My first thought of this morning.
I’m sleeping soundly and the sound of a guitar…strum strum, two chords…then a song telling someone how much they loved her, good health and wealth, and…HAPPY BIRTHDAY finishing the song. All sung in the language of Waray. I’m wide awake by the end of the first measure. Of course I don’t have a single clue what they are singing about; I’m thinking they are a bunch of idiot Christmas carolers that can’t tell time. My body clock tells me it’s the middle of the night, Praxy confirms the time at exactly three am.
So, I’m laying in bed with these people singing, quite well, about 5 feet from my window as my window is near the street. Praxy hears me muttering, “These people are absolutely banana-nut-bonkers, totally nuts” a couple more times. Praxy is listening, then leaps out of bed asking “Where’s the camera? They are singing to Sheila!” What now? Suitors? How many? There is a bunch of them. Sheila is 32 and single, so that is the first thing that jumps to my mind. Carolers? A wandering singing group? Then, as I become fully awake, I remember. Today is Sheila’s birthday.
“The camera is in my backpack.” Praxy grabbed it and scooted out the door.
Out on the street, the serenade continued for about 20 minutes. Songs of love, thanks, and finally the Happy Birthday song as we Americans know it. Intermingled with friendly jabs reminding her she is single and needs to find a husband some day. The laughter is contagious. Even though at this point I still don’t know what is truly going on, my irritation at being awoken has gone. They are her adoring students from high school.
Just to the right of the guitar player is my window. At this point I’m still in bed and it’s starting to dawn on me what is going on. Camera flashes are confirming this isn’t a bunch of hooligans.
Deah had to go waken Sheila as her room was far enough away that she could sleep through it. I can’t do justice to the comedy of this all. Sheila was annoyed to be woken at that time of the morning (as was I) and told Deah to go away, but Deah was persistent. Those kids weren’t going anywhere until Sheila appeared. They would sing as long as it took. Hours if needed. Until daylight. Until she left for school. Her irritation evaporated when she stepped through the gate.
This was planned for weeks, the kids were totally excited about it. Many couldn’t sleep the night before. Those that did couldn’t sleep soundly for fear they’d miss out. Some were assembling (at a nearby home) at midnight, unable to relax from the tension. The plan was to be here at 4am, but almost everyone was ready by 2:30am. Finally, unable to wait any longer, they just “started walking”, their feet leading the way.
Meanwhile, a mad scramble was going on inside the house. Guest were here and needed to be fed. Teachers were dispatched to buy food supplies, waking a nearby Sari Sari store owner as this was an emergency.
3:30 am quick pancit. Canned sardines, rice noodles, garlic, water, and heat. I didn’t get to try it as I let everyone else eat first. Singing is hungry work…
Left to right. Rice pancakes (never seen this before and got to try one, excellent), pancit, and the last of the left over lechon (pork) from the Sunday birthday party. Also glasses of water. (These bowls ended up being refilled three times, and someone had to get more pancakes in a driving rainstorm.) No matter, the party was going on behind all this furor.
In the bottle is a bunch of flower petals looking things, intermixed with what I first took as birthday candles. Nope, they were personal little notes from each person, wishing Sheila love and happiness. They hung on the opening of each little scroll.
I always knew Sheila was a sweet person, but this confirmed it beyond any doubt. 34 students plus several teachers showed up to make this party a special moment. They’ve wanted to do it for two years, but typhoon Yolanda took care of 2013 and typhoon Ruby spoiled 2014. Not to be denied this year. Sheila had no idea. A perfect surprise party!
And everyone took a piece. A piece, and a rice pancake were all I got. The hungry students cleaned up almost every other morsel. Good for them, they’ll need it. School starts at 7am and there were many jokes being passed around about being docked for tardiness or absence from class. These jokes were passed in English and I got a laugh out of it as well.
Through all this, I forgot to mention Pym. He was sleeping in the living room, having arrived from Tacloban at 9:30pm the previous night. He is in a cast and looking cheerful. Out to the farm this morning to recuperate.
5am, everyone filed out. Leaving us exhausted. I fell back into bed and slept until 8. No one home except for grandma Mina and the maid. Everyone had gone to work or school. Another day.
Except Praxy and I. Luckily we are on vacation.
If anyone still wonders why I “Visit places that you (the reader) may never get to see” this story sums it up my feelings perfectly. There will be a lot of red, sleepy looking eyes around high school today. Perhaps head nodding (the Weeble thing) and sleeping in class. But the memories and friendships will last forever. After all, it is in the nature of the beautiful people living in the Philippines.
And I was honored to be a part of it.
11:20am 12/8/2015 Can-Avid, Eastern Samar, Philippines