How Fil-Am families are celebrating Easter despite social distancing

AJPress illustration by Godwin Gasacao

THE major holiday of the spring season is this Sunday, April 12, marking the end of Holy Week (Mahal na Araw). But instead of heading to church, participating in a neighborhood egg hunt or having a large fiesta with relatives, Filipino American families are navigating how to celebrate Easter in this era of social distancing.

Here are some ways to keep the holiday spirit alive while in the comfort of your home.

Get festive around the house

Jennifer Estacio’s young daughter poses in front of a homemade Easter background for photos. | Contributed photo

By now, most families have been sheltered at home for several weeks and cabin fever may start to settle in. However, little touches to decorate a living space could do the trick in getting the family into holiday mode.

“I’ve set up an Easter backdrop so we will play dress up and put on our Sunday Easter attire to take pictures. Also, [we’ll be] putting up any Easter decor around the house to feel festive,” said Jennifer Estacio, who runs the family-friendly Instagram account @Flippfamily.

Livestream a church service

A majority of Fil-Ams are of the Catholic faith, but in-person masses have been suspended since stay-at-home orders have taken effect. Pope Francis is set to observe Easter morning mass alone at 11 a.m. Rome time, which will be broadcasted on Facebook.

Throughout this Holy Week, priests around the U.S. have been using technology to broadcast their masses as well as to reach out to parishioners through phone calls, email or social media.

“Right now, participating in a livestream is the way many people are staying in touch with a church during this time,” Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said. “People still want to see their priest even if not in person.”

Bishop Aclan reminded families to remember the meaning of Easter — the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Easter for us is always a moment of celebration, as we all know it’s the most important holiday in Christianity,” Bishop Aclan said. “Now we are not able to celebrate like we’re used to but what I would like people to remember…is that it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus died for us and for our sins. We should really look at this occasion as something that’s very important to us that calls for a celebration safely in our homes in whatever way we can.”

Easter mass at various parishes will go proceed virtually on their respective websites or Facebook pages. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown LA will livestream its 10 a.m. mass on Sunday. Carson’s St. Philomena Church in Carson will have a bilingual mass at 11 a.m. Incarnation Church in Glendale, California will be airing its masses at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“On Easter Sunday, we’re asking parishioners to display a cross with flowers in their home and share a meal to celebrate the resurrection of Christ,” Fr. Rodel Balagtas of Incarnation Church said.

Cook together or order from a local restaurant

AJPress illustration by Jillian Penalosa

After mass, families typically convene for a feast, which features staples like a baked ham, lechon, pancit, lumpia and paella with meat and shrimp. For dessert, expect Filipino fruit salad, leche flan, and kakanin (a tray of sweets made of sticky rice). While you may not have to cook up a storm for 10 or more guests this year, preparing dishes in smaller batches could be a great bonding experience for the whole family.

Check out Fil-Am cookbooks like “I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook,” “The Filipino Instant Pot Cookbook” or “The Easy Filipino Cookbook: 100 Classics Made Simple,” the latter two especially if you want to save some time.

Another fun Easter activity many families partake in is decorating sugar cookies in shapes that represent the holiday, such as an egg, bunny or cross.

If cooking is not an option, consider supporting a local small business! Many Fil-Am restaurants have been offering take-out or no-contact delivery since dining in is prohibited for the time being.

Be resourceful

Olivia Reyes’ daughters Alex and Cara color eggs made out of paper towels. | Contributed photo

Continuing the beloved Easter traditions doesn’t mean you have to brave the outside and head to the store. If you’ve run out of eggs and dye, you can instead turn to household items already available.

“This year, we’re truly thanking our parents and grandparents for teaching us how to make sure ‘nothing is sayang’ (nothing is wasted) by using some resourcefulness and creativity,” said Olivia Reyes, co-founder of Manila Oriental, an online gift shop with

Reyes said that her family will be making “eggs” out of paper towels. They’ll color the eggs with markers, and then spray them with water and dry them for a bright tie-dye effect. After, they’ll be creating obstacle courses throughout the house for the egg hunt on Sunday.

Estacio added that clay eggs can be made with extra baking ingredients.

“With flour, food coloring, salt and water you can make your own clay at home to shape into eggs or coasters and make designs with toothpicks! Last tip, repurpose plastic eggs! I saved some plastic eggs last year so I will be using those again for our egg hunt,” she said.

Should the weather be nice on Easter Sunday, having an egg hunt in your own backyard is another option as well. Unfortunately going to a nearby park won’t be an alternative as many cities in California, including Los Angeles, are closing down public parks to avoid large gatherings.

Connect virtually with family and friends

Despite staying in and being apart from extended family and friends, Easter can go on thanks to video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Hangout. Though separated by a screen, families can still “dine” together or partake in games.

“Adapting to the times, we’ll be holding a ‘video game egg hunt’ through Zoom for our preschool-aged kids and their older cousins,” Reyes added. “Each household will take turns to virtually hunt for eggs through voice commands, like, ‘Go left! Jump to the right. Look under the couch, please!’ The kids will get as many coins as they find eggs this year, as well as baskets filled with homemade goods such as play-doh and cookies to decorate.”

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