Unstoppable feast on Christmas Eve

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WITH less than a month away from the noche buena festivities, it’s an impossible wish for the rising prices of goods and commodities to be halted or reversed. Still, from most indications, inflation won’t triumph over tradition and family.

Noche buena or “good night” refers to the night of Christmas Eve. Filipinos are known to be lovers of the three F’s: family, food and festivities.

These three words are already been ingrained in the Filipino culture even as the pandemic dimmed the parol—a Filipino lantern displayed during the Christmas season,  for two consecutive years.

In the last two years, despite being cooped up in their homes, Filipinos still managed to dress themselves and show up at the noche buena table, while catching up with relatives and friends via video call either by playing online games together or pretending to drink together through “e-numan.”

The feast

AS the clock strikes 12 midnight, dishes that are usually present on the table are Pinoy spaghetti, Christmas ham, queso de bola, macaroni salad, leche flan and more.

However, after overcoming different Covid-19 variants in 2021 and early 2022, Filipinos are yet again expected to surpass a hurdle that’s almost beyond their control—the rising prices of goods brought about by the war in Eastern Europe, supply-chain disruptions, farm production shortfalls owing to a string of tropical storms, and soaring inflation.

Alongside global concerns over how the war in Ukraine had upended the world’s most crucial source of grains (Ukraine and Russia), the sugar supply shortage entered the picture, affecting all at once sari-sari stores and carinderia owners, small businesses, to the major food manufacturers and consumers. It gets worse: as authorities took the reflex option of importing to fill the shortages and arrest surging prices, the weakening of the Philippine peso vis-à-vis the US dollar and other currencies jacked up the cost of imported raw materials.

Christmas as an exception

NONETHELESS, while the persisting inflation has tamed consumer spending, Christmas is still the exception for a lot of Filipinos.

In fact, a survey shows that eight out of 15 Filipino respondents said they would still splurge on noche buena products despite the rising prices of goods.

They reasoned out that Christmas is a tradition and it only comes once a year. Hence, spending for noche buena festivities won’t do them any harm.

Of those who said otherwise, three said they would no longer be splurging on noche buena like they used to in the previous years because of the “increase in prices.” One even said, “The increase in prices makes it hard to buy goods for noche buena.”

‘Little sacrifices’

MEANWHILE, one of the respondents noted making “little sacrifices” to stick to the tradition, “You need to consider the cost of commodities in order to buy as much with the budget at hand. Little sacrifices will be made in order to have as much as possible for the traditional noche buena with the family. Perhaps the amount will be lessened and go for cheaper brands.”

When asked where they would spend their money if they wouldn’t splurge on noche buena, 60 percent of the respondents said they would rather save and allot their money for bills to pay.

Interestingly, 66.7 percent of the respondents chose brand as the factor that they will consider when buying noche buena ingredients, followed by 60 percent who answered “tried and tested,” meaning, going for the goods that they are already familiar with. A little over half, or  53.3 percent, said they consider the price of a product.

The spenders and the ‘grinch’

OF the noche buena ingredients, all respondents said pasta or spaghetti is usually present—and will yet again be there—on their noche buena table, followed by Christmas ham.

For Christmas 2021 and the years prior, 40 percent of the respondents said they were willing to spend P4,001 to as much as P8,000; 33.3 percent said they were willing to spend P2,001 to as much as P4,000; and 26.7 percent of the respondents were willing to spend beyond P8,000.

For 2022, 53 percent of the Filipino respondents said they are willing to spend P4,001 to as much as P8,000 for noche buena; 33.3 percent said they would spend P2,001 to as much as P4,000; and 13.3 percent of the respondents are willing to spend beyond P8,000 for noche buena this year.

Analyzing individual responses, one sees three consumers have decided to cut down their budget for noche buena. One said he/she is doing so because he/she would rather buy gifts for oneself. Another respondent, meanwhile, said she would rather spend the money to buy gifts for other people, while the other respondent said she would rather save.

The respondent who said that she would rather save checked all three boxes: price, brand, and tried and tested as the factors that she considers when buying ingredients. Notably, this respondent said their monthly household income only ranges from P10,000 to as much as P40,000.

DTI price guide for proper budgeting

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recently released a price guide for noche buena items to enable consumers to choose from a wide range of products at varying prices.

In a news statement on Monday, the Trade department emphasized that the noche buena products are not categorized as basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) under the Price Act or Republic Act No. 75181.

According to DTI, the noche buena price guide includes products such as ham, fruit cocktail, queso de bola, cheese, sandwich spread, mayonnaise, pasta or spaghetti, elbow macaroni, salad macaroni, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, and creamer or all-purpose cream.

Based on its price guide, prices of all stock keeping units (SKUs) of fruit cocktail, cheese and queso de bola, tomato sauce and cream products increased.

Prices of ham range from P162 to as much as P892.50.

Prices of fruit cocktail range from P56 to as much as P288.

Prices of cheese range from P55 to as much as P371.

Prices of queso de bola range from P199.50 to as much as P513.75.

Prices of mayonnaise range from P24 to as much as P176.15.

Prices of sandwich spread range from P26 to as much as P252.

Prices of pasta/spaghetti range from P25.50 to as much as P111.

Prices of elbow macaroni range from P23 to as much as P119.

Prices of salad macaroni range from P36.50 to as much as P117.

Prices of spaghetti sauce range from P35.50 to as much as P95.50

Prices of tomato sauce range from P17.25 to as much as P92.25

Prices of all-purpose cream range from P63 to as much as P75.

The prices of these products depend on their weight, brand and size.

Indeed, family and tradition will likely trump inflation this Christmas, and knowing the Filipino, they will find ways to make the “good night” remain as a time for celebration despite the challenges.

Image credits: Aaacept001 | Dreamstime.com, Moutwtrng | Dreamstime.com