Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review - Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals

Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals
by Liana Romulo
illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano
Date: 2012
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

In the Philippines, people love to celebrate—holidays are filled with music and dancing, sometimes with colorful costumes, and always with great food! Rich with detailed watercolors and cultural flavor, Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals makes major holidays (like Christmas) and family gatherings (like weddings and birthdays) come alive.

From these pages, children will learn the history of each holiday, its cultural influences, the varied ways in which people celebrate in different regions of the Philippines, special customs and food, key words and phrases (in English and Tagalog), and more. Games, songs, and other activities invite young readers to join in the fun. New and familiar holidays take on a special flavor as children learn about the diverse cultures that make up this wonderful island nation. Perfect for Filipino-American families looking to share the unique culture of the Philippines, educators interested in promoting multiculturalism in the classroom, or anyone interested in the country, Filipino Celebrations will encourage children ages five to ten to participate and learn while having fun.

Celebrations and festivals include: Mga Kaarawan—Birthdays Semana Santa—Holy Week Mga Barrio Fiestas—Town Festivals Mga Binyag—Baptisms Araw ng Kalayaan—Independence Day and more!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

One of my best friends in high school was originally from the Philippines, but she never really talked about any of her traditions or celebrations. I figured I might find this book interesting, and I wanted to learn something. Unfortunately, pretty much all I learned is that the Philippines has been the victim of religious and cultural oppression, first by the Spanish and the Church, and then by the Americans.

I was surprised at how little actual Filipino culture is left. Almost all celebrations are based on Catholic precursors. Ones that aren't borrow heavily from other cultures (such as the Chinese). Does the Philippines really have no history of its own? That's what this book makes it seem like... and I find that really sad.

There are a number of errors that I picked out (if a non-Filipino can pick them out, how many more can someone with real knowledge of the culture find?) and the whole thing is heavily biased toward Christians. At one point, it talks about baptism as being the most important thing in "any" child's life, as if everyone's a Catholic. It also wrongly states that Hari Raya Poasa (Eid al-Fitr) occurs in September, making it obvious that the author isn't Muslim (and couldn't even be bothered to do the most basic research). And don't even get me started on the claim that if you make a wish at Simbang Gabi and go to all nine masses, your wish will come true. (This isn't just stated as a belief. The book actually makes the claim that if you follow the ritual, you'll get your wish.)

I was turned off early on by the festival where they make the water buffalo walk on their knees to worship saints, and even more so by dressing the dead pig up in sunglasses. Animal cruelty may be a part of certain cultural celebrations, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It seems awfully disrespectful, but none of that is addressed; it's taken for granted that this is how you treat animals for these celebrations.

I guess I was hoping for something a little more... no, less Western. Aside from the names of the objects, celebrations, and rituals in Filipino languages, this book basically showcases Western traditions. That may be how the Philippines is today, but I'm still disappointed that so much of their history has been lost to colonial oppressors and their celebrations.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.83 out of 5

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