Philippine ‘Long Christmas’ survives Typhoons and Covid

The Philippine festive season usually last four months and this year there have been three strong storms, as well as the pandemic. Rebecca Ratcliffe and Carmela Fonbuena in Manila, write about it in the Guardian. November 2020.

The strains of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer echo around a popular shopping mall in Quezon City, Manila. A band of mechanical snowmen, dressed in Santa hats, sway back and forth to the music, as shoppers – socially distanced – browse stacks of baubles and Christmas lights.

In the Philippines, a majority Catholic country, festive preparations are well and truly under way already. The country has one of the longest Christmas periods in the world, with celebrations beginning at the start of September and, for some, lasting as late as Valentine’s Day.

This year festivities will inevitably be different. On top of a ban on gatherings, and restrictions on church attendance, the economic impact of the coronavirus has left millions without work. The country has also faced three strong typhoons over recent weeks, including Vamco, which has killed at least 67 people as well as causing devastating flooding.

Some are torn over whether to put up their decor or “tone down” celebrations given the difficulties facing the country, according to Ambeth Ocampo, a historian and author.

For others the challenges of 2020 make it especially important to celebrate Christmas, even if the usual shopping sprees and parties are not possible. “We are still thankful because our family is complete. As long as we are together we’re OK,” said Nancy Endeno. “Our Christmas tree is up. I’m here to buy additional decorations,” she said, as she haggled with other shoppers at the side street stores selling parols – a traditional, and pricey, Philippine Christmas lantern.Advertisement

Sato Laxa, who runs a shop on Granada street in Manila, sold 10 lanterns on Saturday afternoon. Sales are not as good as previous years but he is happy to be selling at all.

“We started getting buyers in September although we weren’t selling much. Sales have been very good lately,” Laxa said. Shoppers can pay anything from P3,000 (about £47/US$60) to P9,000 for the multi-coloured lanterns.

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