Wednesday, December 28, 2005

World Pyro Olympics

Their website claims it to be “The Greatest Show in the World”. This is a spectacle that formally started this year (2005) as an “Olympics” where several representatives of some countries fight it out on who has the best of the best in lighting up the sky with fireworks.

How did I learn about this event?
Well, it being the Christmas Season, sometime in November I was browsing various search engines (google mainly) for fireworks shows in the Philippines. I knew from experience that many a city/town/mall/etc., do have some fireworks shows during December until January. I was actually hoping to catch something of a show in the town of Bocaue in Bulacan as it is touted to be the main source of fireworks in the country. I did not find any.

Instead, I came across this website that was all about the World Pyro Olympics supposedly to be staged from 26th to 30th December 2005 at the Esplanade (formerly Promenade) that is actually a very long stretch of sea-wall or breakwater made to be like a park at the very back of the still unfinished SM Mall of Asia (and beyond I must say). So I marked my calendar and made sure I will at least visit any or all of those nights.

26 December
Contest Day 1 – Peoples Republic of China and Australia

Going there, I took the MRT along EDSA all the way to its southernmost station in Pasay, Taft Avenue. Learned from the website that public transport was advised as traffic could be too heavy going to the venue. Also learned that tickets (at PHP100 per head) can be had at any Jollibee store in Metro Manila.

When the MRT was cruising by the Magallanes area, I could see that traffic was a crawl going south so I felt gratified for riding the MRT. Oops, I forgot to purchase my ticket at the nearby Jollibee before I rode the MRT! But I told myself that there must be a Jollibee store near the Taft Avenue Station as it is a highly commercial area with some two or three malls that I remember to be located there. True, upon exiting from the MRT Station, I walked to the mall that adjoins its right-wing-exit and saw directions that said Jollibee was on the 3rd floor (the MRT level is 2nd floor).

At Jollibee, the crew that first greeted me immediately acknowledged that yes, they sell tickets to the Pyro Olympics. For whatever reason, I asked “how much” – even if I knew from the website that it was PHP100. Without answering me, she went into the office to get my ticket. When she came back, another girl with her was carrying a white grocery plastic bag full of probably hundreds of yellow tickets – more like the tickets in cheap movie houses or the game areas of many a mall.

When the girl handed me the yellow little ticket, she told me it was PHP125. I said “ha? di ba one hundred pesos lang?” Hesitant for a while and glancing at her supervisor, she haltingly told me, “hindi sir, hundred-twenty-five talaga”. Well, what could I do? I thought I should bite this holdup than suffer in a long line at the venue’s ticket booths.

When I handed out an exact PHP125, the girl pointed to me a burger inside a “take-out” Jollibee plastic bag already in front of me and said “sir, free yan”. Gosh, I did not notice the other girl already packed that burger for me! After looking at what was inside, I smilingly commented “kaya pala your price is hundred-twenty five cuz of this burger. I think this is a kind of holdup! You are forcing customers to buy a burger even if they don’t want to”. She did not answer but just smiled at me. Probably she meant to say “opo ser, yun po ang utos sa amin ng me ari”.

Good customer service attitude this girl – because if she uttered any word to refute anything I said, she would have been in for a heated argument. I was pissed but it was already 7:20PM and I knew from the website that China starts firing up at 7:30PM. So, no time to argue. And, not worth making my blood boil for a mere twenty-five pesos. I am too rich for that hehehe! I asked her how best I could go to the venue. She told me to take any bus that was bound for Baclaran or NAIA as they now pass by the yet unfinished mall because MMDA has closed the left-turn route from EDSA to Roxas Boulevard.

I hurriedly went down to the street level to catch a bus. Whoa! I saw that a lot of people young and old by the roadside were all waiting for a ride to SM Mall of Asia. As buses came by, I discovered that not all of them actually would go up to the mall but will make a u-turn just before Macapagal Avenue! I was tempted to take a cab. But there was none passing by. So I took the next air-conditioned bus that stopped after I confirmed with the conductor that indeed it was going to pass by SM Mall of Asia. About twenty of us took the ride and all were going to the same destination. We made the bus full and passengers already seated in the bus seemed perplexed why all of us told the conductor we were going to SM Mall of Asia!

Traffic was barely moving but the driver of my bus was offensive-aggressive! Which Filipino bus driver is not anyway! After crossing Roxas Boulevard, it became heavier and I was already worried I won’t catch the first show, that of China! And historically, China is where these fireworks thing has started, so they must be good!

I noticed that the bus was swerving to the inner lane as the driver fought it out in the crawling jam of vehicles. I already felt he won’t go to the mall but instead take the earlier u-turn so he can proceed to Baclaran.

