Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In Sagada, our New Year celebration starts with a busy kitchen in the morning. The girls in our family have a reputation for their great kitchen skills - their products are the envy of many families. There's the family recipe for banana cake and lemon pie from lemons fresh my grandfather's orchard. A cousin is known for her chocolate cake - I particularly liked the colorful candy bits topped on the chocolate frosting. Our cousins from Loakan, Baguio City on the other hand are also known for their Ilocano cooking. I remember a New Year's dinner when each cousin prepared his/her own masterpiece. Boy, that was a feast to remember.
There had been bloopers as well - on one dinner, all the meals have been prepared and the guests are ready to be served when there was a sudden rush in the kitchen as we realized that rice hasn't been cooked yet. That made my grandfather shook his head. As a non-cook, I'm always constrained to the dishes afterward. I don't really mind it one bit as I would normally be very full and satisfied after our heavy New Year's Eve meals.
After the New Year dinner, my family would prepare to watch the community shows at the basketball court. In our elementary days, we would always troop to the shows together - but as we grew up and had our own friends, we would attend the community affairs in our respective groups.
The last hour of the year would be spent at the church for the New Year midnight mass. Since it is still the Christmas season, the hymns would normally be a replica of the songs sang during Christmas Eve. I remembered the church to be always full on these occasions. The Holy Communion line is also a time to see the faces of those who were present to celebrate New Year in Sagada. The last song of the midnight mass would normally be a high energy hymn - I will never forget the sound of "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" sang in 4 voices by the whole congregation. It is very heart warming.
After the last hymn, church goers would greet each other and sing Robert Burn's "Auld Lang Syne". Very western? Definitely, but always with a Sagada twist. The bells of St. Mary's Church would usher in the New Year. Firecrackers could be heard and seen from the church entrance. At this point, I would make sure to give each and every family member a hug, a buzz, and a Happy New Year greeting. We'd then make the slow walk home to a snack of a piece of cake or pie. Or some Sagada macaroni fruit salad.
While I always preferred going straight home after the midnight mass, I know that Sagada is very much awake until the wee hours of the morning. There are bonfires and gong playing. It would not be a New Year without alcohol and firecrackers. I suppose these two are a dangerous combination but unlike the cities where there are a lot of New Year injuries, I don't recall any New Year injuries occurring to any town mate while growing up. I remember a time during my teenage years when I fired my first gun. A cousin let my sisters and I use his pistol to file some rounds. I am a non-violent person so I didn't quite see anything exciting with the experience. I have something to tell my children though.
As I write this post, its 10pm of Dec 31 in Sagada - two more hours left in 2008. I am with my family half an earth away in the United States, it is early morning here. Our children will be meeting with their cousins later in the day to play and enjoy some meals together. It's not exactly as sentimental as the Sagada New Year celebrations I know, but for the children, it is something to look forward to.
Have a safe and joyous NEW YEAR to you and your families. Easy on the booze, and watch that firecracker.