Roman Holiday

Filipinos shouldn’t have holidays, which is not to say that we shouldn’t have vacations. We work harder than carabaos (which isn’t really saying much,) and deserve whatever breaks we can get.

There’s no need to be phony about things, though. The word holiday comes from the Old English for holy day, which is not all that different from the modern English except in spelling.  A religious festival, say, celebrating some saint. And this made sense in ancient times when things were stricter: no meat during Lent, throwing water at people on St. John the Baptist’s feast day and not doing so on other days, going barefoot on the Feast of the Black Nazarene and not doing so on others if one can afford footwear.

Things were more structured then, and it made sense to differentiate the Feast of St. Jude from the Feast of the Annunciation lest people put up the wrong kind of buntings, dress up the wrong figurine and pray the wrong litanies.

Today, however, there is hardly any difference between an EDSA Day weekend, a Labor Day weekend, Holy Week, All Saints and Souls Mega-weekend and Christmas except the length of time away from work and the number of establishments open, and, really, we could just call them Long Weekends and lose nothing.

Holy Week used to not be as fun as other so-called holidays because of the death of Christ and the dearth of non-Biblical shows on TV. With cable TV and the Internet, however, it has become just as kick-ass as all the others, if not more. The Christ still dies on Good Friday, though, technology cannot solve everything.

As the only Lapsed-Catholic country in the region,  we  have a feast day for every day of the week. Add to that the dozens of battles, routs, victories, martyrdoms, foundation days and historical events that have to be commemorated, and one cannot blame the Filipino for celebrating them all in the same way: a bacchanalia that has more to do with getting noisily, obnoxiously, and often, violently, drunk than with the event itself.

Of course, concessions are made to the more popular days-off. Christmas ups the ratio of Christmas songs to love ballads sung on the videoke machine significantly, and All Saints/Souls leaves more people sainted from drunken brawls and  traffic-related altercations than, say, Rizal Day, which, it is supposed, people commemorate by sporting beer moustaches and being instant polyglots.

Still, the general theme is the same throughout the year, and probably closer to the real holiday, the Jubilee, where wage slaves are freed, and fields and office cubicles are left idle, if just for the weekend.