EYES WIDE OPEN
I was abruptly awakened by the sound of drums, with an ever-increasing accompaniment of brass instruments. Before I knew it and within seconds, there was a 7 piece marching ensemble passing my bedroom window on their way down the street. Now I was sitting straight up in bed and I’m sure the sleepy, “in-shock” look on my face would have said all. It was only 4:00am! I laid back down only to hear an occasional rooster, a babies’ cry, then the distant sound of a squealing pig. The neighbor’s motorcycle (with modified muffler of course) further scuttled the morning’s quiet. Now I could hear voices, and some clanking plates and dishes. The sound of pots and pans rattling in the kitchen was all the affirmation I needed… it was Fiesta Eating Day and the food prep was well underway. I got up, made the bed (I haven’t made the bed this early since boot camp), and immediately employed my permanent memory to navigate my way to the kitchen and the coffee. Even in my old age, it is this part of my memory that will be the last to fail… hopefully. It was way too early for me but I knew there would be no more rest… until this day was over, and I was to tackle this day head on. So with coffee in hand, I took a stroll through our courtyard and noticed that balloon and cotton candy vendors had already set up on our lot, outside on the driveway under the Talisay tree. Maybe they figured if they set up under the cloak of darkness, all would be well. It didn’t take me long to evict them to a location across the street.
Actually fiesta preparations began yesterday, with the chopping of meats and vegetables and some tasks already completed like potato salad and boiled chicken. The neighbors butchered their pig yesterday, which will never be a sound I get accustomed to. It is not a pleasing sound. How Filipinos can prolong an animal’s suffering is beyond me but I suppose there is a logical (filipino logic) explanation why it takes a pig 20 long squealing minutes to be killed. (I really do know the reason but will save you from the gory details.) Our (two) pigs were being readied for the fire pit as I climbed out of bed. Family members had been up since about 2:00 am to begin the process. I never get involved with the Lechon process as it starts way too early for me, and if I had my way, we would just have chicken. But Lechon is the tradition here… for fiestas, large parties, christenings and all. This is the first time in 4 years that we will be serving Lechon at our home for fiesta (we did have Lechon for our Christmas party). At first light, I managed to locate my camera and took a walk to the jungle where the fire pit was set up and the guys were charging up the coals.
My wife has already dropped a few hints at the possibility of taking a fiesta break next year… meaning no open house and feeding of the masses. It is after all, a lot of work. This party season has been especially trying for us. We barely got through our new construction project before the Christmas party season was upon us. Just the Holiday season party events here in the Philippines is enough to wear anyone out. After the run-up to Christmas, we hosted our first big party of the season, the family Christmas Eve gathering. That was followed a couple of weeks later by hosting an annual Expat Potluck Gathering, and earlier this week, a contractor/employee appreciation BBQ for those who worked for us during the last year. Now, fiesta is upon us and when the dust settles (after clean-up) and everything returns to normal, we can make a new party calendar assessment going forward. Maybe next time around, we can manufacture a good reason to disappear for a few weeks from mid December through mid February. That would definitely help to slow things down a bit, and re-align the retirement mode.
Have you ever tried to change an existing Filipino family tradition or impart a new tradition upon them? It is not likely to happen and the odds are against you… unless there is liquor involved – like shots of Tequila complete with salt and lemon (for the guys) and Margaritas (for the ladies). Some things are truly possible! And as I left the jungle to head back to the house, my brother-in-law declared that the Lechon would be finished cooking at 12:00 o’clock. He also declared that he would be ready for a shot of Tequila at 12:01 pm!
One thing that is always certain here in the Philippines… there will be plenty more parties to attend, only we won’t be hosting any for a while! Oh, and that reminds me… we have a baby Christening to attend this morning, complete with roast Lechon pig and all the trimmings… BEFORE we eat!
Retired in Samar
Retired in Samar