RT Cunningham


Birthdays in the Philippines and why I Tend to Ignore them

birthdays I tend to ignore birthdays in the Philippines. The only birthdays I pay attention to are mine and Josie’s (my wife).

Filipinos have some strange customs and how they celebrate their birthdays is just one of them. I’ll get to that shortly.

The point I want to make is that this isn’t the only strange custom I’ve noticed. The problem is that I won’t remember other strange customs until I see them happening again.

Too many Birthdays

At present count, there are 24 people living in this compound (in four houses). I’m not counting one sister-in-law and her family even though they probably spend as much time here as their own home.

Half of the people are children, with the oldest being 31. That’s a story in itself and I won’t get into it today. The next oldest is 19, still going to high school. He dropped out for a couple of years before they changed the requirements from 10 to 12 years. He started again after that and found out he had two extra years to go.

Some are temporary residents. The oldest “child”, Michael, and my daughter-in-law, Cathy should both be out of here before the year is over.

Most of the people celebrate their birthdays in this compound, including some of the relatives who don’t even live here. We have more space than most home owners.

The Birthday Custom

In the United States, in my culture at least, we throw birthday parties for other people. In this culture, we throw birthday parties for ourselves. On my birthday, I get to pay for everything.

Birthdays here include parties with food, gambling and lots of beer and liquor. As far as I can remember, my last birthday party was the only one I threw and I didn’t spend as much as some people do. And… I won’t do it again. At least one of my guests, a neighbor, was thankless. I didn’t even invite him. He invited himself.

Here’s the part that bothers me. Knowing the custom, relatives will try to get over on us (me and Josie both) and get us to pay for their birthday parties. If we did that, even once, we’d end up doing it over and over. Their rationale, of course, is that we have more money than they do.

Even though we won’t pay for any birthday parties, other than our own, we inevitably end up paying for something. It’s usually just a cake or ice cream, but it’s always at least one thing for all the birthdays that take place here.

Why Mention it Now?

Six people (as far as I can remember), both children and adults, will celebrate their birthdays in June. Luckily, three of them have the same birthday, so I only have to deal with one party for all of them. I’ll be invited but I won’t take part.

One birthday is two days earlier, and it will be added to the other three as far as the party goes. Another birthday is for a child turning three, so it won’t be a big deal. I think we’ll get stuck with more for the last child of the month because her parents have no income.

I will ignore as much at all these birthday parties as I can. Josie, however, will probably be right in the middle of things.

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By RT Cunningham
May 26, 2017
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