You can say I've attended a multitude of Filipino parties large and small.

We Filipinos love to gather together for any occasion. I used to live at my aunt's place in Baguio City, Philippines while attending university, and it was there that I truly honed my party skills, as there were multiple gatherings every month.

There were small-ish get-togethers where a few of my cousins, their friends and their friends' friends would gather in the backyard and start bonfires. We'd "chat" on CB radios (yes, this was pre-cellphone era), eat Pringles (because it's from the United States, and we felt booshie munching on chips that came in a tube), munch on some Kropek (a rectangular, yellowish, super crunchy savoury treat best dunked in vinegar), and chug San Mig beer.

A guitar would then magically appear. Someone always knew how to strum a few chords and boom: we're all singing Journey songs.

With so many people living at my aunt's place (her husband, their three children, my uncle, and numerous cousins all going to school), there was always a birthday celebration, an anniversary, a holiday party, or a gathering-of-some-sort happening.

My cousin Dolly was sort of the "head chef", and she would start making huge potfuls of dinengdeng (which I didn't like because it was so full of vegetables), pinakbet (full of vegetables, too, like squash, okra and string beans, but I liked the flavour combination, especially with the shrimp paste), papaitan (so bitter) or adobo (my favourite) almost every weekend.

Parties would go on for hours, with more relatives coming and visiting, bringing trays full of food and other desserts. Party games for the young ones would then commence, followed by karaoke howling, er singing, and always, always, line dancing.

Gifts, especially at Christmas, weren't really wrapped. We didn't have gift bags back then. Sometimes, they'd be wrapped in festive paper, and in lieu of ribbons, you'd see origami-style folding of the giftwrap (I still do that). Most times the gifts would be tossed around by my aunt, like a card-dealer in Vegas: here's a Soen panty for you...and you...and you!

I was reminded of those parties recently here in Belleville, Ontario, when I attended a Filipino Christmas party held at the Fish and Game Club. Over two hundred attendees came, bringing trays full of Filipino main dishes and dessert.

Just like all the other gatherings I've attended in the Philippines, the Belleville party had three essential ingredients: food, music, and games.

Even without a Filipino restaurant in the area, there was puto, suman, adobo, lumpia, pansit, lechon kawali, and other homemade delicacies. A few musical acts were presented--from a group of young women dancing to Ariana Grande's "Santa Tell Me", to a solo number of Lady Gaga's "I'll Always Remember Us This Way"--as well as a slide show of past Filipinos in Belleville group parties.

As for party games, the adults were invited to blow up balloons and sit on them to make them pop--is there anything more entertaining than that? Kids answered trivia questions and won prizes if they guessed the answers right (e.g. name three of Santa's reindeers).

Adult party games were played at the Filipinos in Belleville party. Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media
A youth Filipino group danced to Ariana Grande's "Santa Tell Me". Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media

What sets Filipino parties from other parties, indeed the most important element at any party, is the ability to poke fun at our own selves. In this, we excel. From singing karaoke at the top of our lung capacity, (frankly, we don't really care if we're hitting Whitney Houston's mic drop moments), to playing silly games (the sillier the merrier), we just like to have fun.

A trivia game was played for the young ones at the Filipinos in Belleville party. Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media

For it is in those few precious hours that we lose our troubles, block out the knowledge that we're in a different country with arctic weather, bring our food and culture back to the forefront, and pretend we're all back in the Philippines, surrounded by friends and family.

It is the perfect cure for homesickness, the antidote to loneliness. So party on, Filipinos in Canada, party on!