Tag Archives: Philippine culture

Pabasa ng Pasion sa New York

Pabása ng Pasyón (Tagalog for “Reading of the Passion“), known simply as Pabása is a Catholic devotion in the Philippines done during Holy Week involving the uninterrupted singing of the Pasyón, an early 16th-century epic poem narrating the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The verses are based on the bible and read/sang every Holy Week. (based on wikipedia)

Pabasa was widely practiced in my hometown when I was growing up. A group of people gathered in one house and read the Pasion (I’m using this spelling as it appears on our Pasiong Mahal) continuously. There was free food so many teenagers and kids joined the Pabasa, but the kids are sent home when it’s late because the Pabasa lasts from afternoon to the next morning. Readers would take turns in chanting. There are different tunes or melodies used in our town. It wasn’t obligatory to change tunes but the slightly faster tune was used when the portion on Resurrection was read. There’s a specific tune for the ARAL (lessons).

In our home, reading chanting was within the family . We read the Pasion all throughout the Lenten Season, not in one sitting or continuously. We tried to synchronize the reading with the days of Lent like when it’s Maundy Thursday, we would be reading the section on Maundy Thursday. We sang/chanted as a family and sometimes by pairs taking turns. It was family bonding as it was a religious experience.

It was also a lesson in old Tagalog because even if the Tagalog we spoke in Quezon is considered deep or uncommon by Metro Manilans we found some old Tagalogs that were new to us which our Lola (grandmother) and parents would explain to us. After all the Pasion was made in the 16th century and language evolved. We kids would sometimes find old Tagalog words funny and sometimes couldn’t control our smiles but our Lola would admonish us by looking at us because we should be reflecting on the Passion of Christ and the lessons from it.

My mother carried the tradition when she joined us, her kids, in Metro Manila when we were already working. We bought the Pasion in the picture, 2001 printing, the old one stayed in our hometown. Unlike the old one which was book bound, this one is paper bound.

My aunt, whose daughter migrated to New York after marrying a New York- based Pinoy, brought the tradition there. She lived in New York with her daughter and her husband for some years and during those years, she was able to gather former townmates who were now residing in New York and New Jersey. The Pabasa was rotated among different houses per year so there was a different hos and venue per year. And I had a lovely surprise when I visited my relatives in the US (when my vacation covered Holy Week) and my aunt brought me to a Pabasa. It was like a scene in our hometown in a different setting, very nostalgic and heartwarming as I saw familiar faces gathered doing an activity that I thought was forgotten by those who left the homeland.

Today the tradition lives on. In the new normal some have Pabasa using new technology and families /friends , regardless of location, are able to reflect on the Passion of Christ together, albeit virtually, though separated by distance.

The Oldest Chinatown In The World


Binondo (Chinese: 岷倫洛區; pinyinMínlúnluò QūPe̍h-ōe-jīBîn-lûn-lo̍h-khi) is a district in Manila and is referred to as the city’s Chinatown. Its influence extends beyond to the places of QuiapoSanta CruzSan Nicolas and Tondo. It is the oldest Chinatown in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement near Intramuros but across the Pasig River for Catholic Chinese, it was positioned so that colonial rulers could keep a close eye on their migrant subjects. It was already a hub of Chinese commerce even before the Spanish colonial period. Binondo is the center of commerce and trade of Manila, where all types of business run by Filipino-Chinese thrive.

Established in by the Spaniards as a settlement near Intramuros but across the Pasig River for Catholic Chinese, it was positioned so that colonial rulers could keep a close eye on their migrant subjects. It was already a hub of Chinese commerce even before the Spanish colonial period. Binondo is the center of commerce and trade of Manila, where all types of business run by Filipino-Chinese thrive. Wikipedia

My friends and I went there for the Lunar New year Celebration in 2018. It was very festive with the traditional dragon dance in the streets and inside establishments like malls .

Food , fruits and plants considered lucky for the year were sold everywhere, in stores and on the streets.

We tried a few restaurants from the list of Binondo’s Great Food Crawl for that year.

There were guided Food Tours (and there still are) which are probably helpful to foreign tourists but we did it on our own as we’re all locals.

We visited a few temples and old Catholic churches.

Binondo Church Facade.jpg

For this year all activities for the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Manila, home to the famous Chinatown district Binondo, are canceled due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Executive Order No. 4 series of 2021 from the city government of Manila states that no dragon dance, street party, stage show, parade or any other similar activity will be held for the celebration of Chinese New Year from February 11 to 12.

Still, hotels and restaurants have prepared for the Chinese New year celebration and have special packages.

Happy New Lunar Year!

How Do You Greet At Noontime?

