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The population of the Philippines is 80 percent Roman Catholic. About 4
percent of the population follow the Muslim faith and are called (much to
their resentment) Moros. The latter group live in independent groups
faithfully following Islamic ceremonies and customs and are ruled by their
own chieftain or sultan called the datu.
Mestizos is the name given to those of mixed native and Spanish
heritage, but more recently this term is used to denote any mixed racial
background. Mestizos are also sometimes called Cacique.
The predominantly Christian population of the Philippines is unusual in
that it represents the largest body of Asiatic peoples converted to
Christianity. Both the Spanish and American periods of influence have also
left the islands with a more western culture than any other Asian country.
Thus it is natural to expect that the Christian festivals of Easter and
Christmas will have a special significance. Religion is more
family-centered than church-centered and this makes for a special festive
spirit on any occasion. Families gather and share special foods and their
preparation brings a spirit of happy anticipation.
Sunday is a time of family relaxation, and is often celebrated with a
special dinner of puchero. This special dish is a loving
combination of several meats and many vegetables cut in large chunks
glowing with a rich golden sauce of well-simmered tomatoes and yellow yams
all bathed in a rich blend of sautéed onions and garlic. Served with
mounds of rice, it is a Sunday meal for leisurely eating conducive to rest
afterwards. With a puchero, other courses are hardly necessary!
Pork usually holds the center of attention
for Christmas and Easter. Despite an ample array of many classical dishes
arranged in bountiful buffet, the jamon de Navidad, a baked
Christmas ham glazed with fruits and crusted with brown sugar, or the
lechon de leche, charcoal-roasted suckling pig, will probably steal
the scene. Inehow, the whole stuffed banana-wrapped baked fish, and
lumpia will likely be other specialties on the menu. A full array
of fresh fruits, cheese, and special sweet custards, puddings, and cakes
as well as the leche flan will complete any festive meal.