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Thursday, January 8, 2015

It's Not More Fun (In The Philippines) Sans Eyes and Limbs

"In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The backdrop was by any means reminiscent of World War 2 except for the obvious works of art that lit up the sky - the atrociously ear-piercing explosions here and there that you thought the metropolis just fell at the hands of the ISIS - and by then had their hands full massacring every breathing Filipino at every turn so that you scurried for dear life. If not for reveling faces on the ground that compete as to who gets to detonate the loudest arsenal to 'scare off some naughty spirits' that bring bad luck for the new year - the world war 2 scenario is completely resurrected but with a catch: almost all injuries are self-inflicted from failed 'suicide attempts' - in this case one's own limbs and eyes are deliberately the targets.

It is the era of genetics, stem cell phenomenon, and Kim K 'breaking the internet' - yet these are miniatures of an achievement compared to what tradition-infested Philippines have conquered. Not even the lame and subdued pyrotechnics display (by Filipino standard) of first-in-a-beeline Auckland and Sydney, nor the extravagantly splendid but fleeting Burj Khalifa stunts, nor the Times Square revelry - not even an inch can compare to the bloody pursuits of Filipinos for a really 'enjoyable and prosperous new year ahead'.

Take this: despite the looming fare hike in MRT and LRT greeting the 20 plus million residents of Metropolitan Manila who mostly go about with their lives availing of this transport system - the temerity to allocate a rather big chunk of their hard-earned income to buy firecrackers to greet the new year is such that a plate of pale spaghetti paired up with some nearly rotten round fruits will suffice - for as long as firecrackers are stacked up in abundance to get the rear of those naughty evil spirits off lest they'll get asphyxiated from smoke and render them deaf from loud bangs so that they no longer pester again our religious Filipinos all throughout the new year.

This powerful Filipino tradition is world-renown in both ways: the incomparable revelry characterized by bomb-like explosions and ground shakes that may at times compel PHIVOLCS to frantically announce they are yet to come up with a device on how to differentiate an authentic earth movement from a Goodbye Philippines or Bin Laden-triggered earth shake, for one - and the inexplicable insanity Filipinos might be suffering from, for another.

Reasons why the world collectively thinks Filipinos have gone insane and have reasons to point finger at science or maybe religion for not being able to rescue this group of people from the torture of perpetual madness it is being subjected to:

1. Firecrackers and Guns
  • In any random place imaginable, there is no shortage of mangled limbs and fingers you see squiggling on the ground and struggling to find their rightful owners whom you find staggering and gasping for clean air amid the smothering smoke that equally devastates their lungs. And also those who lost eyesight on new year's eve are not to be denied of the limelight - at least they too are given substantial media mileage that their new-found fame reaches their already wailing OFW relatives who also have to deal with oppressive employers. (*When the UN releases figures in February as to which country takes the cake with most amputees at the first salvo of 2015 - surely Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen would be fuming mad and green with envy at Filipinos who dared join their league and rightfully snatched the crown from them.)
  • An average Filipino thinks the more firecrackers he blows up and the louder it gets, the more chances bad luck and bad spirits get mortified at the thought of being bombed out and unable to perfectly piece their tails and horns together. (*yeah, speaking of spirits, right? at least humans called Filipinos beat  Casper's progeny in this one, hands down. "Better luck next time you filthy ghosts, prove your being a sport and get back as soon as you figure already on how to counter smart Filipinos' weaponry. But man don't trip over limbs and eyeballs on your way out, you may find some, just to remind yah!" 
  • New year is perfect time to show off that they have tons of money hence tons of firecrackers - and the loudest and brightest home is assumed to have the most money in the neighborhood - to which they should remain the loudest and foggiest till sunshine to erase any doubts of their accolade.  Filipinos are way too assertive of anything, in this case, of his reputation. Ego unlimited eh?(and oh by the way, this competition dates back since time immemorial and may or may have not directly triggered Filipino exodus to other countries to keep tradition afloat from generation to generation.)
  • Parents especially those from the slum areas lack training on how to teach their kids to differentiate edibles from non-edibles. Proof is, cases of kids ingesting firecrackers they mistake for food or candies, are mounting. (At least the taste-first-before-swallow approach by Freud should have been taught at the oral stage.)
  • Gun owners are in a frenzy to fire bullets into air thinking government has its hand full to bother and keep them in its worry list amid the Bilibid scandal and Ruby-Senyang trails of destruction. (In fact, pictures on Facebook posted by the thugs themselves firing their rifles and ammunition into the air on new year's eve can vouch to that thought-pattern. Unfortunately for the ego-maniacs, netizens who were not impressed go on an online rampage that nudged police from their tipsy state to get those thugs to answer for their 'showmanship'.)
  • Figures from New year's eve fatalities attributed to 'random firing into air' is but a  common scenario because people cannot be held back from such tradition. Meaning, no entity from above and below can interfere with tradition dearly held by some macho thugs that "rifles and guns are naturally fired into air notwithstanding the bullets coming back to the ground to kill innocent people". (So, the agony of those who lost their loved ones from bullets fired indiscriminately are prolonged, the fact that no one has yet to answer for this heinous crime. But you cannot fight tradition, right?)
  • While all sectors of society are into relentless revelry, the same cannot be said of the doctors and nurses who have to work round-the-clock to treat the injured in 'battle'. Though some of those who emerged alive from their 'battles with bad spirits' and are  projected to keep their limbs intact - others, young and old alike, battle to contain the shame and pain of losing limbs and fingers, or burnt faces. Unfortunately for some who lost an eye - a last fair request to do a selfie may not be the best memento to keep when one loses his ability to steady the lens. (I think it's but a natural thing to do to commend these medical practitioners for their professionalism and dedication in the service of the injured. Surely, it takes great passion and precision to be able to cut-and-saw mangled limbs while not losing the spirit of media noche. Proof is, there was no report that a spaghetti perched next to a bloody gauze flew into a sutured wound.)
  • I think it's insanity of the highest order when over 2000 families in Quezon City lost their homes in the early morning of January 1, 2015 due to a firecracker that was set-off  by children resulting to a huge inferno that claimed some lives, and needless to say dashed hopes of those poor residents for a better and prosperous new year. (oh tradition, people will die to fight for tradition, and oh some of them did get killed by tradition, literally. The bad news is:  the trend is here to stay as long as those who survived did not learn their lessons - and the good news for those who can keep their reason: the prognosis is, they may live longer.)

