Fiesta at Home.
While it’s not exactly our first go-round with attending a fiesta, it is the first time we have participated as a host. Since we are now residents of the Barangay, this is the “first” time we got to experience the fiesta from the inside…the giving side.
The annual Tomaligues fiesta is billed to be on the
10th and 11th of February but for those that live here, it actually all begins many days prior. First, a series of planning meetings were held by the Barangay officials and, this being the “first” fiesta for our newly elected Barangay officials, meetings took on a special significance. The new attitude and approach was simple: To make this the best fiesta ever in Tomaligues! Now personally, I have never been to a past fiesta in this village and wouldn’t be qualified to rank one over another but, I will say this…these guys and gals went all out!
As the month of February began, villagers were out seen sweeping, cleaning, and sprucing things up with a fresh coat of paint here and there. Tables and chairs were being brought in and strategically placed. Store owners stocked up on soda, beer, and snacks. Flags, streamers, and banners were showing up daily, all hung out and displayed well before the festivities began. As I watched the village slowly morph itself into what could qualify as a ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ atmosphere, I was feeling a bit obliged to offer my assistance (of sorts), so I offered up my 16′ extension ladder to the men assembling the large bamboo frame that would hold the large roof tarp that would eventually cover the entire plaza.
It wasn’t until the two truckloads (yes, truckloads!) of speakers arrived at the plaza that my real concern evolved – I now began to worry about how long it would be before I would return to a good nights sleep once they plugged those monsters up.
The “Carney’s” (as we called them back home) or the Midway vendors and games of chance operators)) began setting up about 12 days prior to the main event on the 11th (or the final day of the Fiesta…that would be the food!). The “Midway” was actually dedicated to the street in the immediate front of our home and provided steady activity all day and into the evening with plenty of noise for everyone to enjoy. One good thing though – come 8pm on school nights, the gaming was shut down by order of the Barangay Kapitan (some things here actually do make some sense). There were games of “Three Colored Blocks” and “Rooster Roleta” (roulette), “Numbers Roleta” and “Kings-Queens-Jacks”, and then there was the “Peso Toss” and the “lottery”.
All in all, there were about 10 games set up and no shortage of child gamblers. No gaming licenses or permits were needed, or age limits on gambling. Ahhh, the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by all here….you just gotta love it. I joked with my wife and some friends about how years ago we had to drive for hours to reach the nearest casino and now all I had to do is open my front gate!
The first two nights were pretty busy (the first Fri and Sat) on the little midway and come Sunday, when most of the children’s pesos had been lost to chance, the crowds began to dwindle. Not many adults played these games of chance, but the kids were out in droves. Because gambling is readily accepted and allowed at such an early age here, it’s no surprise why the Philippines has evolved into such a gaming nation. Even some of the gaming operators themselves were kids in their teens. For such a seemingly poor fishing village like Tomaligues, there seemed to be no shortage of peso’s to gamble with and loose so freely.
As each night rolled into the next day, there were more meetings at the plaza, day-time gambling, class reunions, cock-fighting, night-time gambling, card games, drinking, and even more gambling. Everyday was filled with a calendar event of some sort. If one wasn’t involved directly with one of the calendar events, it was all the more reason for some to begin the day with an early round of beer, brandy, and pulutan (finger food snacks). The last four nights (8th, 9th, 10th, 11th) of the fiesta were dedicated to music and dancing…with each evening having it’s own defined purpose. On the last Saturday of the Fiesta, the first dance night was dedicated to the Elementary School Alumni and everyone seemed to have a great time. It seemed there was plenty of spirits to be consumed and and enough Kuratsa dancing to last a lifetime…well, at least until the next evening anyway. The Kuratsa dance is a historic and culturally popular and lively dance that is that is very common among the old folks of Waray, especially in the Eastern Visayas. In its tradition, it is an act of courtship where the male approaches and courts a lady in a form of a dance. The theme of the dance depicts the courtship between the rooster and the hen and is designed to raise money for a cause. While the couple dance around the floor, people will come up and throw money at them until the dance is over…or until the money simply stops flowing.
The next night (Sunday) was dedicated to raise money for the Barangay Elementary School, and then the following night (Monday) a dance dedication to the area’s visiting Barangay Officials, once again, designed to raise more money. Over the course of the four dances, it has been purported that the Barangay raised over P110,000 (over $2,400), in addition to the money and construction supplies donated to the elementary school, in which I obligated myself to donate five – 50 kilo sacks of concrete for the construction of a new computer room. My generosity was obviously in direct proportion to my beer consumption, and had I been drinking more heavily, there is no telling what I would have given. I received much gratitude nonetheless. The very last day of the fiesta (Feb 11th) was devoted to entertaining family and friends, and eating and feeding the many outsider visitors that came to the village and to your home. It all ended by the big “Disco Party” at the plaza that evening (which didn’t end until 5am the next morning and whereby school classes were suspended).
On Wednesday morning, and as things slowly wound down to resemble some sense of normalcy (it sure takes some time to get back to normal here), most people had to look at their calendars to get a return grasp on reality. All I could do was take a deep breath and sigh, and remind myself that I had approximately 355 days left to rest up and prepare myself for the next fiesta…and except for all the parties that will be had in-between that time, I will learn to take my naps more seriously.
We would like to thank all our friends for visiting and supporting our villages causes. You are all invited back next year!
All in all, living here reminds me of an old wall poster I once had hanging in our California restaurant which chronically listed every party day of the year…and appropriately titled “365 Reasons to Party”.