Wednesday, December 25, 2013


BOOM-TARAT! Children make noise during the holiday season with a "kanyun kwayan", a cannon made from a sturdy bamboo post, fueled with calcum carbide and lit with kerosene to welcome the season with a bang. Photo from 1934.

Pasku na! For Christian Kapampangans, no other holiday has more meaning and merriment than the Christmas season. We usher it in with the traditional trappings of the holidays—lavish decorations with our colorful “parols”as outdoor centerpieces, noche buena fare consisting of the best in Kapampangan cuisine, generous aguinaldos and regalos in envelopes and wrapped boxes.

But the loudest welcome perhaps, comes from the sounds of Christmas that we produce—from the soaring voices of street carollers, the strains of commercial holiday songs blaring from the radio, to the burst of bamboo cannons and “turutut” (paper horns) that punctuate our New Year.

As soon as the “-ber”months come in, mood-setting music filled the air through familiar Christmas carols. As we didn’t have local carols, we took to singing traditional and popular carols from the West—O Holy Night, Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. There were a few Pilipino carols available, but we sang them with gusto anyway—led by “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit”, a carol composed by Levi Celerio, based on the lyrics written in 1933 by poet Vicente Rubi.

Today, of course, we have a whole range of Kapampangan carols to choose from, courtesy of Mr. Marco Nepomuceno of Historic Camalig Restaurant, who, in 2005, produced the first-ever Kapampangan Christmas CD album, “A Camalig Christmas”, featuring both Kapampangan originals as well as local adaptations of all-time favorite carols, as performed by Jimming Bini and the Starlicks. “Joy to the World” became “Alang Kapupusang Ligaya”, while “Pasku Na” borrows the tune of “Jingle Bells”. Even “Angels We Have Heard on High”, of French origin, has been Kapampanganized into “Dios A Pekamatas”.

 For its part, Holy Angel University sponsored a competition of original carol competition in 2005, and the entries were compiled in a CD album entitled “The Kapampangan Christmas Album”. Performed by the HAU Chorale and Elementary Choir, the album features selections like “Pasku na, Magsadya Ta Na”, “Parul”, “Ing Panalangin Ku Ngening Pasku, “King Paskung Daratang”, and “Pascua N’Indispu”. 

Slowly, but surely, these new carols with traditional feel are finding their way into the repertoire of carolling groups. Carollers on the streets, armed with tansan (soda tin caps) tambourines and tin cans, systematically moved from house to house, in the hopes of making a few pesos in exchange for a Christmas carol or two.

Neighborhood competition among carollers was intense; talented carollers were rewarded with a peso or more, while bad ones were completely ignored. Carollers met with such reception would have the last retort, however, by chiding the residents with “Tenk you, Tenk you, ang babarat ninyo, tenk you!” (Thank you, for being so stingy).

Competing alongside carolling groups are the Drum & Bugle Corps from different barangays. In my place alone, Mabalacat, we have been regaled since the 60s by such musical bands as the San Francisco, Poblacion and San Joaquin Drum & Bugle Corps, with their lively, marching band re-arrangements of familiar Christmas songs.

The sounds of the holidays permeate the atmosphere till the days leading to the New Year, when joyful noise takes over –generated by “kalburo”-fed kanyun kwayan (bamboo cannons), turutut , matraca ( wooden noisemakers) and booming firecrackers of the most noisome variety—watusi, kwitis, perminanti, trayanggulu, Judas Belt, Sawa, SuperLolo, Lolo Thunder, Macarena, Marimar, and of late, My Husband’s Lover, Yolanda and Napoles.

For most Kapampangans, Christmas is not only the merriest, but also the noisiest and loudest—to give vent to our overflowing feelings of mirth and joy at the coming of the King of Kings--singing, shouting, yes, even screaming in our trademark over-the-top way—“munta ka Bunduk Arayat, at gulisak mu I Hesus, mibait ne”. (Go to the top of Mount Arayat, and scream out that Jesus is born!)

Masayang Pasku at Mainge a Bayung Banwa!!

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