Feasting in the Philippines

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First thing that I think we need to clear is the relation of the words feast and festival. According to the Oxford dictionary, a feast is “a large meal, typically a celebratory one” while a festival is “a day or period of celebration, typically for religious reasons.” This means that a festival is a subset of feast. Of course the meaning of the words has been altered by history that sometimes in practice the two word’s meanings are interchangeable.

Based on Douglas Harpers Online Etymology dictionary, feast may have came from the words feste (Old French) which means "festival, feast, also festa (Latin), “holidays, feasts.” The term is said to have been first used around 1200.

What we are seeing today as feast is largely from and/or influenced by our colonizers most especially Spain. Year round annual celebrations that are primarily religious can be trace back from our Spanish roots. But in pre-Hispanic times or maybe even today there was a different story of how natives of the Philippines perceived the concept of a feast or feasting.

In the book of Junker (2000) Raiding, Trading, and Feasting she set out to lay details on the function of feasting among the natives of the Philippines. The records range from documentations by Spaniards from the 16th to 17th century. The following are inferences from the texts.

Maintenance of social relations and supremacy. Among the Tausog, Bukidnon, and Bagobo it was an essential tool for reinforcement of elite alliances. Also it established permanent “economic inequalities”. It basically defines who is to be at the top and at lower statuses. Chief and chiefdoms statuses are also preserved by holding such feast.

Life-crisis events. Kin groups normally holds feast on occasions of “birth, …puberty, marriage, illness or death”. In other interpretation feast are held for gratitude of new life, coming of age new relation, healing for illnesses or peaceful and swell departure of a dead family member’s soul.

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