Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fireworks Displays at My Neighborhood

Although government authorities advise people against the use of explosives to welcome the New Year, the people cannot just get rid of the practice because fireworks displays have become a tradition that is incorporated in the celebration of the Christmas season which includes the New Year. The practice of fireworks display is influenced by the Chinese. It is said that the noise of the fireworks would drive away bad spirit thus bringing in good fortune for the New Year. Fireworks displays are a distinguishing sight of a night sky on New Year’s Eve. To some people, their celebration is not complete if they don’t see or hear the colorful sparks of lights, the smoke, and the noise that are created by the fireworks. 

I spent the New Year’s Eve in the company of my family and relatives in our ancestral compound at the foot of a hill where the regional police headquarters is located. Even before 12 o’clock midnight came skyrockets were already bursting in the air. I then took the opportunity to get my camera to take pictures of the night spectacles. I must admit though that I am just an amateur photographer and I’m a novice as far as taking pictures of fireworks displays are concerned. I had limited choice of better perspectives and better qualities of fireworks displays to take pictures of since I was only in our family’s compound. I need to be with them for the occasion.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year My Facebook Friends!

The social media network particularly Facebook has given me opportunity to reach out to many people not only locally but also globally. My online friends include people of different ages, genders, races, culture, religions and political persuasions.                                                                                                                                                                       
Through Facebook  I have connected with long lost friends, former classmates and people who I went to the same school with. For me, it seems that it was only yesterday that I and my contemporaries enjoyed together the life of being young. During that time it seemed that our carefree days would last forever. But now those thoughts are gone. I have grand children of my own. Time really flies.                                                                                                                                                
I and you my friends have become an online community. It is indeed a pleasant experience to view your pictures, videos, articles and other posts that you want to share with me and others. Although I have never met some of you in person, my interactions with you have given me more knowledge on various matters that are of interest to me.   
As a person I have my own political as well as religious and other beliefs. Although at times I don’t agree with the comments, ideas or opinions that you shared in your posts most especially on matter that is political, I do respect your right to express them.                                                                                                          
For 2013, we may have our share of life’s ups and downs. And as long as we live there are always adversities that come in our way. We could overcome those sad realities by just counting our blessings. We should not be bitter of the bad things that have happened to us because if we look around, there are still plenty of good things that we should be grateful of. As always, we are still blessed by God.  

I wish that you would have a good health and be happy with your family, loved ones and friends in 2014. I also wish that we could enjoy those things that we always used to do for a healthy and enduring friendship.    
Happy New Year!”

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 13 Round Fruits and Other New Year's Eve Customs in the Philippines

The New Year is part of the Christmas season in the Philippines. It is one of the joyous and most celebrated occasions by Filipinos. Most of the traditions of Christmas and New Year are western influenced particularly Spanish and American. Over the years the Christmas and New Year traditions and customs have been infused with indigenous and Chinese practices, beliefs and superstitions. 

With the coming of New Year it has become a practice of many Filipinos to buy 13 different kinds of round and sweet fruits for display on the table on New Year’s Eve. The fruits that are easily available are apples, oranges, grapes, pears and native fruits such as melons, guavas, lanzones, rambutans, and chicos among others. Most people dread the number 13 so that they prefer to display 12 fruits instead of 13 to represent the 12 calendar months of the year. Some people who adhere to the practice believe that the display of various round shaped fruits on the table would usher in good fortune for the coming year and ward off bad luck.

Unlike Christmas, New Year is a secular occasion so that more or most people celebrate it than Christmas. However, this is not to say that the New Year’s Eve dinner or Media Noche is more grandiose than Christmas Eve dinner or Noche Buena because for most Filipinos the latter is the more significant celebration to them. During the Media Noche some people shun eating chicken meat because it represents scarcity. The fowl scratches the soil to search for food.

Since it is believed that circles or circular patterns attract money, some people wear red polka dot clothes on New Year’s Eve. Coins are also believed to bring in good fortune, and for this reason some people throw about coin to increase their wealth in the coming year. It is also the practice of some short people to jump on New Year’s Eve to increase their height. 

It is believed that loud sounds drive away evil spirits, and because of it people make it a practice to create noise on Christmas Eve. Children’s plastic horns and vehicles horns are blown, pots and pans are banged, and music is played loud to welcome the arrival of New Year. And the most eminent of all are the fireworks displays. In this recent time, the occasion seems not complete without the sound and sight of the awesome and colorful lights from the fireworks as they are detonated and catapulted to the night sky.

