Holidays, planners, and diaries | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Holidays, planners, and diaries

/ 04:05 AM January 05, 2022

While marking out the 10 regular holidays in 2022 on my desk planner and diary, followed by the nine special non-working days nationwide, I was happy to see that we have three long weekends: two in February (four days during the Chinese New Year and three during the Edsa People Power Revolution holiday) and another three days in August for National Heroes’ Day. These long weekends have lost their purpose as a time-out in the face of work from home.


Pre-pandemic I would plan out-of-town trips on these long weekends, extending them by a day or two by giving my students a research break. Today a break means staying at home ignoring work emails for extra hours of sleep or Netflix. Do the 19 non-working holidays spread throughout the year really provide time-out or rest? Would it be better if we continue to commemorate the religious or historical significance of holidays at work and school and just take all 19 holidays in one go? If that sounds drastic, why not break the 19 holidays into two stretches: Holy Week (nine days from Saturday before Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday) and Christmas (10 days from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2)?

There will be close-minded people who cannot imagine such a system, and they could look at our oddities called special working holidays when we still celebrate the holiday by working but for higher pay. I’m not an economic planner but I can imagine that holiday weeks will boost domestic tourism and consumer spending, so a good time will be had by all.


Notwithstanding Omicron and whatever future variant the virus will mutate into. Marking my planners made me realize that some of our present holidays are shared with Spain, a reminder of almost four centuries of Spanish rule. Of the 10 Spanish public holidays, the Philippines celebrates New Year (Jan. 1), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Labor Day (May 1, celebrated in the US on Sept. 5 and in Japan Nov. 23), All Saint’s Day, Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), and Christmas (Dec. 25).

Aside from Christmas and New Year we share little with the US that colonized us for half a century, the Japanese for four years, and the British for two years. Chinese New Year is the only holiday we share with China even if our relations go back a thousand years as evidenced by archeological artifacts found in the Philippines dating to the Tang dynasty. It’s only recently that we celebrate two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, that underscores the fact that Islam preceded Christianity in the Philippines by 141 years.

Spain has 10 national holidays, the US has 13 Federal or nationwide holidays, Japan has 16 holidays with a special “Golden Week” when four holidays fall within seven days. While most countries have holidays based on religious or historical significance, Japan has holidays based on nature like the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox, and other traditional holidays were given a new spin and converted into Greenery Day, Children’s Day, Marine Day, Mountain Day, Respect for the Aged Day, Health and Sports Day, and Culture Day.

US Federal holidays include Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 17), Presidents’ Day (Feb. 21), Memorial Day (May 30), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (Sept. 5), Columbus Day (Oct. 10) Veterans Day (Nov. 11), and Thanksgiving (Nov. 24). All these followed by a dizzying array of State holidays and those of religious and cultural observance. One can probably discern the values of a nation by the holidays it keeps and holds dear. What our holidays say about the Philippines and the Filipinos is worth a doctoral dissertation.

After writing this column, I will sit across the blank slates that are my 2022 desk planner and diary, and look at the new year with hope. Having survived the depths of two years of pandemic lockdown, stress, and confusion, there is no other way for 2022 to go but up. Then I will fill the empty spaces with the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and relatives, list down Catholic days of obligation I will surely miss, and end with a large “X” on dates that fall into this year’s Mercury retrograde. Heck, I even mark out auspicious days for haircuts and moving furniture. Our planners and diaries provide a sense of order in an uncertain future.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]
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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, Filipino and Spanish holidays, Lookiing Back
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