Right after Christmas ends, the Philippines’ evening news will start running its stock New Years’ Eve stories, filling in the gaps around any breaking or hard news stories. They include:
- The price of fireworks and which fireworks are illegal and their awesome names of Filipino fireworks, such as Goodbye, Philippines; Goodbye, Bading (‘bading’ means flamboyant gay man); bin Laden (all illegal). Which kinda makes them seem more attractive. Except the bading one, that’s just mean and wrong.
- PNP (Philippine National Police) confiscating illegal fireworks and arresting people like fireworks merchants in Quiapo with kilos and kilos of pyrotechnics right under their lit cigarettes!! Big, obvious no-no.
- How to treat firecracker-related wounds at home, and when you should go to the hospital. “If you can’t find the finger that’s been blown off, don’t worry! Take the wounded person to the hospital right away. What’s important is the patient, not just the [severed] finger.” They also like to show that the hospitals are ready with all manner of medieval-looking medical apparati.
- Stories and images of firecracker-related injury – complete with eye patches, bandaged stubs – fingers, hands and feet even sometimes gone. The injured include both kids and adults – though it’s mostly kids. The good journos don’t skip on the gory for cautionary tales.
- The price of fruits. It’s said to be good luck to have twelve types of fruits in your home at New Year. (Their round shape echoes the round shape of coins, meaning greater prosperity in the future.)
- Feng shui consultants, Chinese astrologists and psychics doing their thing: speculating about our favorite celebrities, good months to start a business or get married, what types of things can be bought for good luck.
All this fireworks stuff is completely fascinating to me. I grew up in Chicago where fireworks are illegal. When I was a kid, we could still buy those little poppers, sparklers and those green snakes that come out of the ground with the foul-smelling smoke. But beyond that, it’s all up to the pyrotechnic wizardry of The Experts. Of which, you are not. On the Fourth of July, fireworks are shot off from a barge afloat on Lake Michigan a good distance from shore, where we can all enjoy from a safe, American distance, huddled masses of turkey leg-chomping, corn-on-the-cob Taste of Chicago crowd. Fireworks happened “over there,” someone else did it, and I guess they had to be trained specially. I still ooh and ahh, I still get startled and then laugh at myself, I still clap at the end of the show. I will always try to take pictures of fireworks, even though 98% of them turn out useless. But, back to New Years.
Being outdoors in a dress and not freezing my little tushie off outside some overpriced hotel party in the snow and ice, and in fact, wearing in flip-flops with coconut trees swaying gently above, slightly obscuring the moon, looking up at the changing skywriting and man-made shooting stars with my mom, basically the best person on Earth – the novelty is still not gone on me. I feel like a kid again, and isn’t that the right way to feel on New Years?
This is my mom. Isn’t she just as sweet as can be? This is my mom’s New Year dress. She always wears it because polka dots are said to be lucky. (Again with the round shape-coin/money correlation.) Bright colors are also supposed to be lucky, so I wore red. No missed opportunities to bring out the red lip. No siree.
We are both holding little castanets as noise makers. I’m not sure why my aunt has those, maybe she did Spanish flamenco back in the 70s, I don’t know. Someone next door had a vuvuzela. Another of our neighbors and his friend rode through the street on a motorbike with a piece of scrap metal tied to it, dragging it behind, as makeshift noisemaker/spark generator. The point is to make noise, turn on all the lights of the house, open all the doors to send off the old year goodbye and bring in the good of the new year. Our poor dog cowered under the front stoop.
As the hour gets closer and closer to midnight, it as if inside a microwave popcorn bag, with the occasional fizz and pop turning into a more frequent and steady bang-boom-pow! with a crackle and whistler or three thrown in, until it’s all some sort of awesome post-modern symphony of pyrotechnics, people narrowly avoiding having their extremities turned to mush, delightful screams of running children and yelling out HAPPY NEW YEAR as loud as your lungs will allow. Audio to follow soon.
Groups of children and adults gather in the street to assemble and set off their fireworks a little away from the house and from parked and passing cars.Though, invariably, jury-rigged rocket launch pads fall down at the wrong moment, sparks fly right at the trees and roofs and undercarriages and people, which is why my aunt is watching the festivities under our neighbors’ awning. Car alarms will be set off (if not intentionally). At some point, the Fun With Fire and Stuff quiets down, and you start to realize how chilly 25° C/77° F actually is, and you want to have second dinner. Thank you neighbors in our little barangay for making New Years so festive and wonderful.
Our night ended with some TV church, sotanghon noodles (the kind that look like glass but are made of rice), hardboiled quail eggs and hot chocolate. And blogging, for me.
Let me take a minute to Thank YOU for reading, liking, recommending, commenting, retweeting and reposting my scribblings and pictures from 2012. I’m happy to say that this year I got a whopping 20,000 – yes, twenty-thousand – pageviews from all around the world!! All thanks to YOU!
As 2013 travels westward to my friends across this great little place called Earth – China, Dubai, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, and in the States – Maine, DC, New York City, Boston, Philly, Florida, Pittsburgh, Georgia, Detroit, CHICAGO, Arizona, California… I hope you HAD an amazing year and I hope you WILL HAVE an even greater year to come. I’m so happy to have you in my life.
And to the friends I have yet to make in 2013, know that I am coming for you. Be ready, be good. God bless.