Friday, December 18, 2009

A “Different” Christmas Party

Sign of the times? Probably. And I enjoyed it very much!

Cebu is certainly becoming another melting pot of modern cultures. Who knows, something beautiful might emerge from this soon. Here goes:

Sunday: I received a txt from Michael, my Korean friend, inviting me to a Christmas Party on Thursday 630PM. Fortunately, I only had a lunch party that day, so I said yes to my dear Chingu!

Wednesday, Michael txtd me again and it said “Good afternoon chingu! Tomorrow party, do you remember? They demand fixed number. That’s why I ask you again. Is it okay to join tomorrow? Text me pls”. My reply: “Yep I will attend! Is that a formal party? What do we wear? T-shirts okay? Or need to dress up?” His reply: “Not luxury party you can wear anything but one mission, you have to prepare one gift about 100peso. They have exchange time”.

As I was at SM that time, I went over to the Kultura. Looked for a “gift” and something to wrap it in. Result: a white tee that said “I love eating Dilis of the Philippines”.

Thursday, I was on the way to Cebu Doctor’s University (CDU ESL) when Michael txtd again and it said “where are you now”. I replied “on my way”. His reply: “ok”. While I was in the cab, another txt “almost coming?”. I did not reply anymore as I saw him waiting outside the commercial establishment just before entering their building. Hehehe, too excited, my chingu!

After some quick how are yous, he told me we have to wait for two Korean girls to come down so we could go together to the party. Oh, so I realized the party venue was not in their building. The girls came down and we were introduced. One is named Lucy and the other is Cresencia. Had to ask for that latter name to be pronounced again as I did not readily get it.

So we walked to that area across the CDU (reclamation area campus) where there are rows of restaurants and stores. I sensed the venue would be in one of those restobars for why were we there anyway?! And we arrived at a place with a name that is hard for me to remember. We were excitedly met by the owner, Yuri. The two girls and I were introduced to him by Michael.

Okay I got it… the Christmas Party was not of Michael’s English School classmates (as I assumed) but one created by this restaurant/bar for their patrons (frequent or not). The requirement: P150 for food (buffet) and each party animal was advised to come with a gift worth P100. Hmm, mine was worth P170++ hehe!

Party was supposed to start at 630PM, we arrived 5 minutes to 7PM and yet we were the first four guests! Why did I feel like it was going to be so?! Ahh hehe, this is still the Philippines and “Philippine time” almost always prevails! Well, food was ready but we did not go for it and waited instead for the party to ceremoniously start. Yuri offered us beer. And when it came, it was two bottles of Red Horse (500 ml). Soon a small bucket full of ice was delivered to our table along with two cocktail glasses – yes, the ones you commonly use for your “on the rocks” drinks!

The act was worth a dissection in my lowly brain! Why two beers and just two glasses when there was four of us? Probably the Russian thinks only men should drink that! Why the cocktail glasses? Well, Russian as he is, he probably has already adapted to how most people (esp the younger set) drink their Red Horse (esp in the Visayas and Mindanao) – by pouring them into glasses, with ice when available! Why two glasses to two bottles? Isn’t it that the “tagay” use only one glass passed around? Hmm, well again, probably our dear Russian has not gotten to that yet.

But Michael and the Korean girls, probably already picked some of the “social norms” of the Visayans. So he set the other glass aside and started the “tagay” - pouring beer on the glass and serving it to us one after the other. Michael was the “tanggero”. In all these, I was starting to look like the “guest” (in my very own country hehe).

I was having fun talking to them exchanging stories about just anything when something caught my curiosity. Every time Michael attempted to give any girl her tagay, the girl would hold the glass with two hands raising it just a few inches from the table for Michael to pour beer on it. She would bow to signify “enough” and drink her tagay. Immediately after drinking, she would not give the glass back to Michael but to the next person whose turn to drink was coming. Then she would reach for the bottle and start pouring beer, whether the one who is about to drink holds the glass or not. Wow! Where was I hehe? Moreover, Michael sat to my right so his turn to drink would be always after me. When that moment comes, after drinking my beer, I would just customarily drop the glass near him but one of the girls would immediately grab the bottle to start pouring beer unto the glass for Michael to drink. Hmm, where was I really?

