As it turned out it arriving late to the luncheon with the mayor was not such a big deal. ‘Luncheon with the mayor’ sounded very personal and important to me, but it was a much larger affair than anticipated. The event took place in a very large room with crowds of people, of whom the Peace Corps was only a small part, and it was the usual ceremony whereby a long list of names are thanked, a long string of hands shaken, and a large pile of delicately-framed certificates issued. After it was through, we had nothing planned until that afternoon, when we would march in the parade. We had just enough time to show the other volunteers the legendary mudslide available at the local mall.
Later in the afternoon was the parade. I have noticed that Filipinos seem to throw parades with the frequency that some college frats throw parties. Having been in this country 9 months, this would mark the third parade I’ve marched in. But here’s the twist: elsewhere in the Philippines, in the far islands of Bicol, a typhoon was menacing the local population. Kalibo was mercifully spared from anything close to a direct interaction with it, but that didn’t mean we were excluded some of the resulting weather. Recall that earlier in the day the skies had threatened to unleash their wet wrath upon us as we gave our high school aids presentation. Thankfully those dark clouds never did yield more than a few drops of rain during our workshop, but the parade was not so lucky. As it happened, someone did more than rain on our parade, someone typhooned on it.
Were the wind and rain were so intimidating to stop our march? Of course not! Truth be told they weren’t actually any worse than your typical rainstorm, but it does sound dramatic to say we marched through a typhoon storm, doesn’t it? Typhoon or not, it did manage to get me awfully wet. I should have brought my rain coat.
We set out for our demonstration with a marching band well-equipped with enthusiastic marchers, despite the rain. A man dressed in a white shirt festively decorated with multi-colored (and perhaps multi-flavored?) condoms marched in front as Caca, possessing bright colors, bountiless energy, and a set of wings hurried back and forth along the line to conduct things and keep up morale in the dreary weather. Having no initial plan, the Peace Corps first dispersed among the marchers, but gradually we found ourselves marching at the head of the line, holding the lead banner alongside a condom-covered man.
I couldn’t say quite how far we marched. Between the excitement and rain I lost track. I can tell you that I have it on good word the parade was covered by CNN worldwide, and that I was utterly drenched 15 minutes into the march. It’s just possible that I appeared in said coverage, marching at the very front as I was, but I almost hope not. I was enjoying myself the whole time, but to look at these pictures, I appear to be in a foul mood unbefitting of a man marching at the front of a parade line. For the record I was definitely happy and excited, but if I HAD been upset, it would have been due to the terrible aids crisis plaguing our globe.
As our parade route passed a major park and a large stage with the words “World Aids Day” prominently displayed in scarlet block letters, it was no surprise to me that we were directed to march inside. I should mention that as I usually am in this country, I was utterly clueless about exactly what the events of the day would be, and how they would all play out. All I know is that the parade marched into the courtyard and we turned to face the stage: Myself, Condom Man, and an assortment of other volunteers holding up our banner as valiantly as possible in the downpour. By this point I felt fairly comfortable in the idea that I couldn’t actually get any more fully saturated with water, and strangely enough this raised my spirits even higher.
As bottled water was passed out water among the paraders I admit I became confused; suspicious even. We were standing unprotected in the rain, why were they distributing the very item of menace falling on our heads? Were we unwittingly posing for a “Natural Springs” commercial? No. As it turned out we were not.
They were passing out water to us because we would be standing in that rain for a while. Two hours to be precise. We stood there, soaking wet and rain still pouring down on us as politician after politician came up to make a speech.
I hope that here I don’t come across as bitter or ungrateful toward the many \politicians that contributed to aids awareness and prevention that day. It was an excellent cause and they deserved their chance to have their moment in the spotlight and to say their piece. There is one cultural intolerance I may have unwittingly begrudged them.
I’ve noticed that speeches in this country generally begin with 10-15 minutes of thanking people. Now, if you have only one or two people speaking, if you have a place to sit, or if you have some cover from the torrential rain descending upon your head, that’s really something I can probably deal with. But that day that I made a self discovery: I am much more eager to march in the rain than I am to stand idly in it listening to people thank me for doing so. My frustrations might have been worsened when afterwards one politician came down for a photo op and remarked to me “What happened to your clothes? They are all wet! You should change!”
But I digress. Let not my whining ruin an otherwise excellent parade. They did serve us coffee, and I really ought to have had the foresight to bring my rain coat.
After all the speeches had been said the Butterfly Brigade put on an excellent dance number for us, despite the slippery stage. By the end the rain had even calmed enough that we were even able to hold a candle lighting ceremony. The program ended well.
Later than night, after a buffet dinner, the Butterfly Brigade hosted a drag queen talent show. I have to say, this struck me as slightly off-topic, but it was a good time nonetheless. They certainly had fun with it. One person even sung the song “one little, two little, three little Indians”. It was one of those moments where I had to pause and ask myself “How did that song make it to this country? Is there even one native American here?” Oh well. On the heels of this elaborate display of singing, dancing, and dragging was the main event, the Condom Fashion Show.
No… no… don’t try to picture what that could be, not yet. Let me explain first.
The condom fashion show consisted of 13 contestants (all drag queens, except for one young girl I believe) who had donned costumes of which condoms were used as an essential element. Some contestants, including the winner if memory serves me, inflated their condoms like balloons. A few costumes were so bedecked in thusly inflated birth control that if they had used helium I’m pretty sure we would have had to call air control.
Others entries opted to use condoms in a wide variety of inventive ways, such as placing them like sparkles on a dress. It may sound odd, but I wish I had pictures of this event, because there really were some very inventive participants (and all in good taste). A few of us Peace Corps Volunteers ended up being judges in this competition, and I was unexpectedly called on to give a consolation prize.
By unexpectedly I mean that they called “Allan, please come up to award consolation prize number 6” into the audience. I wish I had had some forewarning, because I know I climbed the stage with fluster on my face and I’ve no doubt it showed. Ah well, such as life.
The competition ended, and we were encouraged to stay and party with the Butterfly Brigade, but I think everyone had been drained by the days events, and we all elected to go home and sleep like the party-poopers we are. Thus ended the longest and most eventful World Aids Day of my life.