Sadly, it seems that Christmas caroling in the US has been relegated to old-folks homes and shopping malls, but it is alive and well here in the Philippines. From November through January, bands of carolers roam the streets every night. (This is called mamasko, which is basically making "Christmas" into a verb.) Most of them are children with sweet voices and simple noisemakers - a stack of flattened metal bottle caps nailed to a piece of wood - who sing medleys. There are more professional bands that go around too, like groups of men with guitars or larger groups of teenagers with drums and other instruments. After playing for a minute or so, they will stop and then begin saying "maayong pasko... maayong pasko... pasko... pasko..." ("Merry Christmas.. Merry Christmas.." then more pathetically, "Christmas.. Christmas...") until you give them money or hide yourself deeply enough in your house that they eventually go away. If I'm at all visible during the performance, I feel compelled to give them money, but if I'm behind closed doors and can hardly hear them anyway, I usually just stay inside. Otherwise it would be like giving out candy at Halloween every night for a month.
I took a video of a group of younger kids singing their medley on my porch. I can be heard yelling "kanta!" (sing!) to a kid who is just mugging for the camera, thinking I'm taking a photograph instead of a video. It fades out, I give them money in the interim, and then they sing the thank you song.
And here's a photo of an older, more intense group:
And a serious guitar band last year during Christmas:
This also seems like a good place to mention my favorite Pinoy Christmas decorations, which are these awesome stars. It depends on the size and material, but here is the making of one with bamboo and plastic. Then lights are put inside. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures yet of this big green one lit up.
But here are some smaller ones, so you get the idea. They look great in trees!
This will do it for this blog for 2008. I'll be back in January with an update on my trip to Malaysia, which I'm leaving for tonight. Happy holidays to everybody!