Could not help but ask what this different kind of beer drinking process I was witnessing! And they gladly obliged to educate me! Here goes:

In Korea, when a younger person is being poured a drink by an older person, he/she must hold it with two hands, raise it a bit and bow. That is for them “to show respect” and thank the older dude for indulging in such an act. Whew! I learned something new and the party hasn’t even started yet! So, as we continued drinking, I joined in and acted in my newly learned table manners Korean Style! Yey!

But ours was an intermingled drinking culture – if I may call it that way. Why? Because, the “tagay” is Filipino but the raising of glasses and rotating “tanggero” is Korean. Get that? In the Philippines, whoever chooses to, or designated as, “tanggero” takes on that role until end of session or until he declares somebody else do it (like if he’s drunk), or until somebody else wants to assume the role (usually those who don’t want to get drunk soon – by cheating via omitting his very own tagay). Clear?! Oh if not, just ask me for more explanations hehe!

Soon the guests started pouring in. A German and his Filipina wife arrived. They were introduced to us as close friends of Yuri. While they did not join us in our table, conversations would flow as we all get to bump each other anywhere in the little restaurant and/or outside when we smoked. Oh, this place is a “smoke-anywhere” joint but I think I started a trend of going outside to light up. I just felt it was not very proper for me to smoke inside where girls (okay, women) were non-smokers. And outside was a nice place to keep up with folks from other tables.

Oh, some three to four tykes started dashing out and into what seemed to be the restaurant’s offices. Of course they caught everyone’s attention as they were all cute especially Mikhail – the little darling who is son of the owners. I took particular interest in that the kid responds to anyone. Even the Korean girls could communicate and play with him. Hmm, why do babies understand every language? Hehehe!

More guests started arriving and there was a German, more Koreans, Malaysian, Africans and many others. My rough count, aside from the owners, crew and Pinay wives… there were only four Pinoy guests in that party! Hmm, something different really! But I liked it.

The food was party food simple household style. Nothing grand but just enough to make me feel heavy. Some had to be identified and described by the crew for the benefit of those who did not easily recognize them. Example, I asked what those seemingly tiny chickens fried whole. But my question was “is this fried pigeon”? The answer was “No, that’s quail”. Hmm, it was smackingly delicious! Many asked what was the black saucy dish in a big bowl. Just as I thought… “dugo-dugo” (dinuguan in Tagalog) which is pork stew using pork blood for sauce. Many of us liked the roasted big turkey and I was wonderfully surprised many of the foreigners liked the pancit and the humba!

My learning on Korean drinking manners continued. I even learned how to use chopsticks with a hot bowl of Korean noodles. Thanks to Ae and Berto. Hey, Berto is quite a bundle when it comes to Korean manners. I saw him placing one hand near his chest while the other hand holds the glass when someone was pouring beer unto it. I observed more and realized that the free hand sometimes touches the chest but at times just a few millimeters in front of it. It looks more like what Filipinos do when they sing “baying magiliw”! I learned from him that this was also a kind of respect (esp for the menfolk) to the one pouring drinks for him. Just like how the girls held the glass with both hands. Further, when Berto drinks, he would twist his torso a bit to the right so that his glass bottom does not face anyone on the table. This, he say, is yet another form of respect usually towards the older folks on the table – in this case, me and Michael. Wow!

There was music of course from the big big karaoke. We liked listening to some songs that we did not even understand. When we asked Yuri what language it was, he said he didn’t know but probably Malaysian. I was sure it was not for I still know my Bahasa and I did not understand any word of the song. Further on, we agreed it was probably Arabic or Indian music. We liked the beat.

Then there was singing, of course on the big karaoke machine where two wireless microphones were passed around. Hey, Berto sings a lot of English songs very well! He has a good voice and he is Korean. But the fun started to heat up when the Africans started on the microphone. They really know how to entertain! One girl sang Buchikik to the delight of everyone.

The dancing was anchored by the dear Africans. I was awed at how good they slither on the floor. Maybe they’re taught to dance gracefully at very young age as they could really groove it out without much effort. Hmm, the Filipinos were a stark minority in all these… and we say we are musically inclined? Then again, we are just probably too hospitable that we gave way for the “visitors” to have fun, right?!

That was some real Christmas fun! Language or race is clearly not a barrier when everyone wants to celebrate! I have partied in many places with many different ethnicities in attendance… but so far, this one was for the memory books! Whew! I was not a direct invitee (Michael just dragged me to it) but thanks to Yuri, his wife, brother in law and the rest of the crews for such a wonderful and different Christmas party. It was really fun!

Merry Christmas to all!

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