Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day and the Year of the Tiger in Manila

Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year fall on the same day this year, when we move into the year of the Tiger. Here in Manila, teenaged Philippine Chinese dance teams writhe with rhythm and a dragon’s head around a shopping mall. In the street below our hotel, the drum beat accompaniment for another dragon dance ends in loud explosions of fireworks. In the evening we walk down the street to the posh Makati Shangri-La Manila Hotel to sit in the lobby and watch St. Valentine celebrators decked out in red dresses or red ties, sip drinks and enjoy an orchestra, also dressed in red, play American romantic love songs. Arriving celebrants pose for photos in front of a giant flower sculpture resembling Tony the Tiger in marigolds, before moving past the entry way into the hotel. A number of couples come with children in tow, some with nannies, all celebrating St. Valentine and the Tiger.

Further along Makati Avenue at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, a huge topiary of red roses greets guests in the lobby once a security guard swipes them with a wand and they’re given the once over by armed guards and a sniff by K-9 unit dogs. Guests enter through the same glass doors that the Philippine Army ran a tank through to end a protest by opposition leaders in November 2007. That was the last time I was in the Philippines and I and others stared at TV as a broadcast camera abandoned by smoke bombed and arrested journalists continued to relay the stunning scene to a national audience.

In the days leading up February 14, stores displayed Valentine gifts and banner reminders to buy something for your sweetheart. We could tell it was going to be a big deal. On the following afternoon a dozen red bras and red panties hang out as laundry to dry from a window slit behind a strip club in the alley street down from our hotel.

No comments: