If there is one thing that can be said about Filipinos, it is that they know how to enjoy life. This week we have been able to see many sides of Filipino culture and how they celebrate.
Earlier in the week we were invited to a family birthday party in one of the small barangays (town sections) outside of Manila. The mother of the family came and met us to guide us to the house, she said it was hard to find. After missing our turn and having to make our way through neighborhoods to retrace our mistake, we stopped at a local store on the side of the street to buy some roasted chicken. This type of chicken is what we call huli-huli chicken in Hawaii. It is slowly roasted over hot coals. Instead of being an outdoor pit like you would find in Hawaii, this store was under a cinder block apartment on a busy street, sandwiched in between a brightly lit beauty parlor with hand written price signs taped to the door and a dentist office that had an old yellow neon sign that was flickering on and off. Combined with the overall appearance of peeling paint, layers of dust and pollution, and electrical wires draping dangerously low I was not so sure this would be my choice of dentists. (and maybe on my choice of chicken joints either)
After choosing our chicken, the worker kindly removed it from the sharp yard length skewer, slapped in onto the wood block table and hacked it into bite size pieces ready to eat, we wound through six or seven back roads to their house. We passed large concrete wall covered in graffiti, well lit basketball courts filled with participants, and hundreds of little sari-sari stores out of people’s homes with bright advertisements boasting of the store’s wares. By then I was glad that we had a guide. With no street signs, or any kind of traffic signs for that matter, directions to get here would have been a nightmare!
Their home was on a small, one lane side street with no shoulder and home’s front doors opening right into the traffic—although there was not much traffic just the occasional jeepney. The problem was that because nobody in this neighborhood owns a vehicle, there was no parking space. A real bummer considering Boeing is an SUV! We resorted to pulling as close to the wall of the internet café across the street hoping that the jeepney would be able to pass. We met all the neighbors, ate traditional food with them and of course the small apartment was equipped with its own karaoke machine! We felt so comfortable there, they welcomed us into their little circle as if we had been living two doors down for the past few years—oh, and the chicken was unexpectedly delicious! We even found a similar sketchy chicken joint just around the corner of our house already!
Speaking of Hawaii and food, this week Hiva prepared a traditional Tongan dish, Lu pulu, for us and the sister missionaries--one is a Tongan from Hawaii. The sisters found taro leaves in the open market the other day and we all decided it was time to make some Lu! Delicious! Totally unhealthy, but delicious! We concluded the meal with Pani-popo, an equally delicious and fattening Samoan dish of dinner rolls baked in sweetened coconut milk.
This weekend we went to the ‘Road-shows’ at our Chapel. Years ago an LDS tradition started and the youth of the congregations would put together a road-show, a short play with a moral and a few simple props, and then travel to other nearby congregations to perform it. I remember doing this as a really young kid because Madre was the chronic Young Women’s leader. However, performance wise, the Filipino style road-show blew my expectations of a road-show out of the water!
The church gymnasium was packed with chairs and a good 200 other people standing, there were spot lights, show lights and fake smoke to add to the effects. We watched as several groups put on, not just miniature plays, but full on musicals. The Filipino people are prone to be musically talented and we saw that coming through on the stage. Hip-hop dances and popular pop songs accompanied amazing dance groups; choreographed battle scenes, complete with cardboard armor and real spears, recounted Book of Mormon and Bible stories; soloists sang the history of the Philippines as we watched dancers reenact important parts like Jose Rizal and other revolutions; and of course there was a modern version of the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story where two children of rival families fall in love, almost die in a fire and then are revived to save the community.
On Sunday as we were going to church we passed a long parade (thankfully they were going to opposite direction, because they were not moving very fast and had traffic stopped behind them) of people celebrating the St. Rafael’s catholic church being here in the area. I am not sure where it is exactly, but it is close because we have been hearing fireworks all day. In fact, the firework guy was leading the procession and every 20 feet or so he would stop to light another firework—thus halting the parade traffic more. He was followed by 2 full sized marching bands at either end of the parade, two fully decorated floats—one with a statue of St. Rafael and one with a statue of Mary—they were really colorful and fun to see, but the real braided hair on the statues was kind of creepy, and in between them all were crowds of parishioners carrying their vigil candles in procession. Sadly, we did not have our camera; yeah, we don’t usually take our camera to church, so you will just have to imagine it.
So, yes, the places you will see when you get immersed into the local culture keeps you realizing that the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.