Pandanggo Sa Ilaw and Filipino Christmas Dinner

Sarah and I were lucky enough to be invited to a Filipino Christmas party this past weekend, and oh my goodness the mountains of food were absolutely incredible. While I know very little about the Philippines in general, I’m certain that this is a place that never let’s you leave the table hungry.

Aside from the food, we got two glimpses into some more cultural events through traditional dances and games that went on throughout the afternoon. The most impressive dance by far was the Pandanggo Sa Ilaw — in which each dancer balances a candle in each hand and on top of their head. I’d heard about this dance from a co-worker (she does this in her spare time), but had never actually seen it done before.

After the dinner was done, the adults had set up a pinata-like game for the kids. Someone had created a kind of chandelier out of bamboo, and tied pieces of candy to it using small pieces of string. The chandelier was connected to a rope, which in turn was connected to a Filipino woman standing on a chair on the other side of the room.

The way the game ran, the lady would slowly let the chandelier drop from the ceiling and then pull it back to just above the reach of the pirana-children below.

When the chandelier first dropped, it was like the raptor feeding scene in Jurassic park. The kids went wild, and all grabbed candy with both hands at once. The lady in the corner struggled to regain control of the chandelier as it shook violently from side to side, but eventually it rose above the masses, and the lady let the kids have a quick break to unwrap their goodies before starting a second time. She also used this time to get a much firmer grip on the rope.

The second time, she was a little more cautious, but her opponents were a little wiser in their approach.  Instead of grabbing for the candy, they all jumped up and grabbed the chandelier itself. The combined weight of the kids managed to send the chandelier crashing to the ground – and the Filipino woman soaring through the air.

The kids, now covered in candy, had no idea that they had just introduced the other woman to the miracle of human flight. The woman, however, was not to be deterred. She dusted herself off, hung another chandelier from the roof, and kicked open a window so that she could dangle outside to give herself extra leverage. That was the last that we saw of that game, but I have no doubt that she gave the kids a good run for their money on the second round. That, or she was launched clear over the building and into the Seine.

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