Saturday, October 30, 2010

Filipino-American Halloween

I was taught that on this day, we remember our ancestors and that no matter where we are in life, we should never forget that "we" are here because of them.
Earlier today, I drove to the mall for some window shopping, and I couldn't help but smile at the shoppers and sales clerks in Halloween costumes. I saw kids dressed as ladybugs, fairies and other fairytale or action hero costumes; they were the cutest as they visit each shop dangling their baskets half-filled with sweets.

Although I've lived in the US since I was 17, it's still vivid in my mind how my parents prepare for November 1st. Before this day, the men in the family would visit our relatives' graves, paint the headstones and make sure the surroundings are cleaned and cleared of weeds. Family and relatives would contribute to the paint cost and almost all the time, this results to a family squabble.

The evening before November 1st, our house would be filled with a permeating smell of sweet coconut and brown sugar that almost sticks to your skin and makes your mouth watery. Mom would busy herself preparing all sorts of food but the main dish would be the "inkiwar nga diket" (Ilokano sweet rice cakes made of coconut, brown sugar, and sweet rice). My sister would prepare the sweet rice while my dad busies himself with the whole process of coconut milk extraction: (1) peeling the husk; (2) breaking the tough shell; (3) grating the meat; and, (4) squeezing coconut milk. My older brother and I would be looking after the "uging" (coal) making sure it is kept going with the "anguyob" (Anyone know the English term for this one?). Well, I was, most of the time, the observer.

When the "inkiwar" is all cooked, my parents would make sure that an "atang" (offering) is made to our ancestors. My parents would set a plate full of "inkiwar," fruits, and a small glass of "arak" (liquor usually in the form of gin) or a cup of coffee. I was taught that on this day, we remember our ancestors and that no matter where we are in life, we should never forget that "we" are here because of them.

Then on November 1st, we would pile into my auntie's old ford fiera, with the younger ones sitting on their moms' or older sisters' lap, to visit our love ones' graves, light candles and pray for them. When we're at the cemetery, my parents, uncles and aunties would busily chat and catch up while we kids make up scary stories and play hide-and-seek.

To this day, I celebrate November 1st the Filipino-American way with costumes and giving out candies to the kids, rest be assured that I have "inkiwar" or some dish I can afford to prepare brewing in my kitchen and that a plateful of "atang" is there to honor and remember my ancestors. Because without them, I won't be here.
 Farmer cat staring at my front door. I think this is her "trick or treat" stare.


  1. Did you give the cat her share of candies? Happy Halloween!

  2. feels great to have read this post. though ur in a different country now nakakatuwa na naalala mo pa rin ang tradisyong ginagawa ng ating matatanda.i suddenly missed my mom who used to cook that biko (agkiwar ak ti dikit, lagi niang sasabihin tuwing may okasyon.
    though i don't cook biko, i still make that "atang" whatever food i'd prepare for every ocassion.

  3. @ wits, no sweets for farmer cat, but we did play a little :).

    @ imriz, thank you. sometimes, i still miss how we do it back home. do you speak ilokano as well?

  4. happy halloween! we used to make biko also during this time and i loved how our house would be filled up with cousins and relatives.

  5. hi Kayni! this just reminds me how stressed my mom is whenever this holiday is fasth approaching.

    problemaen na amin: flowers and candles for amin a minatay a kabagyan ni Papa. while the immediate relatives just usually pass us by, kkk... (I mean, no flower or candle for my Dad or grandma ta bumungad ti puntod da jay campo santo kase...)

    when i was younger, it was a holiday to look forward to. we didn't mind staying the whole day at the cemetery. foods and treats were overflowing. as we grew older, we realized that our family is the only one keeping the tradition and that the others don't even "volunteer" anymore about flowers and paint costs, hehe..

    it's funny though that my mom and dad would still see to it that every "kabagyan a minatay" has a flower or candle. straining to the budget or not, my dad would always tell us to remember our dead as we would want to be remembered after this life too...

  6. this made me smile... coz it kinda says what's happening in the house today and tomorrow. :D

    auntie cooked diket this afternoon -- the complete thing: with brown sugar, coco, etc... :D really smells heavenly~

    we will light candles tom and most probably prepare 'atang' coz it won't feel right without it :) our ancestors might say we forgot them and visit us (a usual joke for this season) :P

  7. that cat is adorable. any chance of adopting?

    we have similar rituals for the all saints day too. but my mom gave up making kakanin since her niece would bring a basketfull and that would be plenty for the family.

  8. i do not celebrate neither of the two traditions, but reading your post makes me wish that i do.

  9. @ Photo Cache, I prefer to adopt a dog, but Farmer cat has been hanging around my house, so it feels like I have a cat.

  10. we still keep that filipino all souls' day tradition here of putting up a small altar with pictures and religious icons to remember our deceased loved ones, light candles, say prayers, and set up a small plate with small servings of what we cooked that day....sometimes with a few of their favorite food items.

  11. With bloghopping and facebook now, I just realized how we Filipinos celebrate Nov 1st differently from trick or treats and halloween parties.

    Reading your post reminded me for how many years now I've missed the Nov 1st back home when it becomes an affair when we get to meet relatives =)

    And yes, the inkiwar nga diket =)

  12. oh i love farmer cat, so adorable.. you should have given him a treat ;)

  13. kayni, i did go back to this post, thinking, i might associate u w/ my sis-in-law who lives in mt. province, she does speak kankanaey. i can understand ilocano, though i can speak little of the dialect.