True! After a few seconds Mr. Driver was already shouting to advise all passengers that because of heavy traffic the bus won’t anymore take the u-turn at the mall (which was still probably half a kilometer away) but instead will now take the u-turn slot in front of us. I knew he was avoiding the crawl and I also knew it was futile to be making it till the mall with that kind of traffic jam. I already primed myself that this will necessitate doing a long brisk walk. So I was second to stand up and get off the bus. Soon others followed.

A chubby middle-aged woman was asking the conductor for a refund and she was saying her group just got on the bus some few meters away. Driver was arrogantly retorting that there was no refund necessary since “wala naman sira, matrapik lang”. I thought that was stupid. But I cannot stay to witness or meddle in the altercation. It was already 7:28PM on my hand phone – which meant the China entry could be firing up any moment.

Brisk walk, brisk walk. I had to light up a cigarette while walking. And I was lugging along my sweatshirt and that burger from Jollibee. I was a bit “victorious” I was not driving any of those cars that were already at a stand-still. I was thinking “ha ha ha, you will not make it, you idiots, ha ha ha ha ha”! Also happy no cab came by when I was waiting for one! But I did not feel fashionably comfortable with that Jollibee plastic bag with a tiny hamburger sandwich dangling in my hand as I walked. So I shoved it unto the right front-pocket of my Dockers and it naturally went in! I felt its warmth on my thigh, that tiny little burger!

The walk was pleasant as there were hundreds of people briskly walking towards the venue. Then I discovered the very cause of the traffic jam.

Right from beside Blue Wave all the way up to the unfinished mall, cars, hundreds of them (perhaps even a thousand or so) were actually already parked right on the road. Oh yes, Blue Wave is that quadrangle of restaurants and coffee shops in the area that is trying to mimic the way that Eastwood City is. The road that leads up to the Mall of Asia is a four or five laner. But I could see that only the innermost lanes on both sides were moving. All the rest of the road, cars were actually already parked where they were and people have settled right on the street with their portable chairs and stools. Many were doing some photo shoots of themselves and many more were having dinner with food from the various restaurants in Blue Wave. But I thought that was still very far from the venue. So I just merrily walked past by all of them.

Oh what a long walk! I was torn between cursing why I had to endure such a hike and being glad I was able to take this unscheduled physical workout – after all the food and the booze in all of the days last week until yesterday’s Christmas celebrations! But my right foot was already complaining!

On reaching that rotunda in front of the “still-being-constructed” Mall of Asia, I noticed there was some kind of barrier that everyone had to skirt around to be able to enter the venue. And I found it was still far from the actual venue. Golly! The make-shift entrance was located some 50 or so meters beyond what was illustrated by the website’s map. And before that were the ticket booths – a thirty foot container van really, that was converted to become like a make-shift office where windows were fitted to one side of the van.

I went with a crowd to the side of the mall as described in the website map. Oops! The guards won’t let us through even if we had tickets. They showed us the way to the “proper” entrance area – which from my calculations would make everyone walk around almost two kilometers. Oh well, so walk I did.

Just after passing through the make-shift gates where a crew tore my ticket in half… BOOM and the sky to my left lighted up with bright colors from fireworks. Shit, China has started firing up! And people around me who were walking from the make-shift gate were exclaiming oohs and aahs and wows as the fireworks lighted up the skies in succession. Golly my brisk walk was now like a walkathon. And I witnessed that all of us, hundreds of us were now walking even faster!

The walk was rather long but I made it to the sea-wall while China was still doing its show! I counted something like 2 or 3 fireworks styles that I have never seen yet! They were good. And as I stood there watching consuming the spectacle, thousands of people lined up by the sea-wall were cheering clapping shouting or just loudly exclaiming their wows and oohs and aahs!

That walk had me panting and now I was already in front of the spectacle. I had to sit on the ground as my legs were shaking and my neck started to strain from looking up to where those fireworks exploded. Oh if only I had a mat I should have layed myself on the ground like many of the spectators did! Everything was coming from a barge floating on Manila Bay. Good show!

Noteworthy were those explosions where half of it was one color and the other half was another – like blue and red, green and orange or purple and yellow! Also very grand were those that exploded into a bright yellow fern-like formation but a few seconds later they re-explode to make a scattering of little pink stars. Oh the big big bursts of yellows that soon became green, of blues that became red! The bright circle of little yellow stars with a red colored "something" or green spiral or purple core, they were amazing! I know I have seen these on local shows but it was grand nonetheless. How do they do that! Art and Science… grabe!

The booms and the bangs and the playful rackety noise of the smaller explosions were such a delight. China’s was indeed a fine show!

After the China show
Well, just after that show, people scattered in all directions from the sea-wall while many opted to be where they were – if only to ensure they have front-seat views when Australia fires up. Most notable were the heavy crowds that flocked to two Jollibee trucks selling burgers etc., I overheard two people conversing and the other one was saying “libre yata ang Jollibee pag meron ticket”. Hmm, does that mean there were people around who were able to enter without tickets? Ahh I did not care anymore!

