AFTER 25 years... yes, it took 25 years for me to finally brave those hot streets and gawk at Indak-indak instead of settling down in front of the television to watch in the comfort of my living room.

The thought of wading through the crowd and suffering the sting of the Davao sun had always made the comforts of the living room more enticing.

But for these same number of years, there was this inner itch that was saying, the photos on file don't quite freeze the moment... and thus with camera and towel in hand, it was time to see what's there and freeze every moment possible, the way I want them frozen.

The editor thus became a photo hobbyist complete with an access pass from the City Tourism Office (CTO), which gave me ringside, stageside, and dancer-side view of the goings-on. Weee!

The old hands were waiting for the past winners. Being all new at this, I didn't know which ones to watch out for. But you'll soon recognize the distinct zest of those who have one before. The eagerness to surpass their past performance is there, and yes, the pride of being the one to beat this year.

That doesn't mean that the others were less eager. Let's just say there are different levels and different sparkles. And those who have sparkled before come replete with the sparkle of determination to remain on top. Now that would be difficult for someone not quite there to emulate.

Most impressive, aside from the participants, were how the crowd conducted themselves. They were there to watch, and watch they did without creating chaos or even slight disturbance. Some sat, others stood, and several children were seated atop the shoulders of their elders. All stayed behind the barricades. I wanted to preen with pride for being among these disciplined lot in between wanting to shout, "That's the way to go Davao!" Of course, I didn't. I just clicked on.

The police and soldiers were also not throwing their weight around as they would politely tell those stepping past prohibited grounds to go where the audience is supposed to stay, and politely ask to see the sticker on your ID for those accredited to cross the barricades. There is nothing that can make you most secure than courteous law enforcers. Another big wee!

But the same cannot be said of others... one in particular. Who brusquely demanded to see my ID more than halfway through the morning presentation. I looked up, showed him my ID with the sticker on it, and took note of who he represented: CIO, the embroidery on his shirt read.

Well, Dabawenyos may think Davao City is the closest thing to heaven, but it's not. So expect some devil prancing around. I just met one. That slight inconvenience quickly forgotten, I now look forward to today, which will be my second time to watch the floral float parade live. And yes, I can't wait for next year.

Now I understand why despite the heat, and sometimes the rain, Dabawenyos still go in droves just to watch the revelry. It took me 25 years to figure that one out...