As far as I can remember, Thanksgiving Day celebration in the Philippines is conflicting and confusing. It is therefore obvious that many Filipinos do not celebrate it as festive as barrio or town fiestas.
Couple days ago, I asked a dozen Filipino elders if they ever think of September 21st as they celebrate Thanksgiving Day. More than half looked at me perplexed. Four of them told me that it was the day that Martial Law was proclaimed by the deposed president and, by Presidential Decree 577 signed on September 1974, also declared as the National Thanksgiving Day probably to conceal the repressive character of the New Society. One of the twelve even told me that he never celebrated Sept. 21st as a Thanksgiving Day. In fact, when it was proclaimed, he imagined that the deposed president would like all Filipinos to treat him like Mao-tze-tung: the entire country go out to the street with his picture paraded and hailed, along with red buntings and confetti. "Thank God, that didn't happen", he further said. National Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines was obviously political in nature.
Actually, July 4th was the original Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines. It was the day in 1946 when the US government, under the Tydings-McDuffie Law officially recognized the 1935 First Philippine Constitution. It was a thanksgiving for freedom received from foreign rule. When thanksgiving date was moved to Sept. 21st, 4th of July was renamed as the Philippine-American Friendship Day. Unfortunately, the day never became a national thanksgiving celebration. We do celebrate it with street parades, but never as a family festivity.
Anyway, at the church where I grew up, Thanksgiving is a "church family" festival. Church members go out to the community to invite non-church goers. Food committee busied themselves cooking at the back of our church. Decoration committee decorated the church interior with red and green coffee berries naturally lined on their twigs, corn cobs firmly intact on their stalks, hands of ripe bananas, riped guavas, sour sop, star apples, legumes, green and yellow squash and red and white sweet potatoes with vines neatly hanging down the table and sprawling onto the cement floor. More corn cobs and stalks, and banana trees with ripe yellow and red fruits hanging in cluster, standing tall on both corners outside the church. We brushed aside, even church politics, to joyously celebrate (in thanksgiving) all the blessings and fruits of our labor for the year. After church service, many spread colorful mats and blankets on the church yard and we feasted on lechon and fried chicken, pansit and meatballs, Dakan (taro leaves cooked in coconut cream with anchovies), and pechay and adobong string beans. Those who brought food shared what they have. So, we also have dried fish and sardine balls, biko and cassava suman, puto and cassava linusak (cooked cassava mashed with freshly grated coconut and sugar). Most of the church members were farmers; however, no one raised turkey in our barrio, so that probably made us "un-american". But Thanksgiving Day was always the time when the church got more tithes and offerings.
I remember that we always celebrate Thanksgiving in November. Call it American mentality, but I don't care. Our church was a product of zealous effort by early Baptist missionaries from America. But I also remember that when Martial Law moved Thanksgiving to September, the festive celebration waned. Many church members would like to move it back to November, because they felt that there was nothing to celebrate in September, except maimed tongues and bruised psyche. I still remember my father, the pastor, preached on Psalm 136: 3 for everyone not to forget to thank the Lord for His love never fails. He told us, during one lean year, that even though harvest was scarce, there was still so much to be thankful of.
Coming over and celebrating Thanksgiving Day in November always takes me back to those very good old days. Although thoughts are often times marred with secularism, Thanksgiving sale, and enjoyed the televised Macy's Parade rather than a feast on church yard; but at least, we always have a family reunion and a feast on turkey and ham, on rice (sorry, only my grandchildren like mashed potato) and cranberry, and of biko, suman, and leche flan. It wouldn't be a church festivity anymore, but I am glad my family still celebrate it in November along with the rest of America.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Here's a ghazal for you to enjoy. This was published in Pasadena Star News last year and in LA Pinoy Magazine this month.
(An Acrostic in Ghazal)
Table full of food on Thanksgiving Day…
Happy ties renewed on Thanksgiving Day.
All enjoying turkey, ham and cranberry…
Never a bad mood on Thanksgiving Day!
Keeping togetherness as one family…
Shrugging off a feud on Thanksgiving Day!
Grateful for life and love and prosperity…
Instill what is good on Thanksgiving Day.
Value for love, you share for those who’ve not…
Indeed joy is pursued on Thanksgiving Day.
Numerous good deeds to do for others, I say,
Give thanks! Be happy this Thanksgiving Day.
(c) 2007 edmund melig industan
NOTE: Should you want to give a thanksgiving or Christmas present for your friends and loved ones, I would encourage you to give them copies of my book, PRAISING ALL SEASONS LONG: Haiku Verses. Only $9.99 in the US. Available on Amazon.com, comfortpublishing.com/store,vroman's.com, borders.com, barnes&noble.com. Also available online in UK, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, and So. Africa.