Come to us for a pig-out!
by Ronnie Hoyle
FRIENDSHIP – and particularly family loyalty – goes back hundreds, if
not thousands, of years on Bohol. It is best known to the rest of the
world from the time the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the island for the
first time in the 1500’s and came into contact with the already-existing
feasts and fiestas in the community.
Historically, the friendliness of Bo-ol goes back even further, to the
beginnings of life on the island and which fostered existence itself –
the ability to share in times of feast and famine.
Hunters and gatherers by nature, the islanders shared out their food
among other members of the family and tribe when the men brought home
bounty in the form of a pig or a catch of fish. Since the only way of
preserving food was by sun-drying or salting…or eating it and carrying
it around with you in your stomach before some other animal got it…they
chose to share it with each other and eat it, and so the feasting began.
The sharing continued when the people of the island later evolved to
become farmers, since it was impossible to eat a complete pig oneself at
one sitting before it went rotten in the hot sun.
In any event, when one person killed a home-grown animal, everyone ate,
and it became a ritual to feast every few months when anything – like
coconuts, for instance, which crop about every 60 days, especially in
the rain-drenched soil of Bohol, or rice - was harvested for the family
Animistic beliefs – which still exist not far below the surface of
everyday life in the islands, despite the interventions of Christianity
– made harvests of any kind a time for communal gathering, thanksgiving
and celebration, and praise for the gods who controlled that particular
crop, which meant a fiesta.
Christianity and modern-day methods of preserving food only served to
change the emphasis of why the celebration was held. Instead of praising
and thanking, say, the rice god for the harvest, Christianity introduced
patron saints for every community, and local people were happy to comply
with the change of name and reason because it did not take away the
islanders’ love of pomp and ceremony and the inevitable feasting that
went with it.
In a land where feast and famine were the natural order of life,
depending on your skills, feasting, dancing and making music for saying
you believed it was because of the work of a different god that the
foreigners themselves believed in took precedence over everything else.
Since Christianity managed to find saints to fit in with the ancient
dates that already existed for celebration, only the reason for the
Parades of patron saints are toured through many of the streets of Bohol
towns and villages on their various days throughout the year – so the
saints are reminded of the area and the people that they are supposed to
guard - and the area inevitably wears a party atmosphere with garlands
Often, it is the only time of the year when far-flung families come
together from different parts of the world (where many people from Bohol
are employed as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW’s) earning dollars to
support their families at home) for an annual gathering, and it often
takes on a more important role than either Christmas or Easter
festivities in the Christian calendar.
Strangers and acquaintances are frequently invited to take part in the
celebrations as honoured guests, while neighbours do the neighbourly
thing and pop into each others’ houses to taste the prepared food and
silently compare it to their own provisions.
Today, these events are still called feasts or fiestas, but Boholanons
actually have many names in their native language for their special
event: kumbira, kumbite, saulog, dakong salosalo, pista, bangaw,
pangilin, piging and bangkete – and we all know that everyone tends to
“pig-out” at a banquet, whatever country we come from – the same word
and meaning, but with a slightly different pronunciation because of
linguistic differences caused by the way we are taught to hear words.
Even then, feasts are not kept to just one a year: every type of
celebration you can think of ends up around the roasting pot with the
ale flowing freely. Just ask: we can even set one up especially for you
if you decide to visit us!
Kilroy Was Here © 2006