As an expat in the Philippines, have you familiarized yourself with the many great Filipino peculiarities? There’s the craze over cheesy celebrity “love teams,” the Sunday Americana radio, and the infamous “tagay” system in gatherings. You may be hearing a lot about the “Ber months” lately. This is another uniquely Filipino observance that you should know about. Simply, this period, which involves the months ending in “Ber” — SeptemBer to DecemBer — marks a much-anticipated season. This is your guide to the amazing Ber months in the Philippines.
The exhilarating “Ber months”
For Filipinos, the meaning and importance of the “Ber months” have something to do with the yuletide season. The Philippines is known to celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world. It’s no surprise really. The country has the largest Christian population in Asia and regarded as home to some of the happiest people in the world. What do happy people do? They celebrate life as often they can.
A four-month Christmas playlist
Filipinos love music. Although only a few are gifted, it’s undeniable that singing is second nature. Fun fact: in olden times, Filipino males would court a female by singing love songs outside the latter’s window. “Harana” could be done in acapella or with an ensemble of friends playing in the background.
As soon as you tear off August from your wall calendar, people will start tuning in to their favorite Christmas songs. Get used to Mariah Carey belting out “All I Want For Christmas Is You” or local artist Jose Mari Chan crooning with his well-loved “Christmas In Our Hearts” everywhere for the next four months. Yes, four months.
A comfortably cool weather
While people on the other side of the planet brace for a bitter winter, Filipinos anticipate a comfortably cool weather. The Philippines is a tropical country with only two seasons: the dry and wet season. There may still be thunderstorms in the middle of September, but the frequency of typhoon visits reduces as the year comes to a close. If you’re experiencing your first Ber months in Philippines, you can expect the temperature to drop to 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) from the usual 30 Celsius in the late afternoon. Not low enough to put on your socks, right? In fact, you can still swim laps in your condo community swimming pool on a Ber month evening.
Gift-giving with a twist
Gift-giving is widely practiced in Christian communities in the country. People start completing their Christmas list as early as September. As Christmas Day draws near, shopping places become more congested and the traffic unbearable. But the Filipino floating with yuletide bliss doesn’t care much about these inconveniences. Sure, they’d complain on social media, but the general mood remain festive.
Workplaces are fond of holding Monito/Monita for the entire month of December. It’s the Filipinos’ version of the USA’s Secret Santa and Germany’ Kris Kringle. Each person shall draw a name from a bowl of names who will be recipient of his/her weekly gifts. The boss will choose a weekly theme for the presents: something soft, or something long, etc. It’s a game of humor more than anything else. Some may come home with boxes of cotton balls or a huge radish.
The sweet life of long weekends
The Philippines is a diverse culture influenced by Malay ancestors, western colonizers, and traders from all parts of the world. There are numerous languages spoken, several faiths practiced, and various customs and traditions observed. This amazing diversity is celebrated in local and national holidays throughout the year. Many are of religious significance, others are to commemorate the birth of heroes. The government typically reset these holidays for long weekends to take advantage of “holiday economics.” People tend to go out of town, dine out, and basically spend cash on holidays, thus helping boost domestic consumption. The long weekends to look forward to are: the last weekend of October (extending to All Saint’s Day), the week of Christmas Day, and the last days of December.
Condo living in DMCI properties redefines staycation. No need to drive to beach resorts. Your condo community features resort-style lifestyle amenities such as a leisure pool, roof deck, and gardens. You can even invite your friends over for an afternoon barbeque or an evening of karaoke fun at the function hall.
Food, food everywhere
The Ber months is a special time for gastronomic adventures. You calendar will be full of invites to parties and feasts. Savor local dishes such as the well-loved lechon, sisig, pancit, and lots of desserts. It’s not unusual to meet people who go on weekly buffets, which are offered on discounted rates during Ber months. People call these months their prolonged Cheat Day.
It’s typical for Filipinos in barrios to share food especially on special events. Condo living in the Philippines is no different; this practice is observed everywhere. So expect free rice cakes, fruit salad, and beef stew. You can show your gratitude by sharing a bit of your food as well. It doesn’t need to be instantaneous. Perhaps bring your generous neighbor some cupcakes next time.
No one eats Noche Buena alone
Amid the shopping and merriment, the essence of the Ber months is not entirely lost in Filipinos. This is a time for kinship and friendship. You will notice this in commercial ads that commonly feature families sharing Christmas dinner, families calling up their sister or brother working abroad or lonesome bachelors “finding love” just in time for Christmas Eve.
Your co-workers or neighbors might ask you about your plans for the holidays. Don’t take it as an intrusion of your privacy. It’s likely that they’re concerned that you might be spending it alone, being away from your country. Spending Christmas Eve alone is nearly unheard of in this country. So you can expect invites from people to feast Noche Buena with them.
How to spend your Ber months in the Philippines? Just loosen up. Attend invites if you can. Join Monito/Monita (it’s fun, promise) and spend more time with people around you. This time is all about peace and love, after all.