By Michael Karlo Lim
JUST as quickly as twenty sixteen dropped in on us did the long lists of resolutions start to fade into a blur for many of us. As with most everything in our lives today, we have the Chinese to thank for the loophole of a second annual beginning — the Chinese New Year.
“Wú yéye shì Shànghai rén,” I’d manage to squeeze convincingly from my limited Chinese Takeout Menu Mandarin when some G.I. (Genuine Insik) poses a question against my salient features. Dy Tai Biao left his wife and kids in the Southern Capital City to travel with the Lims to pursue whatever dreams overseas. That he fathered an illegitimate brood of six on this island accounts for a fourth of the mongrel that I am.
Growing up, my exposure to the local Chinese culture wasn’t much different from any other local’s other than the odd invitation to some distant relative or acquaintance’s Teng Hon or some association party. I thought a year in the Capital would have been enough of an immersion but, no. I found myself still quite ignorant of many Chinese cultural practices as anyone who has rested faith in that runaway hit Roño. It doesn’t help that I didn’t get to watch that either.
It might have been that planetary alignment of recent that had us cross paths with Waterfront Cebu City’s Arnel Aparis at a late night convenience store run. With that encounter came an invite to preview their Chinese New Year Dinner menu with a Yeesang Tossing Ceremony and an audience with internationally renowned Feng Shui expert, Maritess Allen, for her Luck and Prosperity Forecast for the Year of the Fire Monkey.
What looked like the most random collection of guests were gathered at the Waterfront Cebu City’s Tin Gow Chinese restaurant. Greetings for the new year were exchanged as if it was in the mother tongue. “Gong Xi Fa Cai! Kung Hei Fat Choi!.” A Yeesang or Prosperity Salad tossing ceremony opened the night.
“Nian Nian You Yu!,” we wished for abundance through the year as pieces of salmon were first put into the dish. “Da Ji Da Li!,” to wish for “good luck and smooth sailing” as lemon juice was squeezed on the fish and pieces of pomelo were added, increasing auspicious value. “Zhao Cai Jin Bao!,” as pepper was sprinkled all over to “attract wealth and treasures.”
“Cai Yuan Guang Jin!,” as oil was poured to circle the ingredients encouraging “numerous sources of wealth.” “Hong Yun Dang Tou!,” as the traditionally auspicious “red” in carrots were added to declare “good luck approaching.” Shredded green and white radishes symbolising youth and progress were already mixed into the carrots.
“Jin Yin Man Wu!,” as crushed peanuts were added to wish for a “household filled with gold and silver.” “Sheng Yi Xing Long!” as sesame seeds were added for “prosperity for the business.” “Tian Tian Mi Mi!,” as Yusheng or plum sauce was poured to wish that “life may always be sweet.” Flour crisps were scattered to “Man Di Huang Jin!” to literally ask for a “floor full of gold.”
Then the diners enthusiastically tossed the salad ingredients to bring the growth of their fortunes just as high. The primarily vegetable salad was crisp and refreshingly sweet with a nutty crunch from the sesame seeds, peanuts and the flour crisps with the oil and yusheng giving it some weight.
Over a very substantial lauriat service, the surprisingly entertaining Maritess Allen all but swung from the chandeliers in her very engaging general forecast. The benevolent Dragon and the sneaky Snake will have the light of the White Star in the South East, the resourceful Rabbit will gain prosperity in the East and the Horse receives Heaven’s Luck in the South.
The Sheep and the Monkey who have been helping each other since the Great Race will find Wealth in the South West while their other friend, the Rooster, will be lucky in Education and Romance in the West. Illness shall be upon anyone centrally located while Misfortune will befall the Tiger and the Ox in the North East.
The wily Rat gets his ancient Karmic comeuppance with Violence in the North. Interestingly, Arguments for the Dog and the Boar in the North West hold true for this Boar and his estranged kinfolk — a mangy, hydrocephalic mutt.
Things made a turn for the personal when Mrs. Allen opened Q&A and provided personal advice members of the audience. Guidebooks, charms and amulets were recommended to avert misfortune and ails and also to increase luck.
The night ended with all in attendance writing their most earnest wishes for themselves and their loved ones on balloons which we released all together outside the main lobby. We were sent off with more well wishes for the New Lunar Year and a package of Niangao or Tikoy for a “higher year.”
All things considered — the God-granted and manipulations of luck through Feng Shui, Mrs. Allen reminds us that equally important is working hard and smart to achieve our dreams in life. John Green couldn’t be more wrong as the fault is not entirely in our stars.