It’s the first day of September.
Never mind if the whole country just got shaken by a frighteningly strong earthquake, the Filipinos’ enduring spirit could never be shut down.
As strange as it may seem, many Filipinos did not post much about the powerful natural calamity on social media but more on the much anticipated Christmas season that’s still quite far away.
On Twitter and Facebook, “Merry Christmas” were the Filipinos’ words of the day.
So if you happen to receive a Christmas greeting from your Filipino friend as early as today, don’t think your pal has already lost his marbles.
It’s just a culture thing.
If you grew up in the Philippines or if you’re, at least, familiar with the Filipino way of life, there’s an unwritten tradition that most fun loving ‘Pinoys’ go by. It’s not carved in stone and you may not find it in history books but it occurs at the beginning of the last four months within the year that end in “ber” such as September, October, November and December.
On the first day of September, roughly a hundred days before Christmas, you will see colorful lanterns and Christmas décor already being sold not just in the streets in the Philippines but in some business establishments. Big malls even.
There will be stalls set up almost everywhere and favorite Christmas delicacies such as the hot, buttery and delicious “Bibingka”, the awesome purple rice wonder called “Puto Bumbong” and the energizing, hot ginger drink called “Salabat” that generally get most people’s full and undivided attention during the long holiday celebration will give the common phrase “selling like hotcakes” a run for its money.
Christmas songs would be played in homes and public places, adding up to the festivity.
In spite of the festive mood, however, many people surprisingly get more sentimental during Christmas as oftentimes triggered by the heart wrenching Christmas songs dominating the airwaves. It seems like the festiveness of the season clashes with one’s emotional turmoil that strangely resurfaces during the “ber” months.
Blame it on the cooler nights and perhaps, on that dude who played the Elvis classic “I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You” or the local Filipino tearjerker “Pasko Na Sinta Ko” on full blast without considering the jilted lovers or the-looking-for-love or the-what-does-love-feel-like people hanging around in the corner.
No more drama.
Perhaps, that’s what the young Filipino composer and lyricist Eric Cabahug seemed to be thinking about when he wrote a festive song for Christmas that’s getting people’s attention these days.
“Merry Christmas Na”, a trendy, youthful and upbeat Christmas song written by Eric in 2010 for the newly formed Pinoy boy band called 1:43 (One Forty Three) as a promotional single, made a big splash on its digital debut by staying at number one for several weeks on the Filipino pop charts (P-Pop) and gaining more than 100,000 You Tube views.
When the group’s manager Chris Cahilig, a long time colleague of Eric’s, asked him to write 1:43’s debut single, Eric welcomed the challenge and composed “Merry Christmas Na” by adding a light, modern pop flavor to it that the Filipino youth market eventually devoured.
According to Eric, he intentionally veered away from the usual mid-tempo, melancholic and inspirational Christmas love songs that generally characterize the Filipino Christmas music genre.
“Merry Christmas Na” earned Eric and 1:43 their first nomination at the 2012 Awit Awards, a distinguished award-giving body in the Philippines that gives recognition to exceptional Filipino musicians and producers similar to the American Grammy’s. The song is currently competing against other Filipino Christmas songs written by veteran Filipino composers for the “Best Christmas Recording” category.
Not bad for a young composer who started writing songs as a hobby fifteen years ago and equally, not bad for a budding young group whose brand of music is drawing the much needed boost for Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
Aside from being a composer whose songs have already been recorded by popular Filipino musicians including the Filipina pop diva Nina, Eric is also an accomplished screenwriter for TV and movies and a published photographer.
1:43, on the other hand, is currently enjoying a strong fan base in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and will be releasing its second all-original OPM album in September titled “Sa Isang Sulyap Mo”, according to their manager Chris Cahilig.
Exciting times ahead for Filipino music.
In the meantime, the Philippines is now getting wrapped up in a Christmas bubble as Filipinos all over the world, the homesick ones miles away from the “motherland” especially, prepare for the coming Christmas festivities.
So to my fellow Pinoys and Pinays, let me be one of the first well-wishers to greet you. Get your festive ‘bibingka’, ‘puto bumbong’ and ‘salabat’ ready.
The first “Ber” month has started already and you know what that means.
“Merry Christmas Na”!