A Different Kind of Christmas Carol

In the peninsular region of Bicol, there exists an unusual way of doing the Christmas Carols. 

While most caroling traditions involve no more than singing, Bicolanos serenade and dance their neighborhoods in colourful shepherd clothes.

This contingent from Sto. Domingo, Albay displayed colorful floral attires and ornaments.

This unique tradition known as Pastores A Belen has been existing since the late 1800s and was passed on from generation to generation. Its English translation is "Shepherds to Bethlehem" and it is also known as Pastores Bicol

A brief moment of silence in the middle of the merriment.

Pastores, however, has lost its original purpose. It is no longer used for caroling as present-day Bicol natives carol in the same way as other Filipinos do.

Graceful dancing enhanced by fancy dresses.

Notwithstanding, the Province of Albay is keeping this tradition alive by hosting competitions for children where the best contingents were awarded with cash prizes. Without argument, this is far better than receiving coins from house to house.

The dancing was not just graceful, it was also lively.

The latest annual competition was held at Peñaranda Park in Legazpi City last December 19, 2019 where we witnessed the vividity of this fascinating and lively dance. Different contingents showed their multi-colored costumes, depictions, and moves. I am very much entertained, more so than anything that's culturally Bicolano.

It was as if the colours splashed from everywhere.

But I think that is an understatement. It was a little more than that. The colors appeared as though they splashed from everywhere, the dancing was graceful and lively, and the music was titillating, I was honestly a little dazzled by the spectacles the children prepared for all of us. They really put on a show and it was very much delightful.

The supplemental decors contrasted well with their florid dresses.

Nine contingents joined this year but the eventual winners were Pilar, Sorsogon as third placers, Sto. Domingo, Albay as second, and Daraga, Albay as the champions.

This contingent from Tabaco City used recyclable materials.

I missed the contingent from Pilar, Sorsogon as I was late for the event and they were the second to present. The contingent from Sto. Domingo, Albay, meanwhile, would have won the contest if not for the ear-splitting vocals of the singer. They had the most graceful, lively dancing, and their florid dresses were colorful. The winners from Daraga had the best costume and surprised us by their closing act. Yes, they were a satisfying winner.

The contingent from Pilar, Sorsogon, anxiously waiting for the results. They won 3rd place. 

Despite the colorful attires and the lively dancing, Pastores A Belen is a dying tradition. My guess is that the usual way of caroling, being so easy, makes Pastores impractical. 

The Winners and Best in Costume, the contingent from Daraga, Albay, my hometown.

But people like me who appreciate its vividity would like to see it thrive and become a major cultural tradition of Bicol, and not just some random competition. I've actually spread a word about it to some of my friends, all of whom expressed interest.

To catch a glimpse of what I've been saying, you may play the videos below and see why you should watch it live in the following years...

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Merry Christmas and a Happy New [Decade]!


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