Tag Archives: Philippine traditions

Niños Innocentes

Niños Innocentes is how the Feast of the Holy Innocents is called in the Philippines because of Spanish influence.

Holy Innocents
From Catholic News Agency

As described in Britannica:

Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas or Innocents’ Day, Christian feast in remembrance of the massacre of young children in Bethlehem by King Herod the Great in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). The feast is observed by Western churches on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29. The slain children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. It may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

It was one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nuns and monks were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs, which were thought to mock religion, were condemned by the Council of Basel (1431).

In medieval England children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century.

The day is still observed as a religious feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children. Some churches omit both the Gloria and the Alleluia of the mass in honour of the grieving mothers of Bethlehem, unless the feast falls on a Sunday.

Written by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Many devout Catholics in the Philippines still remember its religious significance. However, there was a time in the Philippines when this day was celebrated as a day of pranks. It was our version of April Fools’ Day. Nowadays, I don’t hear or read about any pranks played on anyone on this day.

I’m ambivalent about this development , that this aspect of our tradition, giving pranks on “innocent” people, is slowly disappearing or has disappeared. I’m one for keeping traditions as they are part of our national identity but I sympathize with victims of pranks. I’m not lamenting that pranking on the Feast of the Holy Innocents is slowly disappearing or has disappeared from our traditions.

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

No Halloween

Traditionally, we don’t celebrate Halloween. We celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1 and and All Souls’ Day on November 2. On All Saints’ Day, we go to the cemetery and visit the tombs of departed relatives or friends , light candles, offer prayers for them and bring flowers . We also go to church or offer masses for the dead.

Photo by Zac Frith on Pexels.com

On All Souls’ Day, we go to church and those who were not able to go to the cemetery the day before do so on this day. There are those who visit the cemetery a few days before or after All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to avoid the large crowds as these days are usually big reunions for families and friends. It’s a celebration for the living.

ASIAN JOURNAL | Simeon G SilverioJr: May Mumu (All Saints Day in the  Philippines)
Asian Journal

Slowly, because of the internet, movies and social media, Halloween has been observed in malls initially, then themes for parties and TV shows and lately in some villages. But even with the concept of Halloween creeping into our tradition, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are still days for remembering our departed loved ones.

However, there were traditions that have been forgotten through the passage of time.

All Saints’ Day, in addition to the visit to the cemetery, which is still observed today, was celebrated with “pangangaluluwa,” very much like caroling. I remember the songs sung then. The more popular one had these lyrics:

Kami po’y kaluluwang tambing

Sa purgatoryo nanggaling

Ang gawa po namin doon

Araw, gabi’y manalangin

Kaluluwa’y dumaratal

Sa tapat ng durungawan

Kampanilya’y tinatangtang

Ginigising ang may bahay

Di ba ninyo natatalos

Na ngayo’y Todos los Santos

Kaluluwa’y lumilibot

At humihingi ng limos

Kung kami po’y lilimusan

Dali-daliin po lamang

At baka kami’y pagsarhan

Ng pinto ng kalangitan

There was another one which was mellower and more melancholic, with a slower tempo.

Kung gabi ng mga kaluluwa

Tayo’y nagdarasal para sa kanila

Hinahandugan ng mga bulaklak

Ipinagdarasal sa magdamag

The song was followed by a greeting “Magandang gabi po!” Or “Nangangaluluwa po.”

My parents also told us kids then the All Saints’ Day tradition in their youth, which already disappeared during our time. But they had mixed reactions, a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of gratitude. It was a night for pranks. There was that neighbor who left clothes in the clothesline overnight and found them at the town plaza the next morning. Then there was a town mate whose chicken in the yard was found hitched in the neighbor’s yard.

This year however will always be remembered as the year that we were not able to celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day as we have traditionally done because of restrictions imposed due to COVID 19. Many were willing to celebrate within the restrictions and went on designated days starting Mid October ,following health protocols but on November 1, super typhoon Rolly (international name Goni) landed and totally killed the celebration of the day for the dead.


The portion on past traditions on All Saints’ Day was a part of the author’s article published in Panorama, The Manila Bulletin Sunday Magazine.