There is a big difference in the way children’s parties are generally done here in Manila than from the way we’ve experienced them in Chapel Hill. When I try telling my non-Filipino Mom friends about how elaborate a party of a toddler can get in US budget terms, they are quite surprised. “It’s almost as much as a wedding!” they say. I’ve recently confirmed this with another mom who does children’s party events for a living. She says it is a very lucrative business these days.
I’ve gotten into several healthy discussions with other moms who have had their children’s parties on both sides of the spectrum (the big ones and the smaller intimate ones) and I can see why they happen. For the bigger parties, a lot of the time the guest list balloons because we have so many close friends and family close by that share in the joy of our child’s birthday. Not to mention that each child that you invite, comes with just about three adults: mom, dad and yaya. So if you have 10 kids, it’s safe to assume you’ll have around 30 adults already present on top of that. It is a good excuse already to see everyone and get together (As my husband says, the marginal cost per head is more efficient as compared to having several smaller-scaled ones). Of course, it’s also a celebration of thanks — because who isn’t happy that their child just turned two… or three? And what parent wouldn’t give their child the best party that they could in their power? It’s who we are culturally; every celebration is a fiesta. The acceptable level of the fiesta is of course very subjective.
Speaking of fiestas, Jamie and I recently attended the Mexican Fiesta-themed party of her 2-year old classmate. I had never met the parents before (no reason yet for us to get together in school), so we showed up at the party without recognizing anyone but a few yayas who I see at pick-up and drop off for their kids. Immediately though upon entering, Jamie was given a Mexican sombrero, and we found ourselves in an arts and crafts area with colored sand bottles, a balloonist and glitter tattoos. There was also a mechanical bull ride for the kids, a tiny ball pit, and… a live pony ride! It was Jamie’s first one in fact. There were at least three event photographers clicking away, one even with a portable instant printer on his back, like a hi-tech Polariod. It was amazing. The food was amazing, the set up and the give-aways (they even had one for yayas!), it was all just… amazing! I honestly can’t imagine how much all of that would cost, although I will admit it’s wonderful to be invited to those kinds of events. They have a host and all these games and prizes. It’s like being transported into a different world for a short span of time and the kids get so much out of it to take home. Jamie has not stopped talking about “riding the brown pony” since.
As a guest, I do enjoy being invited to parties like those. As a host for my kids’ parties though, I don’t think I’d survive mounting one of that scale both physically and financially. My husband and I agree that we’d rather allocate that money towards a family trip, which is actually our plan for Sam’s 4th birthday. She did however, manage to squeeze out a small, fairly intimate celebration with a few friends. As we did last year, I let her dictate her own guest list and the activities that she wanted to do. I am beginning to see a pattern in her choices — it’s all art-related (Do I have a budding artist on my hands?). She did after all say that when she grows up she’s going to be a painter…
This year, Sam asked for some “Kiddie Art”, by Kiddy’s Arts Town — a little discovery we made at a local Toys R’ Us branch. It starts off with a stenciled design outline on an aluminum plate. Then you fill the design with colored paint. Once that’s done, the design and plate are baked in a mini-oven so that they gel together to form a colored picture. Then, the design can be peeled off and with the help of a little water at the back, it can be stuck onto a glass surface. It’s pretty neat actually.
Sam had been pestering me for this activity for months, which was why we decided to have it as the main event for her party. She literally sat at the little table making about 10 stencils all in all, with the help of various adults (as you need to paint within the black outline of the design and use a toothpick and cotton buds to clean up the excess). She even wanted to do it again the next day! It seemed to be a great activity for the other kids (and adults as well) since a lot of them were engrossed in the painting and the baking for the entire duration of the party. Plus, they got to take their art works home as an added souvenir! There was no need for a lot of fan fare and parlor games. That worked out quite well since Sam is not a parlor-game kinda gal. It seemed like the adults thought it was a good activity too.
In a way I was glad to have somehow interspersed the kind of kids’ party fun that we’d gotten used to in Chapel Hill. The parties we’d attend and host were always one big playdate, with one main activity (with lots of food and cake). All in all, it turned out to be a nice afternoon. More importantly the birthday girl was incredibly satisfied with her party. I suppose ultimately big or small, at the end of the day what really does count is that the kids enjoyed and had fun.
We have part 2 of Sam’s birthday celebration coming up in a few days — I’m actually so excited for that! And I can’t believe she’s turning 4!
Kiddy’s Arts Town does a minimum party package of P5,960 which is equivalent to about 40 small stencils. They have big ones too and you can opt to mix and match. For more inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org.