The Philippines has so many New Year’s observances, from fireworks to wearing polka-dotted clothing (to resemble coins … and wealth) but I thought of one more from Brazil that might be worth adopting for the Philippines, a bit more complicated but a lot of fun.
Briefly, it involves going to a beach close to midnight, preferably with other people, and in the Brazilian version, making offerings to lemanja, the mother of the seas in Afro-Brazilian folk religion.
As with any other cultural practice, there are all kinds of variations, the Brazilians recommending white apparel and some, multicolored underwear, the colors representing different aspirations in life, much like the wishing candles of Quiapo.
I think we can just concentrate on the core of the practice, which is jumping seven waves, each time accompanied by a wish for the new year.
I first learned about the practice around the middle of 2020, the early days of COVID-19 and I thought that by the end of the year my family could launch our own version, complete with a Filipino name: “alon talon,” jumping the waves.
The Brazilians did in fact turn out en masse at their beaches for the seven waves practice that year but the Philippines was still in lockdown, one of the longest in the world.
This last New Year’s eve was very different as lockdowns came to an end (I hope). Although the specter of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was already being felt, fairly wide vaccination coverage made us feel safer … and more hopeful.
I was able to go to our adopted home province of La Union with my family, determined to debut our alon talon, only to learn that the municipality had passed a new ordinance prohibiting swimming from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
But I told my children, the sea is only a stone’s throw away from our home and we certainly weren’t going swimming so we did continue to prepare, having a nice New Year’s Eve buffet at Puerto de San Juan and watching “Jungle Cruise” on a widescreen by the beach.
We did decide to go back to our own place, which is much quieter but in the end, I had to beg off, too exhausted. I told the kids to just jump up and down, an older Filipino practice meant for children, supposedly to grow taller, muttering a promise to push through with our waves first thing in the morning while I snuggled down with two of our dogs.
Next morning, fully charged, we crossed the road, two- and four-footed ones, to the seaside. Turned out our Filipino version was going to be more spirited, calling out “Alon!” followed by “Talon!” seven times.
I told the kids they could keep their wishes secret but some of them did share with me, complete with a separate wish intended for Dada (that’s me, not a deity) for the funding.
Later that day, and the next day for good measure, we repeated “Alon! Talon!” almost as aerobics but I realized that as we were getting the hang of it, we were really doing a kind of (un)dress rehearsal for next year.
I’d explained to my family that especially with COVID-19, alon talon was an expression of gratitude for the past year’s goodness, and bracing ourselves to meet the new year’s challenges with courage and strength, whether the pandemic’s waves and surges, or other natural disasters, or more personal challenges at work or in school.
We discovered too that while jumping into the air was exhilarating, some waves—the larger ones that surfers love—required a different response, which was to allow ourselves to be swept up without being swept away, bringing a few seconds of amazing calm and self-assurance, fear-less rather than fearless.
I hope I’ve fulfilled my promise in my last column for 2021 to have a happy article to start 2022 but let me be sure by capping it off with sharing my seven waves of wishes.
Kalusugan (health) came a natural first followed by kaligtasan (safety, security, vaccinated). Then kasaganaan (prosperity and abundance, more of joy and goodness) and kaginhawaan (emotional well-being). With elections upon us, I thought of karunungan, we need more women of wisdom to accompany us in our quest for kapayapaan (peace) and katarungan (justice) for all!
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