Pabitin at Birthday Parties

“A pabitin is a grid of bamboo wrapped in cellophane.  We have those at birthday parties and what you do is you essentially buy a bunch of small toys like those packs of sushi erasers or something.  Small dollar action figurines or crayons or candy… you tie or tape all of it onto the grid so it’s all hanging off.  Then you tie a large string to the grid and put it up basically like a piñata with one person handling the end of the rope.  You gather all of the kids under the pabitin and the person holding the rope can decide how far down he’ll let the grid fall to the children, and they have to jump up to try to grab the goodies.  Half of the fun is setting up how the toys and gifts are scattered and preparing the children.  I also like watching the children’s creativity get teased as they jump for the toys.  Bamboo is used for everything, like building houses… I don’t really know how we ended up making our native products out of bamboo, heheh.  So the material in itself already has cultural roots.   If in Mexican parties you always have a pinata, it’s the same idea for us Filipinos, where our children’s parties are characterized by pabitin.”

Background: The informant is a 20-year old college student who has witnessed several Filipino birthday parties in the past.  She has only been a witness, however, as she uses a wheelchair for transportation.

Context: This piece was told to me during a luncheon after our Sunday services.

This tradition puts a more competitive and high-energy spin on the normal act of providing gift bags to party guests.  The kids have fun as the adults tease them out of getting the goodies from the grid, and there are often bigger prizes than others that the children are already eyeing before they get to compete.  The grids can also be made of bamboo, which is light and flexible, and also one of our cultural agricultural products.