As a guest, all you’d have to do is arrive just in time for the food to be served, and praise the hosts on how masterfully they’ve renovated the house. It’s not uncommon to bring friends you never told the host about – you happened to bump into them, so you dragged them along. This is a disappearing practice though, as obviously it’s rude, and a general bother for most involved.
In the Philippines, the host pays and prepares for everything, and the guests can just eat-and-run. While birthday parties in the Philippines are rarely a one-man show – not with the number of nieces and nephews who are often told to bring Aunt So-and-So this dish or to serve Uncle So-and-So this beer – they are almost always an affair centralized around the family. They may be taken as a show of power or of privilege, but kinder people may think of them as a celebration for all the blessings that have been received in the past year of the birthday celebrant’s life.
Customs for gifts and attire are the same as in any other country – dependent on who is receiving. We’re generally laid-back, so unless there’s a printed invitation that spells out the necessity to come in formal attire, it’s all up to how one feels the party will be – we’re highly dependent on feels in this country, and it’s one of the reasons our traffic is so bad. It isn’t uncommon to attend without a gift, especially if the invitation was given casually. The material gift doesn’t matter much anyway because the highlight is the presence of people you love and care about. For any host, that the guests will enjoy themselves is always of prime importance.
That, and getting the lechon roasted perfectly.