Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Lavishly Auspicious Chinese New Year Fete at the Manila Hotel

  Last  January  23, 2012  marked the beginning of the two-week celebration of the Chinese New Year, and you know it’ll be a good Year of the  Water Dragon when  Manila Hotel  kicked  it all off,  which started at 9:30 in the evening of the 22nd.   As Marites Allen gave  out her Feng Shui expertise to usher in the New Year also known worldwide as the Spring Festival. Let me share you my experience of it as a seasoned first timer.

There is always the first time.  As Margot Fonteyn uttered,"  Minor things can become moments of great revelation when encountered for the first time.
It was the first time I observed Chinese New Year.  Being born under the dragon sign in the Chinese Zodiac calendar, I know for a fact that this is to be my year, the year of the Water Dragon.   But it is also to my knowing that I am blessed, without even being under the sign of any animal and a fictitious one at that. 
 
It is the first time I partied till 2 am at the Manila Hotel,  with it's grandiose preparations from the dragon decorations, lanterns,  to cocktails and to the honored guest who celebrated wit us, namely,    Manila Hotel’s Senior Vice-President Ms. Georgina Banaag,  Manila Hotel's President and Director Atty. Joey Lina, Host Par Excellence Boy Abunda,  Mayor Alfredo Lim, Manila Congresswoman 3rd Distirct Zenaida Angping,  Bourne Legend Actor Lou Veloso, who wouldn't have a good night.
It is the first time I truly realized what it is all about.   The New Year or the Spring festival is the most celebrated occasion as it is not just about holidaying but a time to reflect on the essence of ancient customs.  Chinese people  believe that as they enter a new year, they should drop the last year into the past.    Like what Marites Allen have  suggested accordingly that  people should  clean the houses from top to bottom, wear new clothes, pay off debts, paint  their doors and window panes, and even get new haircuts. Traditional Chinese New Year facts bring forth the essence of new life and new hopes.  
 I never new that such celebrations were conducted with vividly colorful presentations like the  wearing of reds and golds and the traditional Dragon dance.   As Marites Allen went on stage, the dragon dancers followed after,  magically transforming  the serious stage into a wondrous scene though accompanied with mono-toned drum sound, which I think is also essential in the ritual.  
 My first time to finally meet Miss Eugene Domingo.  An acclaimed actress for her character in "Babae sa Septic Tank " and more.    She happens to be one of the best comedian and actress of  this country and one of my favorite at that.
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At 11:50 the countdown hurled on as guests all gathered outside the Manila Hotel building,  Armed with out-poured wishful thinking, a pentel pen and a balloon.   According to Ms Allen, the symbolic act of letting your balloon into the sky, where your wishes for the 2012 written on the balloon is believed to go to God so he can answer your wishes.


 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4,3,2,1... Everyone counted backwards along with the resonating  sound not far (for on the Luneta Grandstand a party for counted also was held).
At the struck of the clock to the 12th hour, balloons flew to the midnight sky, followed by the majestic fireworks.

An auspicious  buffet dinner followed after.  With the ceremonial Lo Hei stirring up all our appetite. 
And now, let me tell you all about the auspicious meal that was prepared, definitely a first time for me also.
On our table, I was chosen to be the one to do the ritual preparation for the salad for the Lo Hei.
Yu Sheng, is what the salad is called, is a popular raw fish salad traditionally served on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year season, which the Chinese celebrate as everyone's birthday.  It's a tradition for families to toss the salad while calling out Lo Hei!, which means to whip up or toss up good fortune. It's believed that the higher you toss the salad, the greater your luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Yu Sheng is made with fresh fish such as salmon, peanuts (which symbolize longevity), raw vegetables such as turnips, cucumbers and carrots, wanton crackers, dried fruits , diced ripened mangoes,  roasted and crushed sesame seeds, to be seasoned with white and black pepper  and finally dressing it with plum sauce.


Everyone on every table participated with gladness, careful not to spill any of the ingredient on the salad bowl.  It was the most fun part of the dining experience.
After the salad had been tossed with the chanting and all, we feasted with it (probably the best salad and had whipped up) and  with what  Manila Hotel's  Executive Chinese Chef Sun Bing had prepared.  Eating together is  an important part of the celebration, the dishes symbolizes luck, longevity, and wealth for the coming year.  With that,  Mabuhay Palace  offered a wide array of sumptuous meals including Steamed Garoupa Fillet in Brown Sauce, Dried Fried Shrimp Glazed with Almonds, and the traditional Nian Gao. Fish, which is usually served whole, is an important part of the meal as it symbolizes abundance for the year ahead. The Deep Fried Shrimps, on the other hand, signifies happiness and well-being for the entire family. A permanent dish on the dining table, the Nian Gao or Tikoy symbolizes the togetherness of the family and its usual circular shape represents the never ending flow of luck.
This happened to be my plate, I guess I gobbled up to many Yu Sheng leaving a small room for all the other dishes.
The captivating aroma of  Jasmine tea even harmonized everything up
My dessert plate consisted of Sticky rice ball (Buchi), assorted fruits, and specially prepared tikoy.
Fruit Salad with almond jelly
 Again, Manila Hotel  had  presented an exemplary   New Year  celebration with a countdown that  matched any countdowns I have ever experienced.

Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái!
Kung Hei Fa Choi...
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè. . .

 

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