The Deeper Meaning Behind Filipinos' Celebration of New Year


Every year all over the world, peoples are welcoming the coming year in different ways and styles. The Filipinos is a part of it.

But think of these for a second.

Foods are flooding every Filipino home’s table, though many still find themselves eating almost none. Fireworks are bursting in different light colors in the air, while still some folks are just under their homes with lit candles or lamps. Gifts, new clothes, huge amount of money and expensive items wow Filipinos in delight though millions of kids and parents receive almost none. Commercials on televisions try to inspire viewers yet many Overseas Filipino Workers are still unable to be convinced that the spirit of celebration is there. Undeniably, many is excited to face the new year but unknown to many of us, inside hospitals, prisons, camps, remote places, war zones and some homes are people crying, mourning or feeling nothing at all about this celebration.


On the Photos: Foods on the table during 2019 New Year's Eve celebration. These photos are courtesy of my Facebook friends.








When I was a kid, we were asked by our parents to jump with coins inside our pockets. We were used to blow “torotot” or hornpipes and make the loudest noise possible. I remember my father firing this bamboo cannon as if we are to face a big war that coming midnight. We have to wake up at least thirty minutes before midnight so we are all together in celebrating the new year. But during those years, I was like asking and trying to understand what is the real meaning of this celebration? Does it apply to all? Is this really necessary? Would it change or affect the lives of people if they are out watching the bursting fireworks in the sky? Will the big bang change the Philippines for good? There is a lot of question but answers are tricky if not hard to find.


What is this New Year celebration all about?

This year, I decided to do a twist. Months before the new year’s eve, I saved some coins, as many as I could. I collected old and new coins, from the smallest to the largest denominations. I also aimed to saved some bills, of whatever amount it could reach for as long as they are in different colors. And when that time we call “Media Noche” comes, my idea is that they should be laid down nicely in the table. Some says it could bring a bountiful new year, with this money as a sign that more is to come your way. So that idea that maybe having a lot of bills and coins, regardless of how much is the total, may bring in more financial blessings is where I based this activity. But then, there is a second plan or thought behind this.

Our Dining Table on New Year's Eve 2019.
On the right are coins and bills I collected and earned. In the clay pot (with candies on top) are 5, 10 and 25 centavo coins I collected from the streets from 2017 to 2018.

With the coins, I will want to have them in a jar so the moment I need to buy errand stuffs in the nearby sari-sari stores, I will have money to pull out instantly. With the bills, I will just want them to be kept somewhere else so there is something to spend for January. Nothing fancy or superstitious, but all is being done for a purpose with this second plan - just being “praktikal”. Well, like many of you, I shared some of these coins and bills earlier to my “inaanak” and kids singing the Christmas carols. And by the way, I have also collected coins from the streets, pick them up and I came up with this many.


For the Filipino families, being together perhaps is the number one reason why New Year is a big deal for us. 

Days before and days after the New Year’s eve, celebrations is all over the place. For old friends, a bottle or two of vodka, gin, rhum, beer or wine will remind them of the old days - the stupid, crazy and fun highschool and college days. For sweethearts, that walk in the park or stroll inside the malls brings back the memories of friendship and love. For father and son, mom and daughter, kuya and ate, watching TV together in the living room, singing together with the videoke in the terrace, and grilling barbecues in the backyard means a lot - bonding. A visit to their lola and lola of the grandchildren is also a norm. We say “Mano Po” while grabbing the hands of our grandmas and grandpas and leaning them towards our forehead. Holidays in the Philippines is all about meetings, bondings and embracing the moments of being with the family, relatives and friends. This may not be too unique with how the rest of the world celebrates the holidays, but we Filipinos are known to have closer family ties and opportunities like this time of the year is what perfectly defines this kind of beautiful culture.


On the Photos: Family photos while celebrating New Year 2019. Photos are courtesy of my friends and relatives in Facebook.





Those answers, as I grow up, at least for a few of the questions, were little by little given to me. But in one of this old highschool friends gathering, a simple reunion, I was told:


Eighteen (18) years kang hindi nagparamdam pre!
(You didn’t show up for eighteen years classmate!)


Our Simple Reunion: Chris, Alex, Noriel (me), Dennis, Kingsley and Jeff (left to right)
We were so happy in this short but very meaningful reunion. We shared a lot of stories. It took me 18 years to show up with these cool guys. Thank you so much for the warm welcome and for sharing the story of your lives. To all my classmates who were unable to join, there is always a next time and see you soon.

Highschool Classmates Enjoying the Videoke Session with Johnny Walker Liquor

Kingsley (left) just arrived from Canada and we held the event on his home in Taysan, Batangas. Ronald Clar (right), a Mandarin-speaking friend, drove me home after the memorable drinking session.


I was really ashamed of myself for what I’ve done, intentional or not. Although I had explained the reasons, I was greatly reminded that distance, work and sometimes pride can be a barrier to friendships, or to that bonding we Filipinos cherished about. I know I am not the only one who chooses to be far from friends at some point in life, for some deeper reasons. You and plenty of tatay, inay, ate and kuya could be there overseas choosing to celebrate Christmas and New Years with others if not all alone. We tend to choose the lonely days and sacrifices than be with our loved ones because deep inside our hearts, we truly love them. We are working hard so time will come that a New Year is well-celebrated, with enough money to buy foods and stuffs - those things the add joys and laughter to our togetherness.

Our family reunion at Guis-Guis, Sariaya, Quezon, Philippines


Filipinos are born to celebrate, just like the many races that exist in this planet. If we have enough, we want to celebrate occasions with a little lavish. We aim it to be “bongga” giving off the best we could so we can amaze our visitors and friends. In some respect, this is part of the culture and tradition of the Filipinos. In a way, there is nothing wrong with that. We spend out of our efforts. We saved and prepared for it. But in the spirit of love and kindness, being simple is equally great to be observed. Especially for those who do not have enough, what it is to have a slice or two of ham, a loaf of tasty bread, a bottle of Coca-Cola, and hot pot of sopas? Still fresh to my mind, my childhood years is more on lonely Christmas and New Year’s eve for we have almost nothing during those tough times. You know what is it that really means a lot to us when this time of the year comes?

Honestly, it is those moments of being together no matter what food is served in the plate or item is wrapped as a gift.


And if I may add to that:

Loving and sharing are the most wonderful acts that we can always do in the spirit of these celebrations.

Anywhere in the Philippines, all over the world, whatever religion or belief you have, Happy New Year to you. More importantly, may the Almighty Creator bless and guide you and your family. Whether you make it or not to be with your family and friends this new year, always find ways to speak with them - thru chat, call or a visit. That is who we are Filipinos. We care for each other no matter what our life status is.  So true.



On the Video: Fireworks display at the back of my house in the New Year's Eve of 2019




A Message from the Author

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019 po sa inyong lahat!
Atin pong salabungin at harapin ng may hangarin, pagasa at tibay ng loob ang darating na taong 2019. Maging positibo tayo sa ating pananaw. Ano man ang hamon na darating, kakayanin natin ito. Ano man ang biyaya, ito'y ating tanggapin ng buong puso at ibahagi sa kapwa kung may pagkakataon. Lalo pa nating pa-igitingin ang ating pagmamahal sa pamilya at respeto sa kapwa. Pagpupursigi at tiwala sa sarili ang ating gawin upang tayo ay umasenso. Higit sa lahat, ang ating laging pasasalamat at paghingi ng gabay sa atin Panginoong Lumikha.

Noriel Panganiban, author, blogger and founder of ProjectPilipinas.com and Knowriel.com

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