Sat on a flower box to eat my burger. Now I was rather thankful I had that burger in my pocket as I would not have dared endure the very long queue to those Jollibee trucks and all the other kiosks. Very long queues because there were just a few of them kiosks! Got a can of Pepsi from a kiosk. It appreared to me that only the Pepsi booths were not too crowded as there were many of them.

A band started doing its thing on one big stage nearest the entranceway and far from the "explosions area". But just about the same time, a choir started singing at another smaller stage just nearby. So my ears were being pounded by a cacophony that was never welcome. Thus I walked farther away going in the direction of exactly behind the mall.

Hmm, noticed that there were fenced-off areas with tables and chairs arranged like how they do it during weddings. So I approached the area and its entrance had a sign that said “Special Viewing Area. P500/head buffet”. I thought that was a comfy “sosyal” place to view the fireworks. But I also thought that the buffet was rather expensive.

One of the buffet tables was near the fence so I asked the waiter what was the fare (as if I could not see them hehe!). Well, just chopped grilled chicken (lechon-manok?), a beef dish with brown sauce, pasta (flat noodle strips slightly bigger than spaghetti with red sauce) and sautéed baguio beans! Gosh. Now I even thought it was veeeery expensive! No way! In fact, that price must have been the main reason why this place only two or three tables were occupied.

Walked onwards and there was another fenced off area with a similar buffet set-up. Its entrance had flags of the participating countries. There were even two guards at the entrance! I could see an elevated platform with special chairs inside this “private place”. Oh they were for the judges! Facing this set-up and the barge beyond, I noticed that to its left was a place rather a bit uncrowded. Aha! A good spot for me to see the Australia show later!

Bored, I walked back towards the stage with a band. And this is a very long walk! But the little stage near it was attracting more people. Oh there was an acrobatic show where the entertainers were teen-agers down to little tots. Watched it for a while, then slowly inched my way towards the other end… another long walk. As I walked on, I heard an announcement from the sound system of the “little stage” (the bigger stage was already dark and devoid of any activity), “ladies and gentlemen, the Australia presentation will be delayed and will start firing up at 9:30PM”! I almost shouted “THANK YOU!” as it was almost 9PM and I still had a long walk to go!

By 9:24PM, I was already at my chosen view area – to the left of the judges and just about right in front (or is it “back”?) of the mall. Thankfully, while some crowd have already gathered in this place, it was not yet as congested as those areas near the stage or near the Jollibee trucks! Thankfully also my colleague arrived walking in with his son in tow. So we were ready to witness Australia’s fireworks!

Australia's turn
Exactly 9:30PM the emcee started talking on the public address – which can only be heard within the immediate vicinity of the fenced-off area where the judges sat. Good (and that was probably on queue), the big and small stages ceased from blaring out anymore music. I heard the emcee to be describing the company that was Australia’s entry, that they were the ones who did the fireworks in the latest Sydney Olympics etc, etc. Next the woman’s voice advised everyone to go to the sea-wall for a better view as Australia’s show included some fireworks that exploded at a lower altitude. And the crowd rushed forward! Soon she was saying: “ladies and gentlemen, let us all please rise for the national anthem of the Commonwealth of Australia” and the anthem was played. After that, Australia started firing up with such beautiful fireworks.

My golly what a show!
Australia’s was more technical and symmetric. Meaning their fireworks hurled up to the sky with an expected formation or arrangement that the audience can discern even before they blew up into pretty colors. The very common formation was like a growing plant. A letter V or W formation where two crackers would go hurtling to the sky on opposite directions (left and right) then simultaneously explode with the same kind of fireworks colors. Many times, as the two left-and-right effects went hurtling, a center and taller one would go straight up and the three would explode altogether in such a bright and colorful rendition.

Aaahh too many “effects” that I have seen for the first time here! Probably 7 or 8. There were the simple explosions that created a round circle of yellow little lights – but in the middle of the circle was a green or blue formation of a star. The effect was like a common “parol”. Amazing! Then some exploded to form hearts or lips! Golly!

They seem to have mastered the fountain effect! A group of yellow lighted fireworks were constantly blowing at a low level that made it look like a row of flower plants as little red and green and orange explosions emerged! Delightful! And the audience were clapping and shouting like crazy.

The crowd was obviously awed when a shower of green and red little sparks came slowly floating down which had the effect of a wall of green and red lights. And my goodness, they stayed flowing down too long than usual. They were just there hovering and slowly coming forth to earth. What a sight!

