By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.
“May the wisdom that guided the Magi guide you to your own light” - Anonymous
In a few days, we will be celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings as it is most commonly known here in the Philippines. It commemorates the time when, according to the Gospel of Matthew, three wise men or Magi were led by the Star of Bethlehem to where Jesus was born.
Though not as widely celebrated today in the Philippines, the Feast of the Three Kings still marks the end of the months-long Christmas season in our country. For some Filipinos, it is just the time when the Christmas decorations are taken down.
Many do not realize the day’s significance. The Church teaches us the importance of this day as this day commemorates the time Jesus Christ’s true identity was manifested and revealed to the world. What is worse is that some Filipino Christians have even forgotten about this day completely.
Perhaps, the feast of the Epiphany can best be remembered by reviving the traditions connected with the celebration. Christians all over the world have their own ways of celebrating the Feast. In some countries, they bake special cakes for the occasion like the King’s cake with its many variations like the Rosca de Reyes (Mexico) and the Dreikönigskuchen (Switzerland). In the Philippines, some households had clean shoes and socks left on the window during this day so that small gifts could be put inside. I remember leaving my oldest and most stretched-out sock during this day so that more toys could fit inside.
In some towns in Luzon, the Feast was celebrated with three men wearing robes riding horses and giving gifts to children. These traditions are part of our culture and losing them totally would also mean losing a great part of ourselves as a people.
During the Feast of the Epiphany. We can also remember the significance of the three wise men. As a child, the three wise men were just three-figure toys in our Nativity display that I could play with during Christmas. I would always imagine them having adventures on the way to visit the newborn Jesus. Like many children, I would also put a figure of the Frankenstein monster following them because I did not know what frankincense was (much to the horror of my mother who is a devout Catholic).
It was only later that I learned who the Magi were. The three wise men were actually foreigners and strangers who brought gifts to someone they did not personally know. Spurred on and guided by the star, the three wise men braved a long journey and risked the wrath of Herod to visit the newborn Jesus. It is a reminder that Jesus was born for everyone in this world and not just for a specific group of people. As Christians, we must do our part to make others feel welcome to share in the celebration.
In the Philippines, the Feast of the Epiphany is also known as “Pasko ng Matatanda” or Feast of the Elderly because the three kings are usually depicted as wise old men. As such, this day can also be an occasion to remember and honor the elderly or senior citizens among us. Our elders have played a pivotal role both in shaping our families and our country. Unfortunately, there are some individuals or groups who still fail to respect and give seniors their due. There have even been recent cases reported in the news about establishments that were sued for not giving the proper senior citizen discount. Maybe it is time to pay more attention to empowering the elderly.
This week, let us end the Christmas season by gathering with family and friends one more time to celebrate the feast of the three wise men before we face the reality of 2024. Happy Three Kings everyone!
This is my oblique observation.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.
About the Columnist
ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.