Sleepless in the Philippines.
Welcome to 2016, and a New Year! While the planet we live on has successfully navigated yet another trip around the Sun, everything in the heavens appear to remain unchanged. Here on Earth, not so much. There are new calendars, new outlooks, new budgets and new resolutions. There are hangovers a plenty. Thankfully, not me though! These days I’m not much of a reveler but here in the Philippines, there is no shortage of celebrants. And if I have learned one thing living in the Philippines, it is that the Filipino excels at noise making. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Filipinos are world-class revelers! They make enough noise when the New Year arrives, I’m certain that if the wind is blowing just right, these islands can be heard from the Indochina Peninsula clear down to Singapore. My guess is that they can make more noise than a Chinese New Year! I do know this…they make enough noise so that people like me don’t have to.
Going To Bed!
I laughed to myself when my wife said she was going to bed early. Then I looked at the clock and it was only 9:00pm. I chuckled out loud. I wasn’t going to remind her that there would be no sleeping this night. She should have learned from the last two New Year’s Eve cycles. Sleep will be in short supply for approximately the next 24 hours – and possibly more because this celebration coincides with a weekend. It had been sporadically noisey throughout the day, with the boga (banned by the Philippine government since 2006) and the occasional firecrackers and bottle rockets. My theory on this is that the more fireworks exploded during the daytime hours, means less noise at the stroke of midnight and beyond. Actually, beyond should be displayed BEYOND! Most places I have been in the world where the New Year is celebrated at the stroke of midnight with the usual and brief barrage of aerial fireworks, firecrackers, and noisemakers… with the occasionally happy neighbor partaking by unloading three rounds in his shotgun into the air from his front porch. And in most of those places, the noise succumbs quickly back to the kissing and mingling, partying, and dancing, along with verse or two of “Old Anzine” thrown in for good ambiance, and within the hour or so, things get pretty much back to quiet. The bars and nightclubs close, parties wind down, people go home and go to bed. Not so here in the Land of Many Noises!
A Day Off.
As midnight approaches, the revelers begin to ramp up firing off the homemade bazookas and firecrackers. Then just before the stroke of midnight, all falls quiet (mostly), and then…whamo! Cats and dogs run for cover while kids run the streets, most in careless fashion, banging on tin cans and lids or lighting firecrackers. These kids will throw up (or down) anything that might explode and make a loud noise. Noises range from the normal store-bought noisemakers like horns and kazoos, hand clappers, blowouts, cowbells and other party poppers, up to what sounds like military grade explosive ordnance (boga). There is no shortage of ideas either when it comes to homemade noisemakers. From sticks rapping on tin can lids, to rocks inside shaker bottles and cans. Those with motorbikes will crank them up and, without any respect for their motors, rev them so high you find yourself anxiously waiting for an engine to explode! Most never do. Some bike owners will even make the extra effort to remove the muffler from the motorbike and race it up and down the street. Then you have the idiot who thinks it’s safe to break out the .45 and empty a full clip into the air. The Filipino will do anything to make noise and join in the grand revelation.
Unlike other areas of the western world, it doesn’t end just after midnight either. No. The noise continues unabated for the longest time… and in direct proportion to how badly you want to go to bed. In other words, the more you wish you could lay down and go to sleep, the louder the noises are and the longer it lasts! Last year I remember the noise finally subsided at about 3:00am with only a stray firecracker here and there. Last night the noisemakers began to die down about 2:30, but the loud music continued until after 4:00am as the party at the village plaza continued on.
Unlike last year, I made no effort to go to bed. Back in the U.S., it has been many years since I have stayed up to ring in the New Year. These days, I don’t have much choice. That is why I had to chuckle when my wife said she was going to go to sleep – I knew better, and while I stood outside just after the stroke of midnight watching the small barrage of aerial fireworks from our terrace, I found my wife standing sleepy-eyed next to me. I looked at her with an all-knowing smirk-of-a-smile and asked “What’s the problem, can’t sleep?” (Sometimes I wish sarcasm was available as a font.) I never got an answer and seconds later she disappeared back into the house. And I went back to watching TV, in between loud explosions of course. Nobody was sleeping this night, until near the crack of dawn. Come to think of it, the village roosters were all quiet this morning. I guess they figured there was no sense in wasting a good wake-up call when nobody was sleeping. This all makes me wonder that, while some of us no longer look forward to this night if revelation any longer, it might be the one day a year a lonely rooster has to look forward to… they take some time off!
No Fish Today!
One thing I noticed this morning were outsiders coming into the village looking for fresh fish, which indicates that there may not be much at the local markets this day. I suppose many of the village fisherman did not go out fishing during the “Eve,” nor are many of them in good shape at 4:00am to head out in their boats for the morning catch either. Hence, a one-day-a-year fish shortage! So all-in-all, fishermen and roosters got to take a much-needed day off and I get to take much-needed multiple naps on this first calendar day of the new year. I can’t think of any better way to ring in 2016 than to do it with some peace and quiet, except for maybe a good spaghetti dinner in between naps… without hotdogs!
Happy New Year everyone!