Thursday, June 22, 2017

*434. WITH THESE GIFTS, I THEE WED

WEDDINGS ARE MADE OF THESE. A home reception...a spread of dishes... wedding cake...and lots of gifts, complete the wedding celebration. ca. early 1950s.

The tradition of giving gifts to couples united in weddings goes back to pre-colonial times. In many ethnic groups, the practice goes even before the actual wedding rites, as in the case of Pinatubo Negritos who pay dowry to the bride’s family in the form of “bandi”—treasured property in the form of bolos, bows and arrows.

In pre-Hispanic society, after the ceremony presided by a babaylan or a tribal priest/priestess is done, a series of gift-exchanging rituals is undertaken by the man and his family to counter the possible negative responses of the bride. Such instances include her refusal to attend the wedding banquet, or even to go into her new bedroom that she would be sharing with her spouse. The bride then is plodded with gifts of gold, jewelry, rich fabrics and animals to ensure that she will fully cooperate.

Kasalans during the Spanish times were comparatively austere affairs; the giving of gifts was encouraged to help start the couple in their new journey together. The superstitious belief that sharp objects—like knives and needles—were not appropriate as wedding gifts came from the Spaniards. In the more prosperous 1920-30s, weddings became more Westernized and larger in scale. Gift-giving became even more lavish and varied, as shops and stores sprouted along Escolta and Avenida, providing more showcases of gift ideas to sponsors, relatives, and invited guests.

One of the post-wedding highlights for the newlyweds is when they open boxes and boxes of gifts to find the surprises of their lives.  For example, when Juana Arnedo,  got hitched with Felipe Buencamino around 1870, her father, Apalit gobernadorcillo Joaquin Arnedo gifted her and his new husband a grand bale a bato. The mansion was built on over a hectare of lot in Capalangan, near Sulipan, Apalit.

In 1936, after Dr. Jesus Eusebio, noted ophthalmologist  from San Fernando, married Josefina Buyson of Bacolor in fabulous rites at San Guillermo Church, Jesus’ father, Don Andres Eusebio, sent them off to honeymoon in the U.S. via luxury liner Pres. Hoover, and then to Europe, all-expenses paid.

By far, however, the wedding gifts received by Doña Consolacion Singian and Don Jose M.Torres , are incomparable in terms of variety and range, enough to furnish a house. The guest list itself consists of politicos and senators, jurists and patriots, affluent hacenderos and business mavens, and the upper tier of Kapampangan high society. After their nuptials on 28 April 1912 in San Fernando, the bride made an inventory of their gifts that she wrote in her personal journal.

From one of their godfathers, Hon. D. Florentino Torres, Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, they received a complete set of black Vienna chairs with a marble table, a sofa and four chairs. Dna. Ramona Valenzuela de Goyena contributed more pieces of furniture with her gift of  six European chairs for dining.

Japanese-made gifts seemed to be very popular in the early decades of the 20th century as at least 9 guests gave them: D. Joaquín Longos (a very fine Japanese tea service), D. Manuel Gómez (a beautiful Japanese coffee service), Da. Juana vda. de Chuidian ( a pair of elegant and beautiful Japanese earthen jars), Srta. Belen Gómez (a dozen elegant and fine Japanese cups for coffee) , D. Joaquín Zamora, (a pair of capricious lacquered Japanese paintings). D. Vicente Gana ( a complete set of very fine Japanese tea service), D. Joaquín Herrera (elegant Japanese pillows), D. Pío Trinidad ( a pair of beautiful Japanese flowerpots),  and lastly, Fiscal of Pampanga D. Oscar Soriano (very fine and complete Japanese tea service).

The couple also received an astounding six sets of flowerpots with pedestals—led by Pampanga governor, Hon. Dr. Francisco Liongson, and Pampanga judge Hon. Julio Llorente who seemed to have bought the same “pair of elegant flower pots on pedestals” from one store. Curiously, D. José Monroy, Tomas Arguelles and Melecio Aguirre all gave “apple green pedestals with flowerpots”.  Well, at least they were color-coordinated.

Valuable silver--from tableware, coffee service, butter dishes, candy and fruit trays and decanters--were also gifted to the newlyweds. The most impressive was a silver toothpick holder  given by D. Godofredo Rodriguez. Whatever became of these silver gifts that are now antiques?

