BRUSSELS - Early Sunday morning, Pinay Merle Cuenco was all stressed out cooking different Pinoy dishes because at exactly 12 noon, she expects knocks on her front door from friends who have come to celebrate the biggest carnivals in Belgium, the Aalst Carnival.
"Kagaya rin sa Pilipinas na pag piyesta, dito the same thing. Dito nagpipiyesta din kami, naghahanda din lahat, bisita o walang bisita may handa para masaya," Cuenco said.
The main feature of the three-day carnival is the five-hour noisy and colorful parade on Sunday.
More than 200 floats have outdone each other in terms of decorations and extravagance.
Colorful, full of political messages and with no expense spared, the floats and costumes of the parade participants seemed to get more elaborate each year.
It’s no wonder that the Aalst Carnival made it to the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
It started during the Middle Ages and is celebrated for three days before Ash Wednesday.
Many Filipinos from Brussels and different parts of Belgium come to Aalst yearly in order to watch the parade.
“12 years na ko dito sa Brussels, Belgium. Kami, nagpunta dito sa Aalst para manood ng carnival parade which reminds us sa piyesta sa atin especially in Cebu City sa Sinulog," Olive Verra said.
For Cuenco and husband Bobot Pasos, it became a family tradition to celebrate the carnival in the style of the Filipino fiesta.
The couple moved to Aalst from Brussels eight years ago and has been so impressed with the carnival celebrations that they now hold a yearly feast for their Brussels friends as well as open their door to their Belgian neighbors who come to drink and eat Pinoy food.
"Naging tradition na rin namin na maghanda hindi lang para sa amin, kundi para sa lahat ng bisita at para na din ang mga Pilipino na magkaron ng pagkakaisa dahil sa kahulugan ng piyesta at carnival dito sa Belgium," Pasos said.
Like their other Filipino compatriots abroad, the Pinoys here have brought with them the joys of the fiestas back home, the camaraderie and warm hospitality and the ease of adapting to the culture of other countries.