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Parties greet end of the world

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Though the Mayans never really predicted that the world would end Dec. 21, 2012, some New Agers were convinced that humanity’s demise was indeed imminent. Or at least that it was a good excuse for a party.

Across Asia, Europe and North America, many planned to party like there’s no tomorrow with apocalypse-themed dinners and pub nights.

Hong Kong’s Aqua restaurant promised to pick up the tab for its HK$2,112.12 ($273) six-course meal if the end is nigh – though patrons will have to stump up if still alive at midnight.

Believers were drawn to spots where they think their chances of survival will be better, and accompanying them are the curious, the party-lovers and people wanting to make some money.

Here are some of the world’s key doomsday destinations and other places marked by fear and fascination:

Mexico: About 1,000 self-described shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, sufis and swamis gathered in a convention center in the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula about an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, convinced that it was a good start to the coming “New Era” supposed to begin around 5 a.m. local time Friday.

These are not people who believe the world will end on Friday: the summit is scheduled to run through Dec. 23. Instead, participants say, they want to celebrate the birth of a new age.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s self-styled “brujo mayor” or chief soothsayer, Antonio Vazquez Alba, warned followers to stay away from all gatherings on Friday. “We have to beware of mass psychosis” that could lead to stampedes or “mass suicides, of the kind we’ve seen before,” he said.

Star gazers are planning to welcome in the new era with a dawn ceremony Friday at Uxmal, the only major Mayan pyramid that has rounded edges. Others will spend the day at the more famous Chichen Itza archaeological site.

Also, organizers of Yucatan’s broader Mayan Culture Festival saw the need to answer some of the now-debunked idea that the Mayans, who invented an amazingly accurate calendar almost 2,000 years ago, had somehow predicted the end of the world. The Yucatan state government asked a scientist to talk about the work of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to debunk the idea it could produce world-ending rogue particles.

France

According to one rumor, a rocky mountain in the French Pyrenees would be the sole place on earth to escape destruction.

A giant UFO and aliens are said to be waiting under the mountain, ready to burst through and spirit those nearby to safety.

But here is bad news for those seeking salvation: French gendarmes, some on horseback, are blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people.

One believer, Ludovic Broquet, a 30-year-old plumber, made his way to the mountain after a year of preparation, hoping to find a “gateway, the vortex that will open up here (at) the end of the world.”

Local residents, instead, are skeptical – and angry at having their peace disturbed. “What is going on here is the creation of an urban legend,” fumed resident Michele Pous, who blamed those who spread Internet rumors. “They created a media frenzy, they created a false event, they manipulated people.”

Russia

For $1,500, a museum is offering salvation from the world’s end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s underground bunker in central Moscow – with a 50 per cent refund if nothing happens.

The bunker, located 65 meters below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Now home to a small museum, it has an independent electricity supply, water and food – but no more room, because the museum has already sold out all 1,000 tickets.

Britain

Hundreds of people have already converged on Stonehenge for an “End of the World” party that coincides with the winter solstice.

Arthur Uther Pendragon, Britain’s best-known druid, said he was anticipating a much larger crowd than usual at Stonehenge this year. But he doesn’t agree that the world is ending, noting that he and fellow druids believe that things happen in cycles.

“We’re looking at it more as a new beginning than an end,” he said. “We’re looking at new hope.”

Meanwhile, end-of-days parties will be held across London on Friday. One event billed as a “last supper club” is offering a three-course meal served inside of an “ark.”

Serbia

Some Serbs are saying to forget that sacred mountain in the French Pyrenees. The place to go Friday will be Mount Rtanj, a pyramid-shaped peak in Serbia already drawing cultists.

A local legend has it that the mountain once swallowed an evil sorcerer who will be released on doomsday in a ball of fire that will hit the mountain top. The inside of the mountain will then open up, becoming a safe place to hide as the sorcerer goes on to destroy the rest of the world.

In the meantime, some old coal mine shafts have been opened up as safe rooms for the dozens who have arrived already.

“We got calls from as far away as Holland from people trying to seek shelter,” said Vlada Minic, a local villager. “They are asking to be as close as possible to the mountain.”

Turkey

A small Turkish village known for its wines, Sirince, has also been touted as the only place after Bugarach that would escape the world’s end. For now there are more journalists and security officials present there than cultists – to the great disappointment of local restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners.

Nobody was quite sure where Sirince’s alleged powers to survive the Mayan doomsday come from, but the idyllic village in western Turkey is close to an area where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived her final days, and some New Agers reportedly believe the region has a positive aura.

For months, local business owners have been promoting the village and even produced wines with special labels to commemorate the event.

Italy

Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, in southern Italy, plans a big party Friday with hot-air balloons and music in the main piazza.

“Nobody will want to sleep anyway as they await the end of the world,” Mayor Donato Baccaro was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Stampa on Wednesday.

Though Baccaro goes on to say he doesn’t really believe the end is coming, hundreds have reportedly booked hotel rooms.

China

A fringe Christian group has been spreading rumors about the world’s impending end, prompting Chinese authorities to detain more than 500 people this week and seize leaflets, video discs, books and other material.

Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, also called Eastern Lightning, which preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China.

Authorities in the province of Qinghai say they are waging a “severe crackdown” on the group, accusing it of attacking the Communist Party and the government.

 

USA

For some, doomsday will be a chance for mockery.

Giorgio Tsoukalos, producer and host of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens program, is throwing a party in New Orleans on Friday where he will descend onstage in a mock spaceship.

Tsoukalos is a leading proponent of the idea that ancient myths arose from visits by alien astronauts, an idea rejected by many mainstream researchers. Still, Tsoukalos scoffs at the idea that the world will come to an end Friday.

Philippines

Most Filipinos were too busy with their Christmas shopping yesterday to worry about doomsday scenarios.

Outside the Quiapo Church in Manila, however, business was brisk for some tarot card readers and fortune tellers.

Faith healer Lauro Gonzales, 75, who claimed to be Prophet Jesus Christ, lay on the ground as he conducted a ritual with the faithful in front of the Quiapo Church.

Gonzales said the world would not end on Dec. 21, but doomsday was near. He said he would announce the time and date at a later time.

Taiwan

Tongue-in-cheek scientists in Taiwan planted an electronic countdown timer atop a two-storey replica of a Mayan pyramid, drawing crowds at the National Museum of Natural Science.

Seven-year-old Wang Si-shien was unimpressed. “I’m not scared at all,” she said as she visited the museum with her school class.

Australia

Australia was one of the first countries to see the sun rise on the “end of days,” and Tourism Australia’s Facebook page was bombarded with posts asking if anyone had survived Down Under.

“Yes, we’re alive,” the organization responded to fretting users.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard set the tone this month with a spoof video address, vowing to keep fighting however the end comes, whether “from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts or from the total triumph of K-Pop.”

Indeed, some argued online that an impending milestone for the “Gangnam Style” video of South Korean rapper Psy – one billion views on YouTube – was itself a harbinger of doom, enlisting a fake Nostradamus verse in their cause.  – AP, Rey Galupo

 

 

 

CENTER CHICHEN ITZA END FRENCH PYRENEES WORLD
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