(Seated, from left) STAR’s Pepper Teehankee, Alice Eduardo and Anton San Diego with Dr. Hayden Kho and daughter Scarlet Snow; (standing, from left) Tessa Prieto-Valdes, Jojie Dingcong, Swatch Philippines president Virgie Ramos and the author.
A Rat-letter day
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2020 - 12:00am

Today, Jan. 31, is the last day of the first month of the Gregorian calendar. It’s been exactly 30 days since the New Year, and six days since the Chinese New Year.

I love this month because it has two New Year’s days. New Year’s days are symbolic of fresh hope and new beginnings, of peeling off the past, of feeling grateful for the present, and hopeful about the future. And to have two red-letter days in one month symbolic of a fresh start is a psychological boost. Practicing Catholics go to Mass on New Year’s Day, which is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, a holy day of obligation. The night before is ablaze with fireworks and jubilant countdowns, most famous of which is the dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City.

People make New Year’s resolutions because nothing makes one more resolute than the prospect of 365 days ahead to make a difference — whether to lose weight or to gain a million bucks.

On Chinese New Year, the Chinese also have their lucky rituals.

The Year of The Rat is the first sign from the 12-animal cycle of the Chinese Astrology, and for this reason, 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals. (www.thechinesezodiac.org/horoscope-2020/)

According to this online source, the Metal Rat Year is going to be a “strong, prosperous, and lucky year for almost all Chinese zodiac signs.”

In order to have a great year, revelers were advised to include in the Chinese New Year’s menu things the rat likes to eat, like nuts and all kinds of cheese, and “to wear during the party the most precious clothing and jewelry, because the rat loves opulence.” (Hmm, I wonder, where did the saying, “As poor as a rat” come from?)

‘Swatch’ is new?

Swatch Philippines president “Tita” Virgie Ramos ushered in the Year of the Rat with a traditional Chinese celebration at the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell. Earlier, Swatch launched commemorative watches with a rat on the face of the watch, whiskers and all.

At exactly 3 p.m., the celebration started with a wushu dance and a ballet number (with dancers sporting whiskers) on one wing of the first floor of the mall. Banners dropped down and then the ballerinas ushered the guests led by Swiss Ambassador and Mrs. Alain Gaschen to the second floor for a reception. (Swatch is a Swiss brand, after all.)

Fortune loot bags (with a Swatch watch, of course) were given away to guests, who included “Woman of Steel” Alice Eduardo, Dr. Vicki Belo (who was also celebrating her birthday that day) and Dr. Hayden Kho with their daughter Scarlet, Babette Aquino Benoit, Ching Cruz, Lito and Kim Camacho, Ernest Escaler, Annie Sarthou, among others. Of course, there were the heartthrobs: Derek Ramsay, brand-new daddy Nico Bolzico, engaged Scout Ranger Matteo Guidicelli, among others.

Margarita Fores served a feast that was a fusion of Chinese and European delicacies. For instance, there was ensaymada with five-spice asparagus and cured Chinese pork; roast duck mantou pao; fried dumpling duet of Chinese sausage and pecorino crema; Hong Kong goose, handmade fettucine with a two-year Parmiggiano Reggiano wheel toss with Chinese ham; a cheese buffet; plus the piece de resistance — caramelized cambozola with chestnuts, walnuts, Chinese plums, dates and sweet black beans (talk about fusion!).

There was even a lucky fruit dessert of 12 frozen grapes floating in brie mousse, complemented by churros with manchego cheese and chocolate lava (a good sign because the Taal alert level subsequently dropped to 3.).

Tita Virgie attracts and brings luck because she is kinetic — always on the move.

A watch is symbolic of moving forward, of progressing into the future. Time waits for nobody, as the song goes, so a watch reminds us to seize the moment and honor time. Time doesn’t give its gifts twice. One minute that has passed is forever past.

You can’t take back time after it is spent —  except on your Instagram posts.

So make each tick of your Swatch count.

Happy new beginning, everybody!


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