Chinese New Year was something I have always looked forward to. Not only because we get to have a quick do-over of our failed resolutions, and not only because of the good food, but because of these amazing lion and dragon dances. You see, I grew up right smack in Chinatown (Binondo, Manila) and every day of the week leading up to the new year of the lunar calendar, these amazingly disruptive, colorful creatures will come dancing down the street every ten minutes or so, accompanied by a cacophony of drumbeats and firecrackers.
I was initially terrified when I first learned about this tradition. Dragons and lions?! I used to cover my ears and bolt from the study into the safe confines of my parents’ bedroom, using my elbows to turn the doorknob and my foot to kick the door shut. Then this fright turned into fascination and we eagerly anticipated the dances and drums that stalled traffic to a standstill down Juan Luna Street—we would lean as far out as we could from our 5th floor balcony to catch a glimpse of them dancing into a shop. I also remember a memory of pretending to be a lion with pillows and blankets! Then as I grew older, me and my dad would venture out, every first day of the Chinese new year towards the dizzying streets of Ongpin in search of these lion dances (and yummy food to bring back home).
There was also that one time when we dangled an angpao (money envelope) and Chinese cabbage from the 5th floor of our building to get a pair of lions to dance for us and bring us good luck for the coming year. There was a mad scramble for more rope on our side and a step ladder on their side as our original rope was too short and the lions couldn’t reach it! In the end, the did find a stool/monoblock and managed to reach the envelope.
It has been a good fourteen years since we’ve lived there—and lion and dragon dances aren’t as prolific as they used to be when we were still in the thick of the celebrations. Nowadays, I actively search for these little slices of tradition to revel in the brightness and loudness of it all—banishing the evil away and welcoming a prosperous new year.
The following shots were taken on February 1, 2014 where they had the Lion Dance Exhibition at Eastwood City. Admittedly, it was a bit uncoordinated (with 15 lions in all, what do you expect?) but it nevertheless satisfied my yearly search for a good dose of tradition.
Just a note: There’s a world of difference between lion and dragon dances. The creatures featured above are lions. While the creature below is a dragon. I’m a bit peeve-y when it comes to the differentiation of the two and couldn’t help but cringe a little when people call them the wrong things.
Happy (belated) New Year!
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