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 or tribe.

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 celebration changed.

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 of flowers.

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!