2. Food
  • Ushering new year is the time of the year when Filipinos believe that dining tables should be overflowing with food that signals abundance and prosperity for the entire new year. And abundance means lechon, cholesterol-laden oily foods, carb-rich entrees and desserts, and heavy beverages congesting their table. In the Philippines this is the perfect picture of a dining table that epitomizes abundance and prosperity. If you're a health buff and insists on seeing unconventional green leafy menu on the table, chances are you're a spoiler of tradition and promptly labeled.(In case you stand true to your conviction, be of good cheer, who knows, you're may be up for a rigorous task next: transporting those who fall like snows in blizzard - to the nearest emergency - maybe, just maybe.;)
  • Of course in every argument there is pros and cons. If the well-to-do families can fill their tables to the brim with sumptuous foods and the next day they populate hospitals due to usual suspects i.e. cardiovascular issue, high blood and stroke - poor families on the other hand are not that constrained for obvious reasons. So the poor, though wallowing in their supposed inability to cope up with tradition, they in the end win the race for flatter belly and longevity - something that the flip side (those with talents in stuffing their bellies with carbs and drowning themselves in pork oil) have to only dream about in their hospital bed. (this opinion is only brought up for the sake of sarcasm but does not in any way generalize, but is partly true. ;)

Feng Shui
  • I am not referring to the title of a horror film moviegoers are raving about, it is about the Filipinos' undiminished belief in lucky charms that they would do anything to follow the advice of supposedly 'feng shui experts' to usher in all the 'good luck and positivity' for the new year. The advice comes with selling lucky charms to the 'gullible majority' composed mostly of 'can-afford' families who leave no options to omit one single lucky charm if only to scoop up all the good fortunes on offer. 
  • Unbeknownst to many, it is imperative for feng shui 'experts' to master the book "How to Trick the Greedy and Gullible" before plying their trade - and part of the Trick 101 is to establish a name in media - in this case, maybe befriend a tv host, or lucky them, if they get a presidential sister to tour to their feng shui shop and pretend to adore her acting prowess that should have won her the MMFF acting award. Then the greater the media mileage, the longer the beeline formed by clients to seek advice - and the louder these 'experts' laugh their way to the bank.
  • Judging on the bad luck that befell those thousands who lost their homes from fire on new year's eve, it's safe to assume that none of them heeded the advice from feng shui experts: to stuff their homes with lucky charms, hence the bad luck that greeted them on the first day of new year. But who's to blame when those slum dwellers have only had scant meal on their table let alone get a lucky charm even at a bargain?
  • And just how true is the report that on the last day of 2014, all city hall employees of Makati were deployed to Binondo and Quiapo to shop for the most potent amulets and charms available to be buried beneath the most expensive parking building on the planet and under their master's palatial mansions? If in the next few weeks survey results say their master had stretched his lead, then the reports were in fact true. (But whatever happened to GMA with all the best feng shui experts surrounding her and her hospital bed adorned in glittering lucky charms that all she could muster for herself was a Christmas furlough? Umm, maybe some spirits have developed fondness for Pnoy even before his Vice-Ganda interview?)

Firecrackers, Food binge and Feng Shui are but staples in new year's tradition some Filipinos cannot live without. But who cares about what the world have to say? When the world has ISIS to deal with, and the French losing their country to Islamists - with the Americans still obsessed with their Bieber, Pitt-Jolie and Game of Thrones - and Kim Jung Un has some catching up to do from briefly losing his internet - the Filipinos' notoriety in ushering a new year with a fraction of its citizens losing limbs and eyes, is just a testament that Filipinos are a unique people - world-renown for its peculiarity, even if it means the whole world shifts its eyes in unison at a glaring endemic stupidity insanity - but for the sake of political correctness, you get ambiguous silence which means either scorn or respect. And so there shall be peace! Happy New Year!


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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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