The Jerusalem Post, October 30, 2009
A Star-of-David-wearing Batman chased a Hebrew-speaking Spiderman. The pair wove their way through a crowd of dancing ghouls, singing witches, and smiling princesses—including a blonde Snow White. Orange balloons bobbed overhead and children toted pumpkin-shaped plastic buckets full of candy, reminding the partygoer that it wasn’t Purim, it was Halloween.
Although the Saturday night party was hosted by Israel’s Ilonggo tribe, comprised of Filipinos who hail from the Iloilo province, foreign workers and families from all over the Philippines received a warm welcome from the group’s president, Victor Soriano. The Embassy of the Philippine’s Labor Attach, Miriam Cuasay, also greeted the crowd at a nightclub in Tel Aviv’s Tachana Merkazit.
Some Filipino traditions echo those practiced by Americans. As in the United States, many Filipino children go trick-or-treating. And families often hold costume parties on October 31.
But in the Philippines, Halloween is generally observed in a manner closer to the Mexican celebration, el dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead). On November 1, Filipinos visit the graves of their deceased family members. They offer food, flowers, and prayers and spend the day in the cemetery.
They’re not mourning their loved ones, Marites Ng explains, “It’s a fiesta (party). It’s one of the most important occasions in the year [for Filipinos]—it’s the one time in the year we get to celebrate with our dead family.”
With their families’ resting places so far away, how will the Filipino community in Israel mark the first of November?
Ng says that here Filipinos commemorate the holiday at home with a meal, pictures, and phone calls to relatives in the Philippines.
And on Saturday night, Filipinos paid respect to their ancestors by partying.
“We will raise their spirits as we dance all night long,” the fairy-costumed master of ceremonies, Rosalie Domingo, said as the festivities began. A DJ provided music and children and adults both provided the entertainment by singing, solo and in groups.
The event was catered by members of the Ilonggo tribe. There were empanadas, sweet rice cakes, eggrolls, noodles, and sausages similar to Spanish chorizo. Ng ticked off the many countries that have impacted both Filipino cuisine and culture—Malaysia, China, Japan, Spain, and, to a small extent, the United States.
But troubles in both the Philippines and Israel loomed over the high-spirited celebration.
Saturday night’s party also doubled as a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the two typhoons that recently battered the archipelago. On September 26, Typhoon Ketsana raged through the northern Philippines, leaving over 200 people dead and more than 700,000 without homes. Just days later, on October 3, Typhoon Parma hit causing massive flooding and damages and resulting in at least a dozen deaths.
Hermi Ocampo, who comes from Pangasinan, a province that was impacted by both storms, attended Saturday night’s event with her husband and son. Rising waters forced her mother to leave her family home in the Philippines, Ocampo said. Fortunately, her mother survived the flooding. “She went onto the neighbors’ second floor,” Ocampo said.
“We are grieving as we remember our devastated lands. This is a voice offered to the Philippines,” Domingo said before she handed the microphone to Michelle Trinanis, 14, who sang for the audience.
Trinanis’ voice rang out clear and strong. When she finished, the crowd let forth robust applause. Trinanis shined, smiling broadly.
But for those who know the Trinanis family, the moment was bittersweet for reasons other than the typhoons. Trinanis is one of the 1200 children who might face deportation. Although she was born and raised in Israel, she is the daughter of migrant workers who lost their legal status several years ago.
Ng, who has been in Israel for 19 years and whose 10 year old child has citizenship, remarked on the possible deportation saying that the children who have grown up here, like her daughter, are “Israeli, like a sabra.”
Rather than expelling illegal workers and bringing new ones, Ng remarked, the government should stop bringing migrant laborers and address the problems of the foreign community here. “People who are here already should be made legal and should pay taxes,” she added.
Labor Attach Cuasay did not have a comment for the Jerusalem Post on this matter. But when addressing the audience about the recent typhoons, she remarked, “We are a resilient people.”