The first time I heard Bibingka by Ben&Ben, it wasn’t Christmas. I can’t recall the exact reason I decided to listen to it, or what steps led me to stumble upon it. Maybe I was just checking out the band’s whole discography, or maybe I heard a friend singing it nonchalantly and decided to Google it out of curiosity. One thing’s for sure, though: I’ll never forget the feelings that first hit me back then. It was like a pang of yearning washed over me when the first note sounded out. Before the words even came in, I felt a longing for something I couldn’t quite place, and as the song continued, I committed myself to the story as if it were my own. After everything was said and done, all I could let out was a soft “oh” as I played the track again.
That moment cemented Bibingka as one of the best Christmas songs in existence for me — aside from it being named after a god-tier holiday dish.
It’s a great look into modern Filipino romance, where old traditions can serve as a vehicle for blossoming relationships. Gone are the days of harana and traditional means of courting, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask. Bibingka doesn’t seem to talk about a specific time period though, as the traditions found in it are still very prominent today. What makes it modern is the fact that the song is actually based on a true story, with Paolo Guico of the band sharing how he had gotten close to his term partner.
The imagery of simbang gabi and holding hands during the Ama Namin is something familiar to a lot of us, so it’s easy to relate and picture yourself falling in love in the same way the song talks about. It shows us that something can spark between two people through the simplest of ways or the most regular of routines, which is a fantasy a lot of people have. There’s no big grand gesture referred to in the song; sometimes love can be as uncomplicated as buying someone bibingka.
The emotions conveyed through Bibingka are as strong and prominent as any Ben&Ben song, and it brings the sort of wistfulness that Christmas songs tend to have. It gives off a feeling that the song’s protagonists are on the cusp of something important, yet not demanding anything of them as of the moment.
Even if Bibingka is still very much a Christmas song, it doesn’t overwhelm you with the sound of sleigh bells and other stereotypical holiday things. Ben&Ben only say Pasko during the chorus, and everything else is implied by the things we usually see that time of the year. Because of how low-key it is, it can be played regardless of the occasion, at any time. The band have said so themselves that a lot of people still want to hear Bibingka outside the Christmas season. That’s how you know how good the song is as a holiday anthem; it’s able to transcend the very seasonal constraints the genre sets for itself.
It’s kind of an understatement to say that there are a lot of Christmas songs out there. I tried to make a playlist once and it reached over six hours, and that doesn’t even include all the different renditions of the same songs. Bibingka stands out from the rest because of how efficiently it conveys such a gentle feeling while stripping away all the flashiness of the holidays. At its core, it represents everything Christmas is supposed to be about: heart, hope, and spending time with the people you love. And where else would you find such iconic power moves as rhyming bibingka with tadhana?