New Year’s Eve in the Philippines

A few days before 31st December, a local newspaper in Manila reported that in the Philippines, New Year’s Eve is all about noise. Wherever you are and whoever you’re with the main thing is to make it LOUD. When I arrived in the country at the end December, there were already plenty of noisy preparations being made : street vendors were tooting away on electric blue horns – very similar to the “vuvuzelas” made famous during the South African world cup – and everywhere I went I was regaled with enthusiastic cries of “Happy New Year” – even though we still had 4 days to go.

Market in Bacolod, Philippines

Like most Oriental countries, the Philippines go in for firecrackers in a big way. Boxes of them were being loaded onto the small ferries that transport travelers from the town of Iloilo to the tiny island of Guimares, leaving little room for the household commodities that usually go over. As the big day approached, the real popularity of the fireworks was brought home by the high profile public awareness campaign, warning people of the danger of cheap and poorly made explosives. Almost every supermarket and news channel was running a scare story but happily on the night only whoops of joy could be heard on the streets in my immediate vicinity.

So what was the reality? Did it all go off with a bang? Well yes! Plenty of them. There were fiery bursts of colour and the ear-splitting honking of car horns, but also music – in the town of Bacolod an energetic group of Christian rockers were belting out songs of praise on the main square, whilst the bar next to my hotel shared its karaoke superstars with the world.

Firecracker

So it was loud as promised and heaps of fun. My favourite moment was when a local man flung handfuls of 1 peso coins into the street for local kids to chase and collect. Their whoops of delight as they filled their pockets were really pretty quiet by local standards, but honestly it was a truly uplifting way to welcome in the coming year.

Jane Downs is Co-founder of Islandesia.

Comments (1)

  1. Grace says:

    New Year in the Philippines is a fun, All these years, I am still believing on the lucky circle fruits which round shape signifies money. I’m also a fan of fireworks display in our place, but never tried fire cracker on my own because its dangerous.

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