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Our Poor Give a Feast By Solomon V. Arnaldo Filipinos are known everywhere for their hospitality.

In this sketch, we get a true picture of a custom that is purely Filipino. Decide from reading this essay if hospitality is ever abused. Judge whether or not we should modify some of our deep rooted traditions. If some people have the impression that in the Philippines the homes of the rich are the exclusive scenes of feast, they are quite mistaken. The fact is that the poor incredibly vie with the rich in giving feasts. What if the occasion be slight, such as the christening or confirmation of a child, or sad, such as death in the family? Our poor are given to merrymaking and feasting. On the slightest pretext, poor family celebrates. And the whole town is invited! Perhaps the bumbong is already heavy with metal intended for the rainy days. Under the bolo it goes! The feast is more important than tomorrow's needs. Or maybe there is no bumbong at all. The family has not enjoyed the sight of a peseta for days. But that would be no hindrance. Does not Mang Pedro, who lives in the next town, have two or three cows, several chickens and pigs, besides plenty of rice and cash? Hallelujah for Mang Pedro! To him, Juan, the padre de familia, speedily repairs and a loan is arrangedof money, rice, chickens, pigs, and perhaps a cow or two. Mang Pedro, they say, is kind and generous. He will exact only a few months' work on his farm for the loan. He may ask Juan's whole family to work for himwomen, children, and all-to lessen the burden for the padre de familia. However, this entire future obligation is nothing to be perturbed about, we shall be told. The feast is only worry. For what would the townspeople say if the family went to church to have its Benjamin christened, with a godfather and a godmother most discriminatingly selected from a hungry well-wishers to greet them and no tables laden with steaming food waiting in the house? That would be simply unthinkable! There must be feast-cost what it may! Therefore, the humble nipa shack makes ready for the big eventthe christening of the the baby. Unsightly holes in the roof and walls are hastily patched up either with old but still serviceable nipa or with strips of tin flattened from discarded empty gasoline or biscuit cans. Ugly slits in the bamboo floor are meticulously repaired. And the whole house, particularly the living roomwhich serves also as the bed room and sometimes as the dining room as wellis given a thorough cleaning with water and Isis leaves. To give it a smooth and shining surface, the floor is passed over several times with green banana leaves, of the butuan variety, wilted in the sun after cutting. Young coconut fronds are fastened on the doors, the windows and on the outside of the walls, to give the house a decidedly festive air. For interior decoration, family pictures, photographs of motion picture stars and of world famous boxers and wrestlers, and colored illustrations from magazines are hung on the sawali partitions with promiscuous abandon. The less space on the walls is left bare the prouder the hosts are, for guests would look askance at blank spaces on the walls. Hence, the riot of pidures and clippings! Multi-colored calendars provide, so it seems, the various motifs of decoration. These are hung on both sides of each window or in corners. Each has a story, we shall be told. That one with the birds was given away by a Chinese merchant on Calle Rosario, who gave

it to a city relative, who in turn gave it as a Christmas present to the family. The other one with the sparkling effect was won in a declaration contest by their oldest child, who, though only nine years old, vanquished the other contestants, who were four or five years older. But why snatch this delectable privilege of telling the story of each almanac from the padre or Madre de familia? To add temporarily to the family is chronically few belongings, chairs are borrowed from more fortunate but friendly neighbors, together with benches, tables, and, perhaps a phonograph, curtains, cushions for the chairs, and some potted plants. Tablecloths, chinaware, silverware, and glassware are also lent by neighbors who will be most of the guests, and when the latter dine with their own plates, forks, and spoons and sit in tier own chairs, the host feels no embarrassment at all for the occasion takes on a communal nature. In the yard a bamboo, trellis, roofed with coconut and banana leaves, is built to shelter a long dining table. White blankets are then hung on four sides to screen the happy feasters who might get embarrassed if their genuine appreciation of the dishes before them were immodestly exposed. To keep the blankets flirting too much with the wind, which, on occasions like this, have a penchant for uncovering things before curious eyes, heavy pieces of stone are hung from their lower corners. An opening in one of the sides of this rectangular bower serves the double purpose of entrance and exit. A few feet from these welcome spot, put door stoves are improvised and a site is located for the roasting of the pig or pigs. We must remember that no feast in the Philippines is complete without a lechon. In fact this national delicacy is the sine qua non of any gathering that has any epicurean pretensions at all. One or two days before the feast, friends and relatives arrive to help with the cooking. How kind of these people! And why not? They can feed themselves while they cook, besides smuggling, through their children, morsels of food to their homes. Then the days of days comes! There is a happy hustle and hustle in the house. Every member of the family is dressed in his best clothes, and the women members, bedecked in all the cheap jewelry they posses, acquire for the day the privilege of being counted among the barrio's "Four Hundred." After putting the finishing touches to the preparations in the house, the dalagas of the family set out early in the morning to invite their woman friends to the festivity. Young ladies in the provincial towns are, as a rule, slow to accept an invitation. They have to be entreated and go to a fiesta. It is generally understood that the more difficult it is to invite a dalaga to a feast, the higher she is in the estimate of the community. A feast is considered particularly successful if one or more of such well-known dalagas are persuaded to attend. The dalagas of the family, as feast ambassadors, thus spend the whole morning going from house to house to extend the personal and verbal invitation. But before they reach home, the whole town is at their heals. The phenomenon is easily explained. The invited young ladies met men friends on the way and ask them to come along too. Such as invitation, even if lightly extended, is readily accepted by the dashing Don Juan's. Considering themselves as having been properly invited, these guests further take the liberty of passing on the invitation to other friends whom they meet on the way or whose houses they happen to pass by. It is a beautiful case of an invitation multiplying itself

