You could never pinpoint when Alikaraw officially starts in a given year.  It could be at the onset of the semestral break in mid-October, or as soon as the radio starts playing Christmas songs. Or it could be that it doesn’t have a start at all, because it never has and end in the lives some people. Because you see, Alikaraw is not a simply a uni-dimensional event of Hilongosnons. It is actually a string of events happening from October to December, mostly sporadic and unprompted which provokes one to mingle with the many, the faraway to return, the detached to reconnect, the jaded to reminisce some distant past… and finally in a stroke of impulsive gusto, to gather at the plaza on the night of December 31 for a grandoise welcoming of the new year.

It’s ironic. But when people not from Hilongos ask what Alikaraw is all about, we stop in mid-sentence and stutter some incoherent descriptions of what it is and what it is not. Why is this? It is not that we know something; it is more of because Alikaraw has ceased to be just an event in the calendar. It now has become a phenomenon of some sorts, multilayered, complex and evolving. This then is ambitious treatise to explain comprehensively this festivity called Alikaraw.

First, Alikaraw is not a festivity with a fickle underpinning in history and tradition. The event

is deeply rooted in the lives of Hilongosnons ever since when bell-buttons and outrageous hairdo were fads, or even before that. My proof? Go look at the old albums of individual houses around town and you would see a myriad of sepia-colored photos validating my claim. It reportedly started as simply a “bayle” with a wrist in Calle San Isidro, then at Plaza Rizal a few years after, and now in a bigger venue at the gymnasium. The System remains similar: booths of different sizes and motifs encircling the dance floor, food and booze literally abundant and flowing.

Secondly, Alikaraw is unlike any other festivities that when teased with the forces of nature would naturally surrender and say ‘Till next year’. No it is not. It has much more character than you think at all has. There was this one December 30 in the late eighties which was disputed by a strong typhoon. The disco lights were out, the booths were destroyed and the people were forcibly kept inside their horns, and partied till dawn.

Third, Alikaraw is not one dumb festivity that merely kowtows to the dense and crooked philosophical structures of society. It has a progressive outlook in life and an upright, loud, unwavering stance on issues. And it does not say it forward. It SCREAMS the message in huge

Colorful figures. My proof? Recall what message the Merry Makers have been bantering these past  years on the issues of imported goods versus local products, of the country sinking due to corruption symbolized by the Titanic and lately, of the horrors of terrorism. Remember the huge structure of a blindfolded lady carrying the scales of justice, but the blindfold had holes and the scales were tied to several things. Remember the political message about an election bereft of goons, guns and gold. Remember the different profound and fearless themes about saving the environment, about moral recovery, about going back to the basics, about heeding the call for peace and unity, about enjoying life to the fullest.

Next, Alikaraw is a celebration of freedom. As the name suggest which by the way just recently thought of and adopted as its official appellation, it is about happiness amidst disorder. It is all about the pleasure of not having to follow what is traditional, what is ordinary, what is normal. Here, people do not follow dance steps. They invent their own and perform them with zeal and pride. Of course, There are those who prepare the choreographed movements and we let them be. Here people do not follow dress codes. The glittery mixes with the casual, the branded joints the imitation, and high-heeled blends with those only with slippers. Of course, there are those who prefer the comfort of their self-constructed pedestals, and we let them be too. Here, people abandon their pretense and warmly smile and even embrace those they meet in the crowd.

Notwithstanding their skin color or bank accounts. Of course, there those who prefer the mask and remain distant, and again  we let them be. In a counter-clockwise direction, people move from one booth to the next admiring colors, contemplating on the message, meeting with different persons. Of course those who prefer to go the clockwise direction. They contribute to the chaos of the human traffic, but then that is what Alikaraw should be. So we all let them be!

Next, Alikaraw is surprisingly about God too. At a quarter past eleven, the disco stops, people moves out and for the uninitiated,it seems like the party has ended, nut no. It is only a temporary cessation of anything and everything worldly and mundane ad people line up towards the church to hear mass. This is an overwhelming manifestation of faith and gratitude for the year that was and the year that is to come. This is a very moving and poignant practice that is done in the company of love ones, family and friends.

Next, Alikaraw is also about eating, drinking and merrymaking that seems borderless. As soon as the sun rises in the east on the first day of January, people shift gears from the dance floor to the many beaches there are around. And from there, the fun resumes, and sometimes even, intensifies.

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CHAPTER 1: Lesson C from MLG College of Learning, Inc