The practical D. Perfecto Gabriel must be commended for his very native gift—the only one from the bewildering assortment of European, Japanese, American, Chinese thingamajigs. Aside from a pocket watch, he gifted the Torreses an Ilocos blanket.

Today, some things never change when it comes to giving wedding presents.  There are gifts that are functional and practical,  there are many more that are recycled and inutile. The ubiquitous glass punch bowls and sets of glasses are still favorite giveaways, along with rice cookers, flat irons, towels and whistling kettles. That is why couples-to-be now have the derring-do to suggest their desired gift, explicitly written on their wedding invitations: “With all that we have, we’ve been truly blessed/ Your presence and prayers are all that we request./ But if you desire to give nonetheless/Monetary gift is one we suggest.”   With the money received...you may now treat the bride!


Monday, June 12, 2017

*433. TABLEWARE TALK

DINNER IS SERVED, Students of Domestic Arts practice the art of setting a table using china plates, glassware, cutlery and table napkins. Our pre-colonial ancestors had their own ideas of fine dining on their low, wooden table called 'dulang', filling it up with jars, plates, jugs and pots, of all sorts. ca. 1920s.

When the Spanish missionaries came to our islands in the 16th century, they found a low wooden table in practically every native home called “dulang”. It served primarily as a dining table, around which people sat to partake of the food, eaten with bare hands. Tableware was limited to a few wooden spoons, ladles, food and liquid containers. But contact and trading with Asian traders afforded natives to have quite a wide assortment of jugs and jars, plates and pans, bowls and storage containers for both “dulang” and dwelling.

 Old Pampanga homes may still have, in their kitchens, earthenware containers used for cooking or storage. Balanga was a traditional clay pot used for cooking everyday viands, while a curan—that featured a narrower mouth-- was used for cooking rice.

Storage jars of varying sizes include the gusi, a china jar that can contain anywhere from 6 to 8 gantas (1 ganta is a local unit of measure equivalent to ¼ of a cavan); next to it is the guguling, a medium size jar. Another medium size jar for holding water is the marapatayan, which is smaller than a tapayan, that can hold some 11 gallons of liquid. A large China-made jar was called tui-tui, while a lupay was the name for a small, multi-purpose earthenware jar.

 To deter ants from infesting food, the leftover ulam are kept in bowls, then placed on a shallow, water-filled vessels called lampacan. This serves as a sort of a moat, so the ants would not be able to reach the food. When storage cabinets came into use, its four legs were made to stand on lampacans, to provide the same protection.

 Kapampangans ate with gusto using their hands, as ‘cubiertos’ were still many years away from being introduced. Rice was placed on banana leaves spread on the dulang, but plates were also known from trading with the Chinese, Annamese and the Siamese who brought all kinds of pinggan (plates). A large plate was called tapac, and a porcelain plate for mustard was called suic.

 Bowls were perhaps the most common tableware found on the native table. The smallest bowl is called sulyao (sulyo, or silyo), which is perfect for a single-serving of soup. Mangcoc is bigger than a sulyao, same with another larger bowl called lampay (or lampe). A banga is a large, narrow-mouthed pitcher, while a siolan is a small flask. A tampayac is a cruet, that was used for both condiments and for ointments. People drank water from coconut half-shells, or used a communal long-handled dipper to scoop out water from a water-filled jar.

 The Spaniards, and later, the Americans are credited for upgrading our table (and table manners, by Western standards) by introducing fork and spoons, complete silver cutlery, demitasse cups, silver table adornments like toothpick holders, lace napkins, and a bewildering array of plates, saucers, cups and glassware. The legendary reception given by the Apalit Arnedos to the Grand Duke of Russia in 1891—marked with the ostentatious display of fine china, silver and table accoutrements—was a testament as to how refined, how sophisticated we had become.

 But truth be told, it takes very little to please a Kapampangan on the dinner table—remove the silver forks and spoons, take away the fancy bone china, give him a plate of sizzling sisig and unli rice---and he will roll up his sleeves and feast away with his hands, like there’s no tomorrow. As one Kapampangan with a hearty appetite declared—“Asbuk mu at gamat ing kailangan! Mangan tana!” (You need only your mouth and hands. Let's eat!)