Sometimes, as a writer, a title for an article pops in my mind before I write the piece. And that was the case when I went to the “Himala sa Buhangin” event of the provincial government at the Paoay Sand Dunes last May 10.
It was not just that there were a lot of activities that day: a sand castle building contest, 4×4 race, zorb ball rides, installation art, sand boarding, fire and belly dancing, a free concert featuring Up Dharma Down and Wolfgang, and endless stargazing up the sky and down the sandy earth where celebrities set foot. It was the way the activity was conducted and its magnitude.
There were free rides to and from the venue. Portable toilets were available and sufficient. Security was well maintained. Stalls served delectable food. And more. I felt that preparations were really painstaking and were executed with a lot of class and much love. That’s it, dear karikna. That is what makes the difference in any event. When you feel loved and valued by the people behind it… when you feel that they went the extra mile. It was the same feeling I had in Bohol each time I went to their tourist sites’ comfort rooms that were air-conditioned and spic and span.
Capitol Media Head Jun Gudoy put the crowd at 3,000-5,000 though I could believe there was more. I observed that 70 to 80 percent of those who attended the event were local government officials and employees, barangay and SK officers, and students who were doing summer jobs in government offices. Around 20 to 30 percent, many of whom are from Paoay, went there on their free will, and that, of course, includes me and two of my cousins who were on vacation from Manila.
Cultural activist Carlos Celdran was there. And he was amazed at how much the people were enjoying the activity. He said “Himala sa Buhangin” was a true festival of the people, unlike meaningless festivals that have sprouted left and right. He offered an interesting insight, “If it is good for the people, then it must be good for the tourists,” the famous tour guide said. And I agree. Any festival must have its own people in mind. If tourists come, it must only be because they are drawn to partake in a revelry that has evolved to celebrate what is best about their community. Of all the activities organized by the province, Himala sa Buhangin has, so far, the best potential to beef up arrivals. We are gifted with a beautiful desert which we find some use for only once in a while when filmmakers shoot movies. Now, we have seen its promise. And wow!
The PBA All-stars, who added glitter to the event, surely enjoyed every bit. And the masses had a field day meeting their favorite cage players, both the veterans and the upstarts. My personal favorite was Arwind Santos who I have come to know since his FEU days. Even with fame and fortune, he has remained humble and courteous. “Very cute at mabango,” was how my niece Tintin found the beefcake. She also had a photo with ace model Borgy Manotoc.
Speaking of meat, one of the night’s surprises came from the Fort Ilocandia Chinese Restaurant booth where food was sold at insanely low prices: chicken feet (8 pcs.), one of their specialties, was priced at only 50 pesos; dumplings at 35; sushi and maki, 55; two pieces siopao, 35, and other delicacies and breads that would normally cost an arm and a leg at the five-star hotel. Plaza del Norte’s Mongolian Rice, priced at 50, was also a good deal, given its generous portions of seafood and spices.
And there was beer. It’s good when cold, and even better when free. My former student, Pinili Vice Mayor Rommel Labasan, who was in a group of officials from their town, extended me a warm handshake and a bottle of SanMig Light. Later that night, Bombo Radyo boss Tony Casimiro and officers of our local chamber of commerce headed by New India’s Dilip Mansukhani, also invited me to their table for barbecue.
Wholesome families came, too, like that of eyebrow goddess Shirley Felipe who was with her lovely kids Crystal, Edward, and Dominic. I am sure karikna loyalist and bff Tita Lita Chestnut would have enjoyed the night, too.
Governor Imee Marcos thus has all the reasons to be happy. Himala sa Buhangin was a smashing activity. In our brief chat, she joyfully mentioned her Moroccan inspiration (She studied studied French and Dialectical Arabic in Morocco) which showed in how the tents were ornately and magically designed. It was like a dream… a dreamy Arabian night.
So, we tried to take pictures at the tent’s couches occupied hours earlier by PBA players. It was already empty by then. We were having a fun time just silently taking pictures with our creative poses. But, oh, some things were too good to be true. Police officers arrived and shooed us away. It was quite embarrassing because it felt like we were doing something illegal, and in public. No, I did not do a Claudine or a Raymart, we just silently left. By providence, though, the governor happened to pass by and instructed the men in uniform, “Hayaan niyo sila, dun lang kayo sa gilid.” And then she even suggested that I lay on the couch like a sultan, which I did.
We would later learn that the police came under the instructions of a non-elective Capitol officer whose first name is similar to that of a feisty lady senator and whose surname means grass in Filipino. Some Capitol people say the lady really has some air and a tendency to be rough, mainly because she has been a powerful fixture for a long time.
But that was a forgettable incident. Still, my only regret is that I only have two thumbs, four including my toes, for I would have given ten thumbs up, or more, for that event that was really, really something.
Nope, meron. I went to one last May 10.