Photo by Bob Clark on Pexels.com

In the Philippines we say Magandang Tanghali when it’s noontime, literally Good Noon. People say it from around 11:00 am to 12: 55 pm. It’s Good Afternoon starting at 1:00 pm or around that time, no set time is strictly followed.

I searched the internet for a greeting at noontime. It said that after 12:00 noon, the greeting is Good Afternoon or Good Day which is translated as Magandang Araw in Filipino. There is no Good Noon even at 12:00 o’clock sharp. That is in the USA.

I searched Magandang Tanghali in other languages. Nothing came up, just Good Morning which is Magandang Umaga, Good Afternoon which is Magandang Hapon and Good Evening which is Magandang Gabi.

Is Google missing anything or is there really no equivalent in other languages?

It’s probably trivial but it’s a part of our culture that is worth knowing and keeping. Little things make up the whole.

Filipino Naming Traditions and Practices

Naming after Saints

My nephew was born on November 30. And if you are familiar with this traditional naming convention, you’ll know what his name is. His name is Andrew. We also have our hero Andres Bonifacio, whose birthday is being celebrated on this day. Andres is the Spanish equivalent of the English Andrew.

A tradition on naming children is naming them after patron saint of the same day.  Like my nephew named Andrew and our hero Andres Bonifacio were both born on November 30,  the day of  St. Andrew the Apostle.

My classmate in grade school had the same first name as our teacher, same birthdays too.  My oldest sister was born on June 21, she’s named Luisa. She has a former classmate born on the same day, his name is Luis. I had a roommate in college named Marian Luisa, and I asked her when she was born. Expectedly, she was born on June 21. I had an officemate Luisito, and true enough he was born on June 21.

Naming after a patron saint on the day of birth was a common practice in the Philippines. Now it is rarely practiced.

Naming based on the Bible

I had a cousin named Jesus (pronounced in Spanish) but we always called him by his nickname Jessie.  A former president is named Gloria. Our former Vice –President Jejomar Binay’s first name was based on Jesus, Joseph and Mary.   There was a movie director named Ishmael and a current one named Isaac. Kris Aquino’s eldest son is named Joshua. I had classmates named Maria and a nephew named Joseph. An officemate has a daughter named Hannah.

Naming after a parent/parents

Another naming convention is naming the son after the father.  Our former president Benigno Aquino III was named after his father Benigno Aquino Jr. who was named after his father Benigno Aquino Sr.  My uncle named all his three sons after him. They are distinguished from each other through their nicknames.  

Naming after the mother is less common but this is also practiced.  A daughter of Imelda Marcos is named Maria Imelda Josefa  nicknamed Imee.

A derivative of a parent’s name is also used. My brother is nicknamed Ronnie and he has a son named Ronnel. My brother Abner’s only son is named Arben and my brother Henani’s son is named Hernan. An actor Bernard named his son Dranreb which is Bernard spelled in reverse.

Combining the parents’ names is also a practice. Thus, Alfe is from parents Alfredo and Fe.

Giving names with starting letters same as the starting letters of the names of their parents is also common. Thus, the children of Imelda and Nestor have their given names starting with the same starting letter as their names e.g. Irene Nerisse

Naming after Famous Persons

There’s Fr. Socrates Villegas. Our popular world boxing champ Manny Pacquiao has a daughter named Queen Elizabeth. I had a professor named Epictetus. There are many named after famous movie celebrities such as Susan and Vilma.

Naming based on events

Bollywood actor and beauty queen Sushmita Sen was in the Philippines last January 2017 to judge that year’s Miss Universe pageant held in the country. The trip was special for her as Philippines was the country where she won the Miss Universe crown herself in 1994. What made it even more special was her meeting four Filipino girls, courtesy of Jessica Soho of GMA7, who were born in 1994 and named after her.

A GMA News reporter is named John Paul, he’s called JP Soriano, because he was born during Pope John Paul’s visit to the Philippines.

And in the days of Covid, pop.inquirer.net reported that babies were named after it, a feat which trended in social media:

  1. Covid Bryant
  2. Covid Rose
  3. Coviduvidapdap

Uncommon but Interesting

I have a friend whose parents aimed to name the kids such that the first letter of the children’s names spell Everlasting – thus, Edna, Virgilio, Edmond, Ruby, Lani, Arnold. There were only six kids so they were just Everla.

A friend’s three children had names which  all started with Rich e.g. Richard.

The first name of our former senator Heherson Alvarez was from He her son.

Our former senator Joker Arroyo has a brother named Ace.

Senator Saguisag, an activist during his youth has a son named Rebo (for rebolusyon)


Note: You might also like to read Traditional Filipino Family Names