Have you ever heard of pangangaluluwa?
Picture Halloween: the first thing that may come into your mind is the parade of people from all ages dressed in their best costumes that can either be cute, spooky, or spicy– on their way to knock on doors and ask the all-too familiar phrase: ‘trick or treat.’
Trick or treating is a common way to celebrate Halloween. It is a beloved and time-honored Halloween tradition in many Western countries. It involves children, often accompanied by adults, dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door in their neighborhoods to collect candy and treats. This activity has become an integral part of the Halloween experience, creating a sense of community and fun during the spooky season.
Trick or Treating: The Origin
While trick or treating has become one of the favored activities during Halloween, it’s surprising to know that its origin carries a rather spooky undertone–believing to be originated from the Celtics.
According to The Smithsonian Magazine, Celtics celebrate the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. Back then, they believed that as the world turns over a new year, the mortal and spiritual worlds intersect with one another, giving the chance for demons to roam around and wreak havoc on earth.
Dressing up as evil spirits serves a disguise: if they happen to come across a real demon, the evil creature will think they are one of them.
Now, how did this spooky-activity ended up in our Halloween parties?
Well, Smithsonian Magazine further narrates that during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church transformed the tradition and gave it a twist of their own. They turn it into ‘Hallows Eve,’ ‘All Saints Day,’ and ‘All Souls Day.’ And instead of wearing scary costumes, they made people wear saints and angel costumes, with the inclusion of a few demon ones as well.
Children in costume (and sometimes poor adults) will go from one door from another, singing or praying (in behalf of the dead) in exchange of food or money. Back then, it was called souling and the people involved were called soulers.
‘Pangangaluluwa’: Philippine’s Version of Trick or Treating
Well, that’s the story of the West. When talking about trick or treating in the Philippine sense, things can be somehow similar.
While the archipelago has also adapted the familiar door-to-door candy quests, some rural areas in the Philippines, particularly in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Leyte, and Cavite, local residents still practice pangangaluluwa– the Philippines’ version of trick or treating. This dying tradition is also being observed in Sariaya, Quezon and Rizal.
By looking into accounts, we can see some striking similarities of our pangangaluluwa rite with its western counterpart. Altas Obscura shares some highlights of the pangangaluluwa experience.
During the nights leading up to October 31st (Araw ng Halloween), November 1st (Araw ng mga Santo) and November 2nd (Araw ng mga Patay), adults and children do the usual knocking of doors of different houses, where they pretend to be lost souls in the purgatory.
Dressed in white and black clothing with ghoulish make ups, the specters sing about saints and the misadventures of lost souls’ finding the right path. Afterwards, houseowners will give alms in form of money or kakanin like rice cakes.
Altas Obscura further states that the practice of pangangaluluwa may vary per location. For instance, in rural areas where electricity may not be accessible, lighting candles and hosting parties at cemeteries is the common act. The treats given differ, too. Aside from rice cakes, other kakanins such as biko (made from glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar or pinaltok (dough balls filled with fruits) were served.
Trick-or-Treating and Pangangaluluwa are two distinct traditions from different parts of the world, yet they share intriguing similarities in their underlying concepts, demonstrating the universality of human desires for community, connection, and the interplay between the living and the dead.
As both traditions are characterized by groups of people (regardless of age and gender) visiting one house to another, they form a communal bond that strengthens their relationship as a whole community. And though hailing from other sides of the world, both traditions feature supernatural themes, evident in their ghoulish make ups and costumes. And of course, both incorporate elements of remembrance and reverence for the departed.
Though originating from different cultures and contexts, these two share common themes that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries. They both emphasize community, supernatural themes, gift-giving, ancestral remembrance, and seasonal timing. These similarities demonstrate the human need to connect with others, celebrate the supernatural, honor the departed, and harmonize with the changing seasons, showcasing the universal aspects of our shared humanity in the realm of traditions and customs.
Other Filipino Halloween Traditions
Pangangaluluwa is just an aspect of the our vibrant Halloween celebration. This time, let’s revisit the undying Undas traditions that we have.
Cleaning cemeteries is indeed a meaningful way for Filipinos to show their deep respect for their departed loved ones. A week before the actual All Saints Day and All Souls Day, families flock together to the cemetery to clean, weed, and repaint graves.
Going home to provinces
All Saints Day is declared as a special non working holiday, meaning employers are not required to report for work and classes are suspended as well. As such, Filipinos take this time to go home to their respective provinces and visit their dead relatives.
Family reunion at cemeteries
Now, cemeteries may be an unsual place for merry gathering like family reunions, but Filipinos take this time to have a picnic with their extended relatives in cemeteries. With that being said, you will usually spot them carrying containers filled with food to be shared wtih everyone. A great time to catch up while over deliciously prepared food.
Pag-aalay ng atang sa mga yumao (Offering for the dead)
Aside from lighting candles and offering flowers, Filipinos also offer food for the dead, known as atang. There are no specific rules to what type of food should be offered– it could even be a portion of the food you’ve brought. Some families make sure they have kakanin for the dead.
Gathering together for a night of watching horror shows
Now, what is Halloween season if you don’t watch scary movies and tv shows with your siblings and cousins? Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho’s Gabi ng Lagim is something that tv viewers look forward to. Or if you are a 90s kid, you may remember Noli de Castro’s Magandang Gabi, Bayan.
Pangangaluluwa is a unique and culturally significant Filipino tradition that undoubtedly deserves to be preserved for generations to come. This centuries-old practice, rooted in the rich tapestry of Philippine culture, holds several qualities that make it worthy of safeguarding and cherishing.
It is a testament to the Filipinos’ enduring connection with their ancestors and departed loved ones. This bond is a vital aspect of Filipino culture, emphasizing the importance of family, community, and remembrance. That’s why reviving the practice of pangangaluluwa is vital for the preservation of our culture and heritage.
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