Bicol Region, Philippines

Smoky Sanctuary

“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and — sans End!”
– fr. Rubaiyat , Omar Khayyam (1050? – 1122),
Persian mathematician, astronomer, and author

Beer Plaza @ Peñaranda Park
(One of the Events at Magayon Festival, Albay, Philippines)

SMOKY SANCTUARY
(Nightly Tryst @ Peñaranda Park)

barbecue stalls queue in row
makeshift bars where beers flow
where discreet lovers throw
furtive glances from shadow
as lanterns in shifting shades glow
yellow like dozy fireflies flying low

shelter of lovers’ frolics
refuge of stoic fanatics
infirmary of dire cynics
asylum of social critics
seedbed of raw politics

heaven
of beer guzzlers
haven
of dear hustlers

(yes, sanctuary for us all).

– between
guzzlers and hustlers
are bottlers.

© Chito L. Aguilar

Magayon Festival is held every summer in Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines.
It is a tourist attraction with various events, like, street presentations, products showcase,
marathon run, cultural shows, band concerts at beer plaza,
fun games/ contests, beauty pageant, among others.

The annual Magayon Festival lasting for one whole month (April-May),
holds the record as the provincial festival with the longest-duration
held in the Philippines.

Many Albay folks look forward to this summer festival
and enjoy the various events throughout the month-long celebration.
One of the main events is the Beer Plaza held every night
at the Peñaranda Park in Legazpi City, capital of Albay Province.

A major attraction of the Festival is the nightly concert
where various music bands perform and show their musical prowess.
This nocturnal event adds color and provides entertainment to beer aficionados and aficionadas;
what a delight to beer guzzlers and dear hustlers at the Peñaranda Park Beer Plaza.

People from all walks of life congregate in the Beer Plaza at the Park.
Here, you find a cross-section of the society.
The Beer Plaza is the equalizer of rich & poor, brain & brawn, sinners & saints.
Here, you find Beers, Peers and Cheers!
Here, you find fanatics and devotees of that mystic amber bottle (beer).
Here you smell the scent of incense (pork barbecue),
amidst a litany of clink and clatter;
amidst a rosary plink and platter;
amidst the ambiance of amber and ember smoke.

The Beer Plaza at the Park is prime time to the city’s ambulant night vendors;
the micro-entrepreneurs, the backbone of the local economy.
The Festival is a grand opportunity for them to earn extra income.
Like George, a micro-entrepreneur who operates this mobile KTV-videoke bar…

George converted a van into this mobile bar which he named Toma-Car.
It is a mobile KTV-Videoke Bar with bar chairs, neon lights and bar paraphernalia,
complete with flat-screen TV and stereo sound system
for videoke enthusiasts who love to sing while drinking beer.
Such creativity is latent among micro-entrepreneurs
who think of very innovative ways to attract more customers.

These guys earn their livelihood selling mangoes at the Peñaranda Park.
The Festival provides them with more income,
with the increase in the number of customers every night.

Manay is a fried chicken vendor.
She supports a family cooking and selling chicken at the Park.
She laments that she can hardly sustain her business, with the increasing cost of goods.
The Festival somehow eased her financial difficulty; her net income increased
because of more buyers at this time of the year.

This young lad helps his mother in their small business. He does the grilling and braves the heat and smoke. His sister helps to prepare the barbecue and sauce in the afternoon so he can sell them at night. Barbecue is a favorite of beer drinkers since grilled meat goes well with beer.

These two teenagers sell peanuts to support their schooling.
Early in life, they learned to cook and sell peanuts in different variants,
i.e., roasted, fried, sugar-coated, garlic flavor, hot & spicy and even boiled peanuts too.
They say more customers prefer fried peanuts, hence, they cook more of this type.

Nene grew up vending “pulutan” (finger foods) to beer drinkers at the Park.
She is a regular sight in her usual corner stall. She learned to develop her own recipes.
She sells any foodstuff that can delight beer drinkers.
Her specialties, though, are ‘balled’ foods and orange juice.

She is a typical ambulant night vendor;
selling junk foods, biscuits and candies at the Park.
She braves insomnia every night as she strives
to earn money to sustain her family.

He sells barbecue too…
Another night vendor among the others who, by force of circumstance,
must face difficulties to make both ends meet.
Magayon Festival ends in May.
As the ambulant street vendors and beer drinkers look forward to the next Festival,
we continue with our usual chores, our mundane routines
…amidst the shifting shades of Life.

Beer Plaza @ Magayon Festival
provides entertainment and livelihood opportunities.
A Smoky Sanctuary for all…

Peñaranda Park, in Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines, was named after Jose Ma. Peñaranda, Governor of Albay, 1834-43. The American Liberation Forces installed a bronze bell replica of USA’s Liberty Bell in this park to symbolize “anti-oppression”. It is an early freedom park. During the ‘60s, trees and yellow bell flowers flourished along the park’s perimeter, making it one of the most beautiful places in the province of Albay.

Photos © 2012 Chito L. Aguilar

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