DRIVING on Claveria, I suddenly feel a slight itch to shop, roam around the city or watch a group of brightly clad dancers stomp their way down a street. This is strange. The aforementioned itch was definitely absent a mere 24 hours ago.

Instead, I had felt stuck in mountains of papers to check, read and grade. Even going around SM to look at clothes on sale felt like a drag. Twenty four hours ago my mind wasn't quite as festive as it is now. Must be the sight of red buntings.

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Crisscrossing the entire length of Claveria were bright red banderitas strewn up for Kadayawan. Add this to the fact that classes were off last Friday and that our house and office have been flooded by lansones, rambutan, mangosteen and other fruits for the past few days, those buntings definitely made it clear that Davao's annual celebration of a bountiful harvest is here. At least for me.

There's something about our surroundings that can set the mood, affect our outlook and influence our behavior. Yellow, red, and orange supposedly makes people feel hungry hence it is no surprise that most fast food chains are in those colors. Interior decorators choose certain colors for rooms to evoke and encourage different emotions. Definitely no loud fuchsia in a room for a client who wants to feel relaxed and refreshed. I saw this BBC show once about how after a school was redesigned to have wider hallways, more natural lighting and open spaces for students to play and relax actually lowered the incidences of bullying and improved academic performance.

Our surroundings have an effect on us subconsciously. Sometimes even our reasons cannot control how we react or behave when influenced by circumstances.

Discovery Channel's popular show Mythbusters did an experiment on Chinese water torture, a method that supposedly drives people insane just by immobilizing them and dripping water on their forehead.

Two of the hosts volunteered to undergo the experiment. Both knew what to expect. Both were among friends who monitored their emotions periodically. Both were used to being scientifically rational and skeptical. They even help construct and prepare the "rooms" where the Chinese water torture experiment took place.

One of the hosts was strapped to a rack, face and body immobilized. The other just lounged on a comfortable sofa with no restraints whatsoever. Both had to lie under a device that dripped water on their foreheads at around two second intervals. For the first host, it took around fifteen minutes for her to feel stressed and anxious. She got teary-eyed and seemed only to go on because she knew she was doing an experiment and wanted to prove she could endure the torture. The other host who was on the sofa? He was more bothered by a fly buzzing around his foot rather than by the water.

The conclusion of the experiment? Water torture works. It worked all too well.

Hmmm... this is getting too scary for Kadayawan, which is supposed to be all celebratory and fun. Truth be told, I do wish Kadayawan had a bit more proper mood-setting paraphernalia. It takes more than just leaning bamboo poles with limp colored cloth to create the Kadayawan spirit. Maybe it'll come during Indak-indak or the Floral Parade but still whereas in the previous years I seemed to be looking forward to the celebration, this year, well, without those red buntings along Claveria, I wouldn't even be properly reminded. It takes more than just a date on the calendar and the cursory mall sales to make Kadayawan Davao's answer to Sinulog or Ati-atihan. We need more red buntings! We need our organizers to create the mood more.

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Jocy L. So-Yeung teaches at Davao Christian High School