Filipino carollers bring their joyous musical tradition to Fort McMurray

Seven voices fill a Fort McMurray home on a winter night.

As a well-worn Christmas carol fades to an end, out comes a tambourine, maracas and an upbeat tune sung in the Tagalog language.

A group of Filipinos in Fort McMurray are sharing a beloved Christmas tradition — their version of Christmas carolling — with other residents of their new northern Alberta home.

Known as Namamasko Po, the custom will see Cindy Julaton and her friends singing and perform at more than 50 homes over the Christmas season.

“In the Philippines, this is what you see every night, especially in the month of December,” Julaton said. “I would say a lot of people love being sung to.”

In the Philippines, the singers usually go randomly between homes during the period from September through December. They would often appear in windows to spread Christmas cheer and sing for food and drinks.

Julaton has been participating in this Christmas tradition since she was a toddler.

A group of Filipinos in Fort McMurray are sharing a beloved Christmas tradition — their version of Christmas carolling — with other residents of their new northern Alberta home. 2:07

“That’s how I learned how to play guitar,” said Julaton, who came to Canada in 2006 and became a citizen last year. “I didn’t have any formal training.”

‘Christmas carols in Tagalog is great’

Because of the weather in northern Alberta, they pre-arrange visits inside homes of friends, co-workers or whoever requests their presence.

On a Friday night, they’re at the home of retiree Larry Andrews who has prepared hors-d’oeuvres — popcorn shrimp on a toasted baguette and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Cindy Julaton learned to play the guitar while carolling in the Philippines. (David Thurton/ CBC)

“The fact they sang a few Christmas carols in Tagalog is great,” Andrews said. “They’ve given us the opportunity to partake in their culture.”

At another home, the singers devour a warm tray filled with empanadas, a deep-fried meat pie.

Some homeowners will offer envelopes of cash to the singers.

Instead of dividing the cash among everyone, the singers pool the money and will put it toward a holiday party that can be enjoyed by all.

“Party venues are not cheap,” Julaton said. “Now that we have this money, we can offer free parties for everybody.”

That way, Julaton says, they can keep on passing on the holiday cheer. 

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 



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