August 15 started out cloudy and drizzly but ended up hot and muggy like the previous days. It was not perfect but it was a good day to have a town fiesta and Lianga, true to form, went through the proper motions of doing justice to this annual celebration.
I was up early to survey the festivities and as the day progressed instead of getting caught up in the fiesta spirit, I ended up wondering, as I am sure many other residents did, what the hype and hullabaloo was really all about. Or was I just merely being overly cynical about the whole thing.
Of course, the 15th was essentially just the culmination of several days of cultural and religious activities and programs. The previous day, the traditional parade had already taken place complete with marching bands and street dances. The night before, there had been a musical concert at the municipal park and a live band was scheduled to do a gig at the municipal gymnasium that night. The local folk had also done their best, despite the uncertain economic times and leaner pantries, to prepare their homes and banquet tables for the anticipated horde of guests and hangers-on on fiesta day.
But there seems to be a sense of fatalism and reluctant resignation encompassing the frenzy of activity, as if everyone was just going through the motions of getting through the celebration with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience. The form, the actions were there but little or none of the real substance or genuine enthusiasm.
It was as if the hard times and the constant challenges of surviving in the midst of a contracting, collapsing local economy has blunted and eroded a lot of the local people's capacity to really let go and have real, unrestrained fun. Instead there is a kind of deep seated anxiety about the future and a patently false, overtly hysterical attempt to join in the fun yet there was no honest merriment and enjoyment, just a facade of dubious revelry.
On the way home that evening, I drove past near the town center amidst crowded streets and people waiting for buses and jeepneys to bring them home after making the rounds of the houses and party tables of relatives and friends. An argument between an inebriated motorcycle driver and a harried, impatient jeepney driver suddenly ended in angry shouts, name calling, insults and finally a flurry of kicks and blows. The highway was suddenly blocked by bystanders and pedestrians running away from the altercation.
As I frantically tried to reverse and back up the car, the fight ended as suddenly as it started. Cooler, less intoxicated heads had intervened and soon the road cleared and I was able to continue safely on my way home.
But even then I could see that both would be candidates for the police stockade did not really have the inclination or appetite for a real fight. Neither did the bystanders and onlookers. Everyone just wanted to get home and be done with everything. Just like me.
Tomorrow, after all, was going to be another day and it was just hours away.