This show probably had “suspense” as their main element. Many times the crowd would sigh in wonder and amazement that it was all over. Then suddenly a big explosion of a bright yellow sea of stars booms up in the sky as wide as the whole area. And as those yellow flickering lights hurtled down to earth, they interestingly turn purple or green or blue or red! Not that China did not have these kinds of effects, but my goodness, Australia’s explosions were gigantic. Many times, my colleague’s 8 year old son would even retreat to me or his dad probably alarmed that those sparkling little stars were going to drop in our heads, though they just never did!

Like China, Australia’s also had those explosions that revealed spirals – blue lights in a spiral formation all enclosed in a circle of red little lights. Then the colors change! Notable also were their fernlike explosions of yellow glimmering lights hurtling up to the sky where afterwards they re-explode into a myriad of other colors like blues and greens and reds and purples and orange. Plus, they were actually crackling! The sound of their explosions added to the excitement!

The clincher which sent the crowd all crazy were those little rockets that went very slowly inching up to the sky each with a bright big yellow trail below it and each sounding like whistle bombs that never actually blew in the end. Oh everyone was jumping cheering shouting clapping applauding, clicking their cameras and focusing their videos. Those things were a first time to everyone. They looked like little bright tubes veeeeery slowly inching up (probably as slow as 1 km per hour or even slower) to the sky. And, as if to tickle everyone, they did not explode at all, but just fizzled out when they reached their optimum heights. Some were going slowly and steadily up, others were veering left or right but just the same in a vertical direction, while others just whirred like crazy from side to side but in the general upward direction!

Then, came the climax with so many colors exploding big on the night-sky in a succession that many a child got alarmed. They were all exploding like the whole area was being bombed. Really, the sound of their explosions pierced my ears while the vibrations seemed to have massaged my heart and all internal organs there was in me! And they exploded big. The colors were everything from yellow to red to purple to blue to green to orange. A single explosion could be one color and as the sparkles trickled down to earth they changed into other colors or re-exploded into some other crackling fiery lights!

Then a multitude of explosions sent so many flickering little lights that hovered above us and did not seem to want to disappear until they were almost by our heads. Amazingly, those fireworks seemed to have been fitted with a brain each that they must die before reaching our heads! My goodness, Australia! Everyone sighed when the show ended. It was grand indeed!

After the Australia show
No one even bothered about what anybody was saying on any of the available public address systems. It looked like everyone quickly darted for the exits.

We opted to go through the side of the mall as it was a shorter way out. This is the other end of that stretch where I was not allowed by the guards to enter. As we approached, I saw that a guard was shooing everyone to take the longer route – that way where you have to pass by the concert stage and skirt an open field where the “square” road returned to the front of the mall. But as there were just too many people going into that side of the mall, the guard just smiled and scratched his head and could not anymore do anything to stop them – and us! So our way back was shorter by probably a mile!

Then, ensued another “walkathon” by a sea of humanity all coming from the Pyro Olympics venue. It was not easy again as it was a veeeery long walk. But we reached my colleague’s car, slowly inched out through the myriad of cars and finally gone out to Roxas Boulevard!

Oh well, like many an event, I did have a lot of misgivings about some irritating eventualities. But bottom-line, it was a grand spectacle am glad to have witnessed. I will just heal my body aches at a massage parlor tomorrow!

27 December
Contest Day 2 – Federal Republic of Germany and Republic of Korea

This was such an exciting day turned blue! I declined many an invitation for a dinner or night-out because of this very promising day!

A friend and I rode the MRT to its Taft Avenue Station. But upon arrival at the station, we saw that it was raining hard and it was even windy! Oh my. Our hearts sank in disappointment.

So we decided to head back home without anymore trying it out. I know that going there would have been a futile exercise. Where would I go under if it drizzled while I was in the venue or walking towards it?

Now I am wondering what happened to Day 2! Was it cancelled? Did it push through? Were all the bands present? Did Korea and/or Germany actually fire it up? What happened?!

28 December
Contest Day 3 - Russia and UK

The afternoon was sunny and rain did not seem imminent on the eastern horizon. SoI set out early. Took the MRT as early as 5PM. Oh wow, the bus that I took from the MRT did go all the way to the u-turn slot right infront of the SM Mall of Asia! So I was happy I did not have to walk very far this time. While pepole were already trickling in, there were no lines yet in front of the ticket booths.

And oh, this time there were free jeep rides from the entrance to the esplanade! Some thirty of us adults and children joined in the queue. It was fairly moving well as there were (I think) plenty of jeeps - as one jeep departed the next was already positioned for the waiting passengers. Some little altercation between a few passengers and a La Mancha girl who was shouting for everyone to form two lines. A woman told her that was a stupid idea - two lines to a single jeep. We all remained in a single line anyway!

1 comment :

  1. Hello,

    May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

    Our site:

    Title: Beijing Olympics

    Please let me know if you want a link back.
    Many thanks for your reply.

    Best Regards,