The Grinch that is COVID-19 can't rob Filipinos of the Christmas spirit, not even with a ban on holiday parties. The world's longest Yuletide Season will run for over three months as scheduled, with face masks on, analysts said.
In deeply Catholic Philippines, tragedy makes Christmas more heartfelt and meaningful. When epic floods swept through the capital in 2009, a new classic carol was born, "Star ng Pasko," a song about hope. When September came, Jose Mari Chan's classic "Christmas in Our Hearts" played in half-empty malls.
Requirements for face masks, face shields and physical distancing are not enough to kill Filipino traditions, said Joefe Santarita, Dean of the UP Asian Center.
"If we were able to start the celebration in September, I am pretty sure that we can complete the Paskong Pinoy by January," Santarita told reportr.
Paskong Pinoy is rooted in Catholic faith
Christmas is the highlight of the year for Catholics, which make up eight in 10 of the Philippines' 100 million people. Every year, bickering relatives, even the military and communist rebels, would call a truce for the holidays.
"Filipinos are looking forward to celebrate Christmas not just from religious or cultural aspect but also from political, economic as well as social dimensions," said Santarita.
Christmas is the season of giving. The government recently raised the possibility of subsidizing the 13th month pay of workers whose employers couldn't afford it at this time. Months before these are given out in December, gift lists are drawn out.
The season also inspires charity. The rich would often extend a helping hand to the less privileged, he said. For seasonal businesses like lanterns to home kitchens hoping to make it big, Christmas is a time to earn big.
Virtual Christmas parties for now will be a small sacrifice. Everyday hundreds of new cases are reported in the Philippines alone and much of Europe is grappling with a second wave of infections.
"Cancelling Christmas parties should not be seen as spoiler but rather as precautionary safety measure in compliance to the IATF guidelines," said Santarita. Without big parties to spend on, what's left of holiday cash can be spent on family, he said.
Master party organizer, Dhon Conwi of Weddings and Motifs, said skipping physical gatherings this year is for the best. As restrictions loosened throughout the pandemic, Conwi's family business organized weddings and birthday parties with stringent protocols in mind.
Conwi advises against holding big parties. He said Filipinos will still find a way to celebrate this year, despite COVID-19.
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"I really don’t believe Christmas will be affected much. Filipinos are family-oriented. Because of the pandemic, our family orientedness will lead us to using technology to our advantage," he said.
More than spoiling Christmas, the pandemic's largest human toll is in the thousands who died and the millions who are jobless.
"I think Christmas will be more meaningful this year. It will be a thanksgiving event for those who got away with COVID and also for those who managed to survive. But it will be especially hard for those who experienced lost," said Conwi.