Happy New Year!! 2009 passed on into history last week, but not before handing the country with crisis after crisis such that, if we were Americans, it would have driven us into psychotic despair and, if we were Japanese, would have led many of us to commit hara kiri. Thankfully, though, we are Filipinos and, in spite of Ondoy, regardless of the Ampatuans and given the scare of martial law at the homestretch, we have managed to smile through the exit of that pesky year.

This time, my family and I spent New Year's Eve at the farm in Ma-ao. I must say there is a lot of good that can be said about spending that special day outside of the city. Five thousand pesos worth of firecrackers in Bacolod is nothing compared with the tens of thousands (some even spend hundreds of thousands) that neighbours spend in what I grudgingly admit is an infinitely more spectacular pyrotechnic welcome to 2010 than my maximum P5K budget last New Year 2009 could ever have generated.

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But out in the farm the "pwitis" that I bought at the Reclamation for P400 brought out the same squeals of delight that the much more expensive spectacle in Bacolod produced. The happiness those 50 booming rockets spread that night raised the value of their purchase price 1,000 times over.

And what the city guys did not have that we had plenty of in the middle of the field were the rockets exploding in the blackest sky in Negros, back-dropped by thousands of twinkling stars, spectacular where we were but most of which get blanked out by the artificial glow of the city lights down there in Bacolod.

And then there was the food. We brought spaghetti and pork chops to share with our people and their families. They in turn put in kilos upon kilos of "balensyana", puto, inday-inday and butong. Out there in the open field beside our papaya patch, shivering in the cold midnight air 800 feet above sea level, we looked down at the civilization below and enjoyed the pyrotechnics of the rich, free of charge.

The decision to celebrate New Year in the farm was a spur of the moment move, a special request from our son Gino who, because of his work schedule, had not visited the place in months. With that experience of ours, I wouldn't mind doing it again next year.