Channeling Danny Zuko
It is not often that I am gobsmacked. But last night was one of those occasions. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with inspiring stories of poverty alleviation.
Our hosts, Alay sa Kanularan, put on a lavish farewell dinner for us in a packed function room of a local hotel. There was Mere and third person Pete, and six other Aussies from Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as the Board and numerous staff of ASKI.
Turns out Filipinos love to sing and dance and perform (who knew?), and us Aussies were told at short notice we had to do “an item”. OK, whatever, fine, right? We hastily slapped together a rousing tribute to our hosts to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, which we promptly delivered standing in a line, with all the style and talent of a karaoke buck’s night in its dying moments. Polite applause. Then it was their turn.
Twenty or so of their staff suddenly jumped up. It was only then that I noticed they were curiously and elaborately bedecked in 1950s outfits, an observation surprisingly not made by me up to that point.
The head-splitting sound system kicked in and these reserved and demure people instantly transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing triple threat tour de force as they belted out a highly-choreographed short version of Grease. There were totally-devoted harmonies, greased- lighting cartwheels and be-bup-aloo-la-bup-bang-boom re-enactments. It was breath-taking, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Only capped by what happened next. I’m laughing as I type this just thinking about it.
The next act was a bunch of kids. “Dancers”, apparently. (Yeah, whatever, I’m not really a officianado of the dance.) They started with all the typical shock-and-awe MTV-esque dance moves, but then it happened… all the lights went out and the kids “lit up”. Someone had given these kids access to petrochemicals. Lots of it. And they weren’t afraid to use it.
Suddenly in the darkness, there were flaming bamboo poles flying across the room, kids spitting exploding plumes of fire out of their mouths, whirling pots of inferno helicoptering around us. We were instantly enveloped by pin-wheeling spirals of acrid black smoke a la the worst moments of Apocalypse Now, complete with the yelps and horrified faces of the assembled guests flickering in the smoky haze. (Scary thing?: No smoke alarms, or any concern from the staff. WH&S? What?) And bizarrely, an old woman near me was still singing, “You’re the one that I want…” Just check out this photo…
These guys sure know how to party.
Having survived the conflagration of death, and a flight today to Iloilo on the island of Panang, tomorrow we get back to the gear of visiting more amazing people. Stay classy, San Diego.