I surveyed most of the damage of last night on the way home an hour ago, around 630AM from Jill’s house in BF Homes P’que to finally here in Cainta (yes we live that far apart. It’s ok, we adjust). Some people were already awake, sweeping the streets, the rest most likely conked out in bed or in a dazed stupor.
The air is completely thick with smoke from pyrotechnics all over the city. It had already been pretty windy last night but apparently that wasn’t enough to blow all this smoke away. Here in my room where the windows were closed all night, the smoke is creeping in and I can smell that familiar smell of a Manila New Year.
I’ve always thought that Manila’s New Year is a bit of a dark tourist secret. I can’t imagine the way we celebrate it to be anything similar to anywhere in the world, and I wonder how a tourist would find it. I bet they’d find it, like myself, pretty amazing. We were on Jill’s house last night and you couldn’t stand still, your head constantly turning around looking for the next great and beautiful explosion.
At first we tried pointing out one or two to each other, then eventually you get tired of that, and just stare and stare. You point one out and say, hey look at that, and by then of course it’s over, then you turn around and something else is going on. Eventually we all hardly spoke a word. There is so much going on all around us. Some several kilometers away, some just on the next block, and several hundred other explosions in between.
It is, without a doubt, beautiful. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The reason why I say it’s a dark secret is because the government wants to hide the fact we celebrate it this way. Firecrackers are supposed to be illegal, yet each and every year I’ve been living here (which is all my life), we’ve had nothing but these same wondrous occasions. There have been some lean years, but last night was one of the good ones. Of course, I’ll insist the best ones were during the times I was a kid, and I’d have bushels of firecrackers to deal with come New Year and even hundreds to spare for disposing of days after.
Regardless though, last night was special. It was downright terrific. I’m sure there were casualties. After revelry of that volume, there’s bound to be. And hey, I dunno how to make sense of all that. Sure it’s terrible, and yes I think it’s a pity we have to have gov’t officials parade weeks before New Year pretending to do something about it, when the obvious firecracker hawkers on the streets and the light show last night proved they didn’t do anything worthwhile. But if anything, at least I know why we still insist on celebrating that way. It was just breathtaking.