I knew there would be a ton of fireworks going off when I arrived in Manila on New Year’s Eve 2012, but the reality exceeded anything I had imagined.
Even as my plane was approaching Ninoy Aquino Airport before 10:00 pm, I could see fireworks going off above the city (kinda beautiful to see fireworks from above, backed by the city lights, I have to say). There are professional pyrotechnic displays around the city, of course, but Pilipinos love setting off their own fireworks, whether they be legal or illegal.
The constant pops and whistles once we reached my dad’s home were startling. For the first 10 minutes after getting out of the car, I was jumping like hot oil in a frying pan because it sounded like I was in the middle of a very busy shooting range!
The fireworks kept going strong even though there was well over an hour to go till midnight by this time. And I’m not talking about a few random sparklers going off here and there — the volume of fireworks going up all around us matched that of any show you’d see at midnight in the US.
It was amazing to be able to go outside and look in any direction and see the sky lit up with different colors. My dad’s house is situated at an L-shaped intersection tucked away in a corner of the subdivision, so the neighbors were out in the street with fireworks all night, just 20 feet away—everything from handheld sparklers for the kids to colorful fireworks that were launched up into the sky to ginormous sparklers that lit up the whole block with towers of cascading white sparklers easily reaching 15 feet in height.
My dad’s live-in househelpers decided to go up on the roof at the back of the house. To their great surprise, I decided to join them and climbed up the rebar ladder that leads to the water tower till I reached the roof.
Watching fireworks go off around us—a full 360 degree show—from the rooftop was thrilling and ridiculously beautiful. There’s only been one other time that I think I’ve physically been that close to fireworks, especially nonstop, full-fledged fireworks that are going off for hours on end. The fun finally started to taper off around 2:00 am, though I’d headed inside the house long before then.
The light and sound show, and its dramatic difference from what I’m used to, was the perfect way for the Philippines to say “You are here. Welcome to a new year of adventures. Those 26 hours you just spent traveling? They’re going to be totally worth it.”
Currently listening to: “Run Right Back” by The Black Keys