn, then make a meme out of it scene today.
8 – Indigenous cultures
We could mourn for the loss of our kakanin and jeepney art and Christmas lights – but those who have the most to lose as the Philippines develops socially and economically are our indigenous groups. These are people who have resisted colonisation for centuries, and have hung on to their traditions and customs despite the press of Western influence.
However, today’s rapid expansion and commercialisation of our lands and natural resources are significantly changing the way our indigenous people live, making it harder and harder for their way of living to stay unchanged. The Lumad, for example, are being chased out of their ancestral lands in favour of investors. As it stands, there are only about 110 indigenous groups remaining in the Philippines.
What other local icons you think are in danger of vanishing? Tell us below.