Living with madness

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I was awakened at exactly 7 a.m. last Saturday by the sounds of a brass band playing a spirited rendition of the classic “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit.” It’s fiesta in my barangay.

I looked out the window and there they were, on the street below, spiffy in their maroon uniforms, complete with girls in white knee-high boots twirling flags and batons at the head of the band, with the big brasses bringing up the rear.

The feast day of Santa Lucia, after whom my barangay is named, falls on Dec. 13, but the fiesta is celebrated on both days of the nearest weekend. An online search told me that Santa Lucia was from Syracuse, Sicily in Italy, persecuted for her faith around 300CE, making her one of the earliest recorded Christian martyrs. I don’t know if the folks in my barangay know the story behind Sta. Lucia, but no matter – her feast day is reason enough to make merry.

The band surely earned their keep playing throughout the day and into the night, their repertoire ranging from Jingle Bells to When the Saints Come Marching In, from Happy Birthday (played at least thrice) to Onward Christian Soldiers, even an Ave Maria for the procession on Sunday evening. There were, of course, breaks in between when I guess residents invited them in for food and rest, but they generally covered all the streets in our not-so-big barangay.

The fiesta had games held on different street intersections, a concert on Saturday night, fireworks and, of course, a singing contest and/or karaoke session. I don’t know what time the festivities ended; it was way past my bedtime.

Yes, Christmas in the Philippines starts in September, but merrymaking gets serious and into a frenzy by the second half of December. This is when Christmas madness sets in for real.

Friday the 15th was the day of many Christmas parties, schools for sure, as classes also ended for the year on that day. Many offices too held their Christmas parties, including The STAR Media Group, our first Christmas in our spanking new digs in Parañaque. We had t-shirts color-coded by publication/company – we at The STAR had yellow – as The STAR Media Group is a big family of over 700 people.

Traffic on Friday the 15th was unsurprisingly horrendous. A check with Waze showed EDSA a long stretch of unrelenting red, so I was directed to go an extra five kilometers through Pandacan and an extra P105 through Skyway 3…and even that was jam-packed as I tried to get on to NAIAX.

Saturday, it seemed, was not much better, with that photo of SLEX north- and south-bound at 3:30 p.m. a virtual parking lot making the rounds of chat groups and social media. Carmaggedon was again the term used most often.

A positive way to look at this is that such traffic jams are a sign of a robust economy – more people shopping and spending money, going out for gimmicks and get-togethers, the motor vehicle industry enjoying robust sales.

Coming out of the pandemic years all this activity is surely a good sign. I guess living with this madness is just part of the Pinoy Pasko experience, so I just put Christmas music (a favorite is National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab’s One Christmas) on the car radio and sing along until I reach my destination, no matter if it takes all of 40 songs.

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