Sunday, June 19, 2005

Mirror ball

The Philippine Association of Hong Kong organises the annual Independence Day Ball for the HK Pinoy community. Okay, I've heard stuff about people not wanting to involve themselves in community affairs, or hobnob with "such" people, and all that. Chances are, those people haven't been to the ball.

This year, Ben and I finally decided to satisfy a 3 1/2 year curiosity: we attended the ball at the Conrad Hotel (which is one of the few hotels in Hong Kong that can mass-produce a full-course meal and have every entree done decently; another one which comes to mind is the Mandarin Oriental). Never mind if Randy Santiago strutted his way onstage with his machismo jokes; never mind if Teresa Carpio's in-your-face-family-orientated renditions of "Sing" and "We are the World" bordered on kitsch; never mind if the hosts didn't bother to create suspense around the raffle draw. We enjoyed the atmosphere: a myriad of smiles and introductions filled the night--such is the general flow of conversation at gatherings like these, anyway.

Pleasantries are to be expected; pleasantries are as things should be at such occasions. Members of the diplomatic corps were in attendance, specifically from the RP, the UK and the US; so were some Philippine politicians and members of the Philippine business community in Hong Kong. It was like attending high school prom and one's debut all over again. It was like jumping into an Edith Wharton novel and living the "lie" of old New York in the 19th century. The best part, I think, was being in the company of friends, old and new.

The whole affair brought back memories: Ben's mother was one of the founding members of the PAHK; little did we know that we were carrying out a tradition. Both Ben and I found it interesting to discover that the Philippines is one of three communities in Hong Kong which hold annual balls. The other two countries are the US and the UK. Trust my mother-in-law, with her "third culture" childhood, to come up with a formula combining both the Pinoy variety show and the evening gala quite well.

The night ended with much revelry and dancing, in quintessential plakado Pinoy cover-band style.

It also reminded me of the parties my grandmother used to throw at our old place sans gowns and barong Tagalog at Sct. Rallos. Those parties all seem a blur now: Christmas, her birthday, my grandfather's birthday, christenings, welcoming balikbayan relatives, debuts and graduations all seem to coalesce into a single planet of childhood memories--the olden days of dressing up, being at one's best behaviour, entertaining guests and having a great excuse to have a sip of alcohol and to stay up late.

Those memories come alive on nights like this. One can only be thankful for the invitation.


Blogger Bandit said...

reminds me of "debut" season when you reached that point in your life attending them. then all the weddings in hotels and fancy restos. all that glitter, glamour and thousands spent making pagawa dresses!

12:59 PM, June 22, 2005  

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