Filipino Birthday Parties: The fun, the fare, the non-stop singing
Birthdays in the Philippines are considered big days. While there are a few who can simply let their birthday pass like any ordinary day, for most of us, it is something special. Or at least something that makes us feel special it’s worth celebrating. It is the day when people remember you (or Facebook reminds them of it), greet you, wish you good things, and make you feel good about yourself. And if you can share the day with them with some celebration as a form of gratitude, then why not do so. What’s one day in a year anyway for some cheers, well wishes and merry-making? At least that’s how most Filipinos think of birthdays.
So how do we Filipinos celebrate birthdays and why do we make such a big fun fuss out of it?
It goes back to when we were kids!
Weeks or even months before our birthday, our dear parents already plan it like pros. Complete with the fare, the invites, the venue, the cake, the balloons, the party hats, the parlor games, the prizes, and of course, the gifts!
(Photo grabbed from homeboundglobal.com)
For those whose family is a bit tight on budget however, the party may not be as grand but the birthday is celebrated nonetheless, in less expensive ways. With just some pancit (stir-fried noodles), cold juice or softdrinks, and some birthday song singing, it is already considered one fun celebration! Pancit, a staple at birthday parties that symbolizes long life (a Chinese influence) is never absent on the party food table. For Filipinos, no matter what age, a birthday is always worth celebrating and a plate of pancit is already enough to call it a celebration.
As we grow older, it becomes customary to treat our family and friends during our birthday. Friends would usually cajole the celebrant for a lunch or dinner treat. Officemates would greet while expressing their wish for some pizza and drinks courtesy of the celebrant, done all in the spirit fun (though they expect you to take it seriously). Even the neighbors are sometimes anticipating for that knock on the door from the celebrant sharing a plate of pancit or any party food.
If you get invited to a birthday party, expect to see a spread of meat-based buffet. Meat and sweets are the order of the day and so if you’re a vegan, you won’t be able to eat much except perhaps some salad (if any). Chicken, beef, pork, rice, pasta, noodles, cakes, pastries, and drinks are the sure thing to be served.
(Photo grabbed from bohol.ph)
Grand parties always have lechon as the main dish. That roasted pig usually with a red apple stuffed in its mouth that guests are all looking forward to partake of – especially the crisp and juicy pork skin roasted to perfection lending any birthday party that festive atmosphere.
And of course the singing! We Filipinos love to sing (performing is in our DNA). A typical Filipino birthday party isn’t complete without the non-stop videoke singing. Expect to be asked to sing your piece with that ingenious music and lyrics machine so better be ready. For Filipinos, it’s perfectly okay to sing out of tune as long as you’re singing your heart out and enjoying it, enough to garner you a high score (yes, that videoke machine gives out scores at the end of a song) and merit another round. Be sure to pass the mic to others though, lest you monopolize the singing to the chagrin of the other guests who are hoping to have their turn in the videoke.
Sometimes, when there really isn’t enough budget for even a box of pizza or a pancit delivery, one can simply joke about making up for it some other time, like a post-birthday treat. It is not a must to throw a party on your birthday but it is considered more fun if you do so especially in a culture where people look forward to it as an opportunity to gather, have a break, and just have a good time celebrating another year added to the celebrant’s life.
(Photo grabbed from euleenbalmes.wordpress.com)
Birthday celebrations are very much a part of the rich Filipino culture. More than it being about our love for partying, gathering, and feasting, it is essentially about our love for life.
And we love to celebrate milestones especially birthdays because to us, a birthday marks another year of overcoming challenges and facing new opportunities in life – we love the sentimentality attached to it as well as the excitement and anticipation. The new dreams to make and fulfill, and another round of gearing up for what life has to offer. It is also essentially our way of thanking God for another year and the people close to us for being part of our journey. Life is meant to be shared and celebrated, and so we love celebrating birthdays.
Gifts are not a must because your mere presence is already appreciated, but bringing one is sure to please the celebrant as we Filipinos enjoy being thought of. You may also bring food in lieu of the usual wrapped gift. We also appreciate that! And sometimes, when there is just an overabundance of food at the party, the celebrant will even pack some for the guests to take home, or what we call pabalot. Now how cool is that?
So if you get invited to a Filipino birthday bash, join in the fun as you are sure to witness the Filipinos’ love for sharing and passion for life. And yes, the food is filling and the singing infectious.
Article by Rizza Singun