Filipino Birthday Blowouts, Whether You Like Them or Not


In many ways I have no curiosity bump. So, I have not delved into the details of why exactly it is like this, but over the years that I have lived in the Philippines (on and off) I started to notice more and more that people reminded me when my birthday was approaching. Then, on my birthday, I was incessantly greeted by all and sundry several times with resounding “happy birthday”s. Now I am not the most social person in the world. And it really started to annoy me.

The other thing that I noticed was that there is a custom here in the Philippines that when it is your birthday, you are the one expected to throw a party for everybody else at your expense, sometimes called a "blowout." So, perhaps I am a grinch when it comes to my birthday. Well, not much doubt about it really. But here is what I have now been driven to do on an annual basis here in the Philippines: To the best of my ability, on or near my birthday, I leave the country. I also, whether I am here or not, leave a little money for the people at my workplace to have a blowout on my behalf, with one proviso attached; they can have the money for the blowout provided that they do not, in any way, shape, or form, wish me happy birthday.

It’s targeted blackmail, but I’m not sure which way. I have only had limited success with this.

Last year, having vacated the country for my birthday, and returning about three weeks later, they still threw me a surprise party when I was least expecting it. And I must be honest, it really annoyed me. The Filipinos I know don't seem to be capable of understanding when somebody does not want to make big deal out of their birthday. It seems to be almost written into their DNA that they want to be able to make all sorts of a fuss when it is somebody's birthday. And when you are a person that doesn't like it, I have found it, frankly, impossible to get that message across to them. To some degree, this kind of aggressive need to celebrate may be present, but nowhere quite so much as the Philippines. So, in conclusion, if you like celebrating birthdays, the Philippines is the place to be. This year I’m moving to Argentina. Maybe that will work.

Have any of you had cultural birthday customs where you live that you just can’t understand? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

This article was first published on 16 June 2018