It’s A Fiesta!
It’s a tradition here in Guam, and in the Philippines, and in most majority Roman Catholic countries, at least where the Spaniards had an influence. Yep, the Spaniards get all the blame!
Many years ago, Spain marked certain days to remember particular Catholic saints with celebrations. When Spanish missionaries first arrived in the Western Pacific, specifically the smaller island groups and the Philippines during the mid-1500s, they used the fiesta as a way to teach islanders and Filipinos the Roman Catholic faith. Missionaries would attract the people from the more widespread isolated areas to the villages where churches had been built with the goal of spreading the Catholic faith. Missionaries employed the use of colorful processions and religious dramas to draw villagers from the most far reaches.
Villages and Towns Were Given Names of Saints.
For the most part, almost every village has adopted their own patron saint, and they celebrate that saint on an annual basis. In the old animistic culture, regular ritual offerings were made to placate the gods, and these offerings evolved into the fiestas we know today. In Guam for example, there are 27 villages so there are approximately 27 patron saints and related celebrations spread out over the course of the calendar year. Some smaller villages may have combined with others for practical and or financial considerations, but nonetheless, there is always a fiesta happening somewhere!
According to Roman Catholic scholars, after some three hundred years of Spanish presence in the islands of the western Pacific and the Philippines, most of the pre-Spanish features of the festivals have faded. These fiestas have evolved into Roman Catholic feasts in more of a village and familial nature.
“Come In… You Eat!”
In the Philippines, many fiestas are celebrated with family and friends. Typically though, and especially in Guam, a village fiesta is open to the public and everyone is welcome. I can remember many years ago (on Guam), you might be requested by friends to attend the fiesta offering at their home. You would drive to the village and, because it would be so crowded, you would park blocks away from your target destination and would need to walk the rest of the way. It was not uncommon to be ushered off the street as you passed a family’s home with the offering of food and drink. I remember once, I ate three times before arriving at my original destination. When I finally got there, I also remember declining to eat another bite. But I did accept a cold refreshment or three.
Today, whether you be in the Pacific islands of Micronesia, on Guam or in the Philippines, almost every town and city has a fiesta of its own. And regardless of the time of year, there’s sure to be a fiesta going on somewhere!
Don’t forget the Fina’denne (careful, might be hot!)
Yesterday we travelled to the south of Guam to the village of Talofofo and attended their annual fiesta celebration. It was everything I expected – Red Rice, BBQ ribs and chicken and roast pig (Lechon). There was even a huge ham and large Turkey. Then there were all the local dishes such as pancit, lumpia, keleguen, cooked crab, prepared fish, and my favorite… shrimp patties. Oh, and let’s not forget the “fina’denne!”To me, the fiesta has lost some of its pompous and more elaborate decorations, but the celebration itself hasn’t changed in over 40 years. It’s still all about food, music, fun… and always with plenty to drink. They wouldn’t have it any other way!