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Trick or Threat

Candies, anyone?

What’s with local kids doing trick or treat? Maybe other local communities have done similar activities long before, but the earliest I could remember was in a Metro Manila posh village among English speaking children of high income families doing it around their neighborhood within the last decade. There’s a very high probability some American influenced community has done trick or treat in the decades before. But recently the local community seems to be jumping in on the Halloween hoopla. A few years ago, I was asked to prepare candies for trick-or-treaters. In the spirit of fun and faithfulness to Filipino culture, I mixed all in a box pieces of classic de lemon, bukayo, konserba, adong and all sorts of old time sweets I had to search under the Naga City Public Market, laid them for the kids, with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” playing on repeat on the background. (How’s that for some old school flavor?)

Why do Filipinos so lovingly adapt this fascination of ghosts and ghouls that scare and scream? Am I the only one bothered that mothers, teachers and marketing personnel take extra effort to attract children with decorations that depict death and demons and they seem to ascribe by the adage, “more gore, more glory”. What then is the expectation? Should children meet with merriment skeletons and spiderwebs? Well, maybe. If so, is it the aspiration of adults for children to derive or develop derivation of pleasure on the devilish and deathly. Yes, yes, they’re smiling stuffed toys but don’t craftsmanship start with crayons, professional players with plastic balls, and bikers with balancers? Is it a scheme to spark interest on death or the paranormal? Well, maybe the charge is not towards children’s cheer. What then? School them with scare? Some adults have to admit that they have tendencies to instigate fear on children and hide it under the guise of supposedly good clean fun, as if it bears similarity to good humor, refusing to accept is seriously adverse effects on the psychological and emotional health of a child. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe this is the manipulation of marketing and command of commerce at work here. That, to some extent, I, we, the economy would understand. But even that has to be exercised with a moral responsibility.

Where did they get this anyway? Yes, the tradition can be traced back to the British Isles, but Filipinos are clearly copying the American version with children in costumes going around soliciting for sweets with the greeting, “trick or treat”, ignoring the syntax of giving a choice between a trick or a treat in the same way that a choice is given between “Truth or Dare” (which coincidentally is a title of a movie about a demon possessing players of the game). So what is this? A case of Filipinos adapting American culture? In the same way that we adapt so much of the American Christmas from snowman to Santa Claus? Maybe, but we don’t butcher turkeys for Thanksgiving on November and go on a shopping spree the next Friday. Filipino students don’t go on a spring break and we have held on for so long on the opening of classes on June, and now we’re all confused when do we really wan to open a school year.

So, it appears now, that we’ve have intently picked Halloween (well, along with Christmas). There’s one interesting thing about mixing traditions, in this case, Filipino and American. Let’s take Christmas as an example. Filipino children are taught to be nice so that they could get gifts from Santa Claus. On Christmas eve which is December 24, stockings or socks would be hung so St. Nick could put the presents on them on the midnight of the 24th. At the same time, the whole Filipino family would be awake on midnight to celebrate Noche Buena and attend mass which nowadays could be done through TV. The problem is Santa Claus would be easily sighted since most people would be awake. In the American setting, the family would be asleep on midnight of December 24 and would celebrate Christmas on the next day when the children would open their gifts. Their Filipino counterparts would do this earlier at midnight.

How about Halloween? Children dress in costumes collecting candies. Then, the next day, (supposedly because Halloween is on October 31, or days after since these parties are held the week before All Saint’s Day), they would join their families in solemn remembering of kin. (Yes, I know, they bring loud speakers and drink liquor inside the cemetery. But authorities ban these things, so solemnity is still the norm.) Okay, a child in a monster costume roaming the cemetery doesn’t do much harm. In actual practice, most of the kids are in superhero or fairy costumes. So, it’s actually a watered down Halloween. But I ask again, what is it all for?

“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?” Isaiah 8:19

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