Due to very obvious reasons, birthday parties are definitely not allowed during the enhanced community quarantine period where social distancing measures are crucial. However, a police chief—specifically National Capital Region Police Office chief Major Gen. Debold Sinas—has recently been probed for pictures of his birthday celebration shared on the NCRPO’s Facebook page.
These photos showed him blowing his cake and socializing with a crowd of policemen lining up for the buffet table. These have earned the ire of netizens due to the lack of social distancing measures implemented.
In defense of Sinas, Philippine National Police Chief (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said, “Walang party na nangyari. Ang sabi ni Gen. Sinas, probably nagkaroon ng mañanita. Pero dun sa mañanita ang sabi ni Gen. Sinas is that in-observe pa rin nila social distancing. Now, I don’t think na merong violation ito.”
So, as most netizens are also asking as of the moment—what is a mañanita, and is it any different from a birthday party?
The roots of mañanita can be traced back to Mexico and other Latin countries, where festivities are often celebrated with songs called las mañanitas. Literally translating to “early hours of the morning,” las mañanitas are songs meant to be performed during parties, specifically holidays and fiestas.
Based on tradition, occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and feast days of saints are often witnesses of the song. It is also often performed any time after the middle of the night and into the early morning, as it is supposed to either awaken the celebrant or signal the start of eating the cake.
This has become the basis for the tradition itself, which takes the singing as part of its festivities and was then borrowed by the Filipinos from the Spaniards. The way we understand it, a mañanita seems like an early salubong for birthday celebrants.
Here’s an example of how the typical celebration is held during non-quarantine periods—complete with early morning mañanita, traditional lechon baboy and party dancing:
In other Latin countries, las mañanitas is also a celebration dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe which includes a pre-dawn festival parade, mass and town breakfast—all of which involve large gatherings, with the last reminding us of *ehem* a buffet.
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