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Philippines
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Holidays

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Too bad All Saints’ Day fell on a Sunday, and All Souls’ Day has not been declared a holiday.  Nonetheless, expect so many absences on the first working day of November, just as there must have been plenty who skipped work last Friday to be able to travel to their hometowns and enjoy a three-day communion with the living who commemorate their dead through reunions with kith and kin.

It is a very Filipino tradition, imported from Mexico (through which we were governed by Spain for more than three centuries), where Dia de los Difuntos is a major religious and cultural event capped with a street procession where figures similar to the “higantes” of Angono are paraded.  But while we do not have such a colorful procession during the Dia de Todos los Santos, better known as “Undas” in Tagalog patois, what we have are family reunions, more like a fiesta, where people congregate in cemeteries, eat there, discuss politics and AlDub, even play a game of cards underneath makeshift tents.  Trust the Filipino extended family to make a celebration of life anywhere, even in the kingdoms of the dead.

If I had my ‘druthers, as American politicians say, I would propose that we troop to the cemeteries and columbaria, not on Nov. 1 and 2, but on the birthdays or death anniversaries of our beloved departed. That way, there won’t be traffic (foot and motor) congregating towards singular directions and making a mess of everything.  There won’t be the usual spike of prices for flowers and candles, which up until now is a major news item reported by our television anchors.

Instead, we would have very private moments of prayer and memories with our loved ones.  No hustle and bustle. No port or airport jams, no bus terminal hustling for rides.  No inane radio music from the visitors of the “neighbors.”  And flowers would need no peak season or low season.  

Practical?  Of course it is.  But how do you fight tradition?

* * *

I have always been fascinated about the sense, if any, of too many holidays interspersed throughout a 365-day year.  In some countries, the US of A in particular, they move the celebration of holidays to the nearest Friday or Monday, excepting the fourth of July, Thanksgiving (which, being a Thursday, is declared a four-day break), and Christmas as well as New Year’s Day.

The whole idea of movable holidays makes eminent sense.  From a labor productivity point of view, it adheres to the law of inertia.  Break the workweek through a holiday in the middle, say Tuesday or Wednesday, and expect productivity to decline.  Have a Thursday holiday, and expect people to be absent come Friday.  Or for those who cannot afford to be absent (and millions upon millions cannot afford to lose a single day’s pay), productivity suffers, whether in the factory or the office.  

* * *

Again, if I had my ‘druthers, I would propose a “crazy” idea.  What if government were to bunch the celebration of all national holidays from Jan. 2 up to June 10 each year into the entirety of Holy Week?  Thus, instead of Feb. 25 and April 9 and May 1, and whatever else, charge all these holidays to the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, or even Monday after Easter?  Thus, everyone will have 9 days of glorious no-work holidays.  That should be great for domestic tourism, or even just going back to the hometown for the Filipino reunion.  We hardly do serious work during the entire Holy Week anyway.

Then another extended holiday season from Dec. 24 all the way to Jan. 1, or make it 10 days even, to begin Dec. 23 each year.  To that long vacation break, charge Cry of Balintawak and National Heroes Day/Bonifacio Day, All Saints’ Day and Rizal Day, or whatever else falls within the period.  The Muslim Eid al Adha and Eid al Fit’r need not be national holidays, a special dispensation given to them for their work absence on such annual commemorations.  The Christian Good Friday and Christmas Day are already covered by the two annual long breaks.

People can save for these annual breaks; managers will find schedules predictable and productivity targets will be enhanced.  We hardly put in serious work during these periods anyway.  As early as the second week of December, we have parties instead of work in our offices.  And on Holy Week?  

Provincial resorts will sprout, modest perhaps, because they will be at peak earnings only seasonally,  but enough to give small scale entrepreneurs enough bonanza to sustain their operations. Domestic tourism will flourish.

* * *

But I would take exception with Freedom Day.  Commemorated June 12, I would be willing to make it a three-day break so we could come up with a meaningful commemoration.  

As a young student, I recall how we all trooped to 

the Luneta for a grand parade with the president delivering a stirring message to the nation and his people.  There was a parade of military hardware (we had good hardware at the time), the Blue Diamonds jet squadron would fly overhead, instilling a sense of pride and nationhood among all of us.

Now June 12 is just a no-work day.  Nobody even gets any sense of national pride when the flag is hoisted by the President or other officials in any of the commemorative locations. The President and commander-in-chief issues a tawdry, cut-and-paste statement which hardly resonates in the hearts and minds of the people.  And there are no longer any grand parades capped by magnificent fireworks at the Luneta.  Sad.

Shouldn’t at the very least, all government employees and officials be at the commemoration of Freedom Day? When and how can we instill national pride, develop a sense of national purpose, and march together in disciplined manner towards national greatness?

Maybe not in this lifetime.

                    

     

          

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