Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Years...New Spin

It is the end of Christmas break, and yes they still say Christmas Break here. Tomorrow I go back to work ready for a fun week of midterm exams. My students are great besides for the fact that they like to cheat. Filipino culture is built around cooperation and so for them it only seems natural to give the answer to their struggling classmates. This means that for the next week I either have to feign ignorance or be the cheating-Nazi with my students, goody!!

For New Years I went to Marlo's hometown of Ma-ao (pronounced Ma-OW). Its about 45 minutes away from the city and is pretty rural. The town used to have a big sugar mill, but it has closed down. It now stands as a looming monument of the "old days". The sugar is now trucked several kilometers away to be milled, mostly because there's not enough sugar made in Ma-ao to warrant its own mill. I spent the days meeting his friends and family and trying to explain why I'm in Philippines. I tried using my Hiligaynon as much as possible but, like my students and their English, quickly got frustrated.

New Years for Marlo's family is a very big holiday, even outranking Christmas. On New Years Eve they prepare a huge meal around 4 or 5 pm then nap. The nap is crucial because starting at 11:30 they don't plan to sleep until 4 or 5 am. At midnight everyone makes as much noise as possible to drive the evil spirits away. Fireworks, which are heard intermittently in the days prior to New Years, are lit at a furious pace to help with the exorcisms.

So for the next few posts I thought I'd detail some of the finer points of Filipino culture. I've gotten several emails from friends and family asking cultural questions and realize I haven't done a very good job at that with the blog.

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