Monday, February 26, 2007

New Year's Eve to the New Year

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: Another Coffee Break

More than anything else, I timed this trip to coincide with the New Year's.

Even moreso than Pasko.

While my first Pasko in ten years was very special and happy indeed - my memories of Philippine New Year's celebrations register higher in the "kickass childhood memories" department.

Why? Well, it is in the way Filipinos celebrate it. You see, in here, it is celebrated with a BANG!


Along with the traditionally lavish parties held in greeting the New Year, there also are firecrackers (paputok), fireworks, and various noisemakers galore. It helps too that Sta. Maria, my hometown, is centre to the Philippine paputok industry - so there never is a shortage to cheap, direct from the source, paputok.

The days working up to New Year's Eve, I was a kid all over again - playing with little Piccolos, kwitis (skyrockets with up to 70m vertical reach to deploy a sizable aerial warhead), triangulos (triangularly shaped firecrackers), and all sorts of other mini explosives.

I went beyond just lighting them up and hearing them go BANG! What I did was to experiment with their explosive powers and concussive capabilities by: trying to demolish rotting tree trunks, deploying the waterproof types on water, making cannons by launching projectiles out of metal piping, and also terrorizing the wildlife by putting them in tiny burrowing holes to see if a rodent or perhaps a reptile can be flushed out.

Yes, it was as though I were regressing and trying to catch up to the past 10 years of missed paputokan (merry making with firecrackers).
December 31st of 2006, however, was also slightly unique in the celebrations that happened in the my family's Hacienda. Not only did we greet the New Year, we also celebrated My cousin Marlo's firstborn's christening - also Tito Nato's and Tita Mona's first grandchild - Janelle Marlyze.

Unique it may have been, but wholly different it was not.

When, in the past, it would have been a clan-wide potluck serving as an extension to the celebrations of Pasko - with the old house serving as the venue - this New Year's, it was Tito Nato's party and the venue was in his place on the other side of the property.

Tito Boy brought me back to Sta. Maria, Bulacan, in the morning of the 31st, in time for the mass Christening held at Sto. Nino Parish Church in the neighbouring barangay of Parada. mass christening? Yes, you read right. I hadn't meant to type "christening mass" as some might assume. I instead, did mean to say "mass christening" - a christening where many babies got christened on that same gathering.

No better indication of the high birth rates in the Philippines, I thought.

We got back to the Family place around lunchtime, after most of the invited guests had arrived.

Just like back in my youth (one can argue I'm still in my youth, but anyway), I got to meet my near to distant relatives through my Dad, and various other friends of the family. Now, unique to this occasion was that I met my brother's highschool and elementary friends. (Cousin Jojo, Cousin Marlo, and my Brother - Ian - all went through elementary and highschool together) They were asking me about my brother. Why isn't he here with you, they asked. They said they all miss him.

In his absence, they gave me the warmth they were saving for him to me. (Bro, if you're reading this, you should have been there during this time. You would have had fun...) Such kindness I mused to myself, is so very Filipino.

As the afternoon went on, the guests thinned out, leaving only close and more intimate friends and relatives. Also, the drinking reached its peak at this point. I excused myself so that I could expend the 250 pieces of kwitis that I bought for this day (I would run out of ordnance before minight).

Cousin Pong also dropped by on the way to the neighbouring Town of San Jose Del Monte, to celebrate the New Year with his pregnant wife, Minette . Having come all the way from the province of La Union (a 6 hour drive away), Pong couldn't pass up sitting down to dinner with us, even if it were just so he could down a plateful of cold food.

Come late night, but still well before midnight, Tito Chody, Tito Nato, and Uncle Tito were all well liquored up. The alcohol had dissolved their inhibitions and they were spilling their guts and baring their... issues... I guess. I cannot reveal all of them, of course, but one stuck with me that night - one sentiment which made it past my inebriated state to the point that I am able to remember it now.

As Tito Nato put it, "Kayo, pagbubutihin ninyo! Kami kasi, anak ng mayamang may lupa. Kaya kahit wala(ng narating), kinaya naman. Kayo naman, anak na lang namin! (You all should strive for a better future. We here.. we're all sons of rich landowners. We may not have amounted to much, but our parents took care of that. You on the other hand, are just our sons)".

He directed it to all of us in my generation.

A short while later, Jojo passed out and so did Uncle Tito.

Good thing I paced myself otherwise I would have missed this:



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