Most of the practices on New Year’s Eve are not in any way related to people’s religious beliefs. Some Filipinos do them because of superstitions. Others do them because they are part of their social traditions. Still others just ignore the traditions at all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Favorite Noche Buena Foods

Noche Buena is a traditional Christmas Eve dinner that is served after members of the Family have attended the evening mass called Misa de Gallo. It is an occasions where family members and friends gather at home to celebrate Christmas with sumptuous foods.  Following are pictures of some of the foods that are commonly displayed on the table during the Noche Buena by many Filipino families especially the Roman Catholics. Other Filipinos because of their religious belief do not celebrate Christmas.

Lechon- is a popular pork dish for many Filipinos. The body cavity of suckling pig is stuffed with spices and seasonings. The whole pig is skewered and roasted over burning charcoal in a rotisserie action. Filipinos prefer to serve foods buffet style during special occasion. With that setting the whole lechon is put on the table, and family members or guests take their piece of it by slicing the meat all by themselves.

Ham- is made from the processed hind leg of a swine.  It is also a popular dish during the holiday season. Some people prefer the commercial ready-made ham while others like it home or custom made.

Torta- resembles a large cup cake. It is also served during occasions such as fiesta, birthday, Christmas and New Year. Commercially made torta is available, but the home and custom made one tastes much better because of the ingredients that are used in baking it.

Suman- is also one of the favorite treats for many occasions. It is made from glutinous rice that is boiled with coconut milk. It is then steamed wrapped with banana or coconut leaves. Eaten as a snack or a dessert, it is usually sprinkled with sugar. Suman goes with hot coffee or chocolate.

Queso de bola- or cheese ball is associated with the Christmas season by Filipinos. It is for this reason that this cheese abound in the supermarket shelves during the Christmas season and is scarce in any other season of the year. The cheese is usually eaten as filling of bread.

Apples, grapes and oranges- although these fruits are not indigenous to the country, Filipinos love it as their fruits during the Christmas season. These fruits used to be mostly imported from the US or Japan, but the liberalization of trade with China has made them become cheaper and widely available. Most of these fruits in the markets now come from China.

Cake- Western in origin, the cake has become one of the popular baked foods for the Filipinos for their snack and dessert. The cake is one of the treats on the table on such occasion as fiesta, birthdays, Christmas and New Year.

Fried chicken- although less popular than a lechon, the deep fried chicken is also a favorite during the Noche Buena. Maybe the reason is that that it is easier to cook and prepare than a ham or a lechon. A chicken meat would also give diversity to the primarily pork based main course dishes that already include lechon and ham.

Ice cream and fruit salads- Filipinos also love sweet foods. On top of their lists are ice cream and fruit salads. Women and children love them. And so do adult men. The tropical climate of the country makes these desserts an ideal all-season treat for most Filipinos.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Puregold Opens Cagayan de Oro Branch

On Friday, December 13, 2013, Puregold Price Club Inc. opens its Cagayan de Oro store. Its distinctive green and yellow painted building is located where the burned Ororama Mega Center was along Claro M. Recto Avenue, Agora Road junction, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City. The site is to the east of and adjacent to Lim ket Kai, the largest shopping complex in the city.

Puregold Price Club Inc. is a fastest growing hyper market in the Philippines.  Its first store was established in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila in 1998. Since then the business has expanded into over 200 locations in many parts of the Philippines. The Cagayan de Oro store is its fifth and is also the flagship store in Mindanao. Most of the other stores are concentrated in Metro Manila and other major cities of Luzon and the Visayas.     
The company is founded and owned by Chinese-Filipino billionaire tycoon Lucio Co. He and his wife Susan Co were jointly listed by Forbes as the 10th richest persons in the Philippines as of July 2013. Their fortune is estimated at about 1.9 billion US dollars.

Puregold has added to the many Manila based chain of stores that already operate in the city such as SM, Robinson’s, Centrio, Unitop among others. In addition there are the Lim Ket Kai, Ororama and Gaisano which are also into the tightly contested retailing business industry in the city.
By opening a branch in Cagayan de Oro, the management of Puregold has implicitly expressed its optimism that the city is a good investment destination for further growth of its business.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Colors of Christmas Lights in the City

It is Christmas season and homes as well as public buildings, parks and malls are adorned with Christmas trees and lights, and Christmas carols are played in some of those places. The front of the city hall of Cagayan de Oro is bedecked with myriads of small lights and the main entrance is adorned with three “angels” that are fashioned from Christmas lights. The colors of lights range from yellow, red, light green, among others.

Just across the city hall is the Gaston Park which is one the city’s landmarks. The park is situated by the St. Augustine Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Church of the City. The fountain in the middle of the park is temporarily shut down and its basin emptied of water to make way for the installation of a 40-foot tall Christmas tree. The “tree” is fashioned from steel bars and bands with Christmas lights wrapped around it. At day time the “tree” is not a beauty to behold. But at night the lights of the Christmas tree make the people feel the spirit of Christmas.

