Today is the feast of St. John the Baptist. And with our very own city of San Juan being named after the saint whose claim to fame is splashing other people with water, it’s no surprise that his feast day here is celebrated in the wettest way possible.
This year’s celebration seems to have been leveled up ten-fold. Whereas in the past few years, we would only see a few locals with their pails of water and garden hoses gleefully “baptizing” passers-by with water, this year we have actual firetrucks in every street corner literally deluging motorists and commuters alike in a torrential baptismal frenzy. With that much water power, one would almost hope that it would be enough to wash away all the evils in the country like Noah’s great flood. But alas, not even the might of Ondoy was enough to cleanse this nation of ours. So on we go with our lives, having no arks… yet still able to endure any amount of flooding that comes our way.
Only in the Philippines will you see the government deploying all their firetrucks for merry-making (and making hapless commuter’s live miserable). Never mind if there was an actual emergency and all their firetrucks are out of water and stuck in the middle of the immovable crowd. After all, we are a christian nation and god will protect us. All it takes is a prayer to make everything better. In the meantime, the local royalty of the fiefdom of San Juan is much too busy celebrating their across-the-board win in the recently concluded elections. Their old mayor has just been promoted to congress and another family member takes his place in their own little kingdom. Enough reason to crank the celebration to the max. San Juan will not be outdone by Makati’s recent celebratory fanfare. What it lacks in budget, it will make up for in sheer chutzpah.
Yes, Filipinos really know how to party. Just like that those annoying neighbors who love the crank up their drunken karaoke parties till the wee hours of the morning. And its that same insensitivity that shows just how mature we are when it comes to merry-making. Sure, everyone’s having the time of their lives but what about those poor commuters who are just passing by on their way to work? Did anybody bother to ask them whether they’d actually want to participate in all the drenching? Did the revelers think of how those poor office workers will fare when they reach their offices soaking wet? Folks, this is not a simple sprinkling of water you can just air-dry in a few minutes, these guys are using actual fire hoses turned on full blast. The pressure alone from one of these babies will knock you off your feet, not to mention make you look like you swam to work. And if you think going to work with wet clothes suck, think of those carrying important documents that’s now reduced to wet rags.
It’s a weird blend of one-third merry-making, one-third religious festival, and one-third politically-sponsored thank-you party. And just like its religious origins, things have a way to getting out of hand. People just get so caught up with the flow of things that they forget to even consider the collateral damage. Did the organizers think that everyone passing by is prepared for it and is a willing participant? Did they prepare alternate routes for those not in the mood to participate? You don’t get a choice. It gets shoved in your face whether you like it or not… just like religion. Most people didn’t have a choice of whether to get baptized or not since its done when they were still babies, they don’t get a choice of whether to get soaked when passing by San Juan, and they don’t get a choice whether they even agree with church-influenced national policies. Don’t have the same conservative views on sex as the Catholics? Tough. Think divorce is a feasible option in certain situations? Too bad. Don’t find anything wrong with same-sex marriage? Better luck next time. Feeling a bit more liberal with family planning, with contraceptives, sex-education? Sorry, no RH Bill for you still. It really doesn’t matter if you’re OK with it or not, whether you’re even christian or not, as long as the church has its way with Philippine politics, only church opinions matter and everyone has to play along.
Just like the deluge of today’s San Juan Day celebrations, the meaning of secularization in the Philippines has been washed way… in a torrent of baptizing water… coming from the hose of a government-owned firetruck.