THE Chinese are the bedfellows of the hearts and souls of the Filipinos. Our diplomatic relationships with China are recorded in Sung Shih (Sung History, 960-1279). The Chinese in the Philippines (who are now Filipinos by legal means) have also a very colorful way of celebrating New Year. The Chinese New Year is following the lunar calendar.

The new moon is coinciding with the Chinese New Year, so, it's between January 21 and Feb. 19. In our calendar 2010, the new moon is Feb. 14 (Valentine's Day). The legend states that in the older times, the evil spirit Nian killed many Chinese. This normally happened during long darkness and extreme cold of winter.

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The elders had their meeting and one bright idea came up. "We have to frighten Nian. Let us have a bonfire. Let us make sound by beating gongs and drums." The plan was executed at midnight when Nian was expected to strike. Nian was frightened and he fled. There came spring with its warmth. The evil cold winter was gone.

Chinese from all walks of life left their hiding places, went out of the streets and triumphantly danced, sang and shared food. They rejoiced because Nian was gone. "Quo Nian hao!" (It is good to have Nian go!)

The tradition lives on. Today the celebration is marked by a gathering of large Chinese families. They went out of the streets to beat the drums, clash the cymbals, and explode firecrackers. The focus was no longer on driving Nian away but to celebrate, to thank for all the best things that come (business, family relationship, healthy living and good friends). The affluent members of society put on their best attire and distribute "hungpao" (red envelopes) with money inside. This is good luck to those who give and to those who receive.

Well wishers say, "Kung hee hat chay" or "Kong hu sun hee." meaning-May your life be prosperous! Merrymakers go out of their way to do lion dance, dragon dance, lantern dance, yoyo dance, umbrella dance or do stilt parade. Families prepare sumptuous meal and serve delicacies like moon cake, hopia or tikoy.

Chinese belief is influenced by Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. Twelve animals came to worship when he was born. These animals have been assigned dates (year) in Chinese calendar-dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger and rabbit. The year 2010 is Year of the Tiger. Grrrr!

In Bacolod City, the Chinese New Year is a Festival of Food, Lights and Sounds through the Bacolaodiat Festival. Bacolaodiat is a term coined from BACOLod and the Fookien word "laodiat" which means -happy celebration has continuously gained momentum among the local and neighboring provinces and cities. Bacolaodiat 2010 chairman is Leonito D. Lopue. The festival starts Feb. 12 and ends Feb. 14.

Bacolaodiat is a Grand Tourism Affair in Negros Occidental, which will have its venue at Aniceto Lacson St. It has the support of 32 Filipino-Chinese organizations all over the province with the participation of local artists and local government units.

The grand cultural show will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the event site-North Capitol Road (in between Provincial Capitol Building and the Old Provincial Administration Bldg.) Edu Pillora and my fellow Silaynon, Andrew Duma-up (a former Kabataang Silay Ensemble performing artist) are the cultural show director and coordinator. Both are La Sallians!

The world-renowned Kabataang Silay Rondalla will render Chinese folk music in the overture and will provide the invocation, Philippine National Anthem and Chinese National Anthem under the baton of "Propesor" Jegger Anhao.

Participating groups are St. John's Institute, Bacolod Tay Tung High School, Riverside College, Trinity Christian Schools, Kaanyag Pilipinas Dance Company, Amity Club, West Negros University Glee Club and Rondalla, BTTHS Quintet, Temple Lions, Chamber Volunteer Fire Brigade, and more!

Bacolaodiat is a potpourri of activities. It will be something complex and beautiful. It will holistically illustrate the passion of the Negrenses to discover the story of our people. Though at times, we walk in the alley of discontent and uncertainty, we shall not worry, for we have a city, a province -- we can say, "Here we grow and we are the persons we want to unmask!"