The people from the provincial government have also put up a conspicuous display of lights at the Vicente de Lara Park that fronts the provincial capitol building. That park has for its feature old hard wood Philippine trees that give shelter to visitors and passersby from the heat of sunlight. The trees have already lamps at them to illuminate the park at night. But to give variety this Christmas season, personnel from the provincial government treat people with a display of violet lights that shine at the park’s vicinity. It is a lighting display that people from the city or the province have never seen before. To work with the innovative idea, the capitol personnel collected empty plastics gallons, cut off their bottoms and painted the remaining bodies violet. It then cased the lamps at the trees with those gallons. When the lamps are on, violet colored lights are shone through the plastic gallon-made lanterns. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Unlucky Number 13

The unreasonable fear of number 13 or triskaidekaphobia is prevalent to some people in different cultures. People can be anxious of 13 as a quantity, a numerical designation or a date, and more so if the 13 falls on a Friday. The belief that the number brings bad luck is as old as written history itself. The Code of Hammurabi (ca 1686 B.C.) contained 282 laws with no law number 13 in it. It is evident therefore that the phobia existed long before Christ was born. There are numerous speculations on how the fear of number 13 came about. One of the common held beliefs is on Jesus and his disciples. The Bible has it that Jesus had his last supper with his 12 disciples at a table. We are told that one of the disciples Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to His enemies who punished and executed Him.   
Following paragraphs are accounts of prominent incidents and personalities on which the number 13 are associated with:                                                                                                                    

King Alfonso XIII was the king of Spain when it completely lost what remains of its once vast and great empire after the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Spaniards sold and ceded Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam to the Americans. The post humus son of King Alfonso XII, Alfonso XIII was proclaimed king upon his birth on May 17, 1886 with his mother Maria Christina acting as his regent. He assumed power as king in 1902 at the age of 16. His support to military dictatorship under general Primo de Rivera made him an unpopular monarch, and the victory of the republicans in 1931 forced him into exile in Italy.

Apollo 13 is a NASA space mission in 1970 that failed. The space ship crew was not able to land on the moon because of technical malfunction. They were however able to return to the earth safely.

Joseph Estrada was the 13th President of the Republic of the Philippines and the only one who was impeached from office. He was also one of the three post American independence presidents who did not complete their term of office. The other presidents were Manuel Roxas who died of a heart attack in 1948 and Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1953. 

The year 2013 is the 13th year of the 21st century. The number 13 is not lucky for the Philippines either. This year the Philippines suffered a series of worst natural and man-made calamities as follows:

On September 9-28, 2013, members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) belonging to the faction of Chairman Nur Misuari besieged the Southern Philippine City of Zamboanga. The armed conflict resulted to 183 killed, 292 captured on the side of the MNLF and 25 killed, 184 wounded on the side of government troops. In addition there were 12 killed and 70 wounded civilians and thousands of houses were razed to the ground and business and government activities were paralyzed.

On October 15, 2013 at 8:12 am (PST) an earthquake of tectonic origin and in the magnitude of 7.2 mw hit Bohol. The earthquake that lasted 34 seconds resulted to 222 dead, 976 injured and 8 missing. In addition 73,000 structures were damaged of which 14,500 were totally destroyed. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines for the last 23 years. It is estimated that the energy released by the quake was equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs.

Early in November 2013 typhoon Yolanda struck Central Philippines particularly the provinces of Samar and Leyte. The typhoon which had a wind speed of about 260 kph on landfall was the strongest on record. The strong wind and storm surge destroyed thousands of lives and properties along their path. The deadly typhoon killed at least 5,680 and injured 26, 232 people. It is also estimated that 1,761 people are still missing. Damaged was estimated at PHP 17,033,150,996.36 in agriculture and PHP 17,333,367,534.29 in infrastructure for a total cost of damage at PHP 34,366,518,530.65.

Because of their unreasonable fear of number 13 people take “precautions” to ward off bad lucks that are associated with the number. As an example, there is no 13th floor in high rise buildings. There is no 13th Infantry Battalion or any other unit with numerical designation “13” in the Philippine Army. And people do not want to go with a group whose total number of members is 13.

Despite some people’s phobia of 13, others consider it as their lucky number. Wilt Chamberlain of the NBA wore a jersey with that number all throughout his successful career. And so did Steve Nash when he was with the Phoenix Suns. Artist Taylor Swift who was born on December 13, 1989 considers 13 as her lucky number too.

Associating number 13 to bad luck is just a sort of superstition. Bad things that happened with a number 13 associated with them or those that take place on the 13th in the calendar are just mere coincidences. Misfortunes happen too where or when numbers other than 13 are used or involved. Since some people have the misconception that number 13 brings bad luck, any unfavorable incident that can be associated with the number is given much highlight. What we want to believe influences our thoughts.