Bayanihan, house-moving tradition of the Philippines

(VOVWORLD) - When we think about moving house, we picture the search for a new house or apartment, packing belongings, and moving furniture. But on today’s Culture Rendezvous, we will look at an unusual house-moving tradition in the Philippines. We’ll talk to Jovan Tacatani, who works at the Alfred Nobel School in Hanoi, Vietnam, to learn about Bayanihan and the great message it carries.

 Hello Jovan. Welcome to VOV 24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. Today we are talking about a tradition of the Philippines called “Bayanihan”. Would you tell our listeners what  Bayanihan means?

Jovan: Bayanihan is derived from the word Bayan, which means “town”, “community” or “country”. Bayanihan literally means “being in the community”. Bayanihan culture derives from that meaning: “being helpful in the community, being one of those people who are working together to achieve a certain goal”

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Please describe the activity of Bayanihan for us

Jovan: First, I’d like to explain what Bayanihan used to be. In rural areas, houses were made from indigenous materials like coconut leaves, which are very light. When a family wanted to move to another place, they would ask the men in the town to help carry their house to the new location. This was a very fun activity. 15-20 men carried the house in unison. Afterward, the family expressed its gratitude by preparing food for everybody to share.

What is the Bayanihan Festival?

Today, the Bayanihan Festival is an organized activity that represents our culture. It’s a kind of fund-raising activity where people reenact the Bayanihan activity of many years ago. People carry houses from one place to another, to raise funds to help victims of natural disasters. For the festival, people make houses from indigenous materials and race with the houses to a distant location. The festival draws many tourists and anyone can participate. The distance could be 1 to 5 km.

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Have you ever participated in Bayanihan race?

Jovan: Not yet. But I did help carry a house once in 2003 when I was still teaching in the Philippines. It was a remote area in the Philippines ans I was involved with community service. I was one of 20 people who carry a house from one hill to another hill. It was far, but you don’t get tired. There are a lot of people and everyone’s energy level is high and we found chances to rest.

Have you thought of organizing such a competition in Vietnam?

Jovan: Why not? That’s  actually a very good idea. Next week, we ‘re having a Filipino community anniversary. That’s probably a good activity we could organize.

So how is the Bayanihan spirit expressed in modern life?

 Jovan: Today, Bayanihan doesn’t mean exactly what it used to. What remains is the spirit of cooperation and helping each other. For example, before the school year starts, the community will gather on a particular day to clean up everything, and pull weeds. It’s no longer about carrying houses. Another example, as you may have heard, is that the Philippines is very prone to typhoons. After a typhoon, people gather to help clean up the area and rebuild the houses. That’s Bayanihan today.

In your opinion, what did Bayanihan bring to the Philippines?

Jovan: What I can say is that the Bayanihan culture that we inherited from the previous generation is what most Filipinos have wherever we go in the world. We really have that attitude of giving help. When we see someone in need, we help without being asked. We don’t hesitate to offer our help, our free time to do such things. We are proud that we have that kind of culture.