indefinitely. The hospitality of common people, we must remember again and again, is unlimited. A host does not think of limiting the number of his guests. To do so would be pardonable in the eyes of the community. In the meantime, let us take a peep into the impromptu dining bower. Instead of seeing the guest seated, we see them standing, huddled together, each hesitating to sit down first. This uncomfortable situation is soon solved by the amiable hostess, who take every guest by the arm and conveys him to a sit. Of course, the most important person to the group is ask to sit at the head of the table. This important personage then says, Let us begin," and at once spoons, knives, and the forks start clanking. Not to be left unnoticed, the hostess flits around the guests, fanning them every so often and urging them to eat much more and still much more. "Don't be ashamed," she urges. "Feel at home. Here, take more of this," These and other such exhortations encourage the feasters. And what dishes are served! There are linagang manok with papaya, adobo, macron, stuffed chicken, and, of course, lechon. For pickles there is the native atchara, and for desserts leche flan, makapuno and haleyang ube. If the "important" personage is a hearty diner, it is very well for the feaster at the table; but if he is abstemious, it is more unfortunate. For the diner regulate their manner of and capacity for eating when the rest are only just beginning! Because the entire barrio has been invited or rather has invited itself to the fiesta, the whole afternoon is not long enough to feed everybody. Feast has to be extended far into the evening. Those who have eaten go home without much ceremony. Was not their "Salamat po," said in unison at the table after eating, sufficient expression of thanks? In the meantime fresh and fresher groups of guest come in. these are serve and are soon gone. Finally, close relatives arrive, some of them bringing empty plates yawning tazones and fambreras. This means further hospitality. The good host is expected to fill these with the choice leftovers. He must apportion these most judiciously or else incur unpleasant remarks from the respectable beggars, He must not lay aside something for himself. He would be branded a miser. To give and give-generously and freely-is the host's happy duty the whole day long. At last, the feast is ended. Morning dawns. The erstwhile scene of extravagant and generosity is now once more the humble nipa shack that barely gets a notice from passersby. Its leaf decoration are wilted, if not entirely gone; its frangible bamboo supports are dangerously tilted to one side. For did they not groan from the weight of the well-fed guests the day before? And on the spot where the feasters made merry only the presence of prowling dogs, cackling hens, extremely busy pigs, and quarreling cats serves to remind one that it was a happy bacchanalian scene the day before. On the bamboo stairs of the house sits the padre de familia, proud and patronizing yesterday, but now reduced to his usual shorts and undershirts, pacifying the cries if the babies that was the object of the festive pilgrimage of the whole town. The baby seems to want the company of the feasters again. In the sala the dalagas of the family are busy wiping and counting the silverware, the chinaware, the glassware and other ware that must be returned to their anxious owners. Finally, in the kitchen the bent figure of the

Madre de familia may be seen fanning the dying embers in the stove in an effort to hasten the roasting of some tuyo for dinner. The feast is ended. So is the moment of make believe. Now once more, there is dire want in the family. In addition, in the downcast expression of one, the padre de familia may be read the sad thought of hard labor that is to be done to pay back what he owes Mang Pedro, his kind benefactor. But no matter. He has given a feast, we shall be reminded. He has fed the whole barrio. Is that not some comfort for the poor man who must labor day in and day out, rain or shine, for the rest of his life? Moreover, the extravagance will probably be the only one in his lifetime. It may never be repeated. Surely, even if poor, He cannot die before he has given a feast. And certainly, we shall be assured, excess if pardonable if committed only once in one's life. After that what matter? Poverty? The poor man has had a sweat, though momentary, experience of plenty, and he will not mind dire poverty during the rest of his days. When hardship become almost unbearable, he will be comforted by the thought that once upon a time he gave lavishly, without regret, and fed the hole barrio within his own Walls.