As I write this, it is the first day of 2009, which means we have just celebrated our New Year’s Eve based on the solar calendar last night. Midnight of January 25, 2009, the Chinese citizenry will celebrate their Chinese new year using their lunar calendar. The year of the Ox will have to have its grand entrance on January 26, 2009 to replace the year of the rat. Thus, you can clearly see that these are two different festivities.
For several years now, a strange phenomenon is happening each time we rejoice to meet our solar New Year. I feel weird about this observable fact because though the Chinese New year has not come yet, most people, particularly in media, whether print or television would always associate the coming twelve months of our Gregorian calendar with the lunar calendar of the Chinese race. Hence, currently an animal has become a big influential symbol for most of us, in comparison to just the realistic new number of a year in our present century.
I do not feel that it is wrong if we desire to mark the Chinese New Year, too. This is since most Filipinos have a Chinese heritage. However, we have to stop misleading ourselves in believing that January 1 is the first day of a year wherein an animal sign will have its influence on humanity.
I respect all the Chinese beliefs and traditions, but it does not mean I have to follow it just to make me luckier in facing my new year. I must admit most of our practices in meeting our own New Year have the colorings of the Chinese custom in celebrating theirs. To cite some examples, the round fruits, the fireworks, and the rice cakes (for the Chinese, the tikoy; for the Pinoys, the biko). Yet, because we were more influenced by the Spaniards and the Americans, it is not also surprising that these races have also highlighted the food we always serve when each New Year Eve comes like the enjoyable, very thick Spanish chocolate drink and the mouth-watering jamon (ham) or the Edam round cheese, the tasty bread and delicious apples of the Americans.
With these, I can say it will not matter whether the food we serve and the traditions we practice when a new year comes have similarities with those of all the races that had influenced us, but we have to clearly see to it that we ought to differentiate the Solar New Year from that of the Lunar New year. In other words, we must accept the reality that our present new year is simply 2009 and not yet the year of the Ox. Granting for the sake of argument, if the year of the Ox of the Chinese New year has already arrived, as the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia, would you accept the idea that an animal has a strong impact on your life’s fortune in the next twelve months? God has given men the sole domination over all things on earth; therefore, I will never accept the ideology that an animal is more powerful than I am. To quote the two last parts of the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul!”
Attach to the Chinese New Year is Feng Shui. Haven’t you noticed that most of the psychics and fortunetellers in our midst are claiming to be experts in Feng Shui? How they did it in such a short time boggles my mind. I do believe there are in fact some people who can be said to be an authority on this subject and assuredly, all of them are Chinese priests whose faith is Buddhism or Taoism, and they had trained themselves on this knowledge for years and years.
Though I respect such a concept, I do not believe in it. For you to know why, I am reproducing here the write up I did about Feng Shui.
Must We Believe in “Feng Shui”?
I will tell you a story. During the building of my house, a Chinese client cum friend of mind brought a Feng shui expert to see if the site and its house design would be lucky for me. The expert brought out his compass, looked at it, walked all over the place trying to feel the vibrations he could sense inside the unfinished home. I just watched him with curiosity; for that was the only time I had a personal contact with someone who does Feng shui.
My friend was telling me she wanted me to get lucky in my house, so to be sure, she brought her friend who is a well-known Feng shui expert in the Chinese community. I heard a lot about this kind of geomancy. It was the rage in the early nineties thanks to some media hype. I felt rapt by the way this trained Chinese studied every facet of my unfinished domicile; he even went up to the half-done rooftop of my house to find out a bit about it too. As he moved around with my lady friend, I noticed that they were talking in Chinese, in their faces; I saw that they were serious.
After awhile, they came to me; the Feng shui expert’s verdict stunned me. He said my house is facing north, and because I was born in the year of the rat, my abode would not bring good luck to me. In fact, he also said that the site is home to so many bad spirits. He suggested that I should sell my house and move somewhere else. If not, I would be poor and sickly. Of course, I felt bad about it.
When they left my place, I felt so low. I knew then in my mind that I should not accept anything new that I have not proven to be true in my life and yet inside me, I also knew that the finding of that Feng shui expert about my home affected me so much. That night, I could not sleep. I tried to have a conversation with God. I asked him if it’s true that I have a property that could give me bad luck. God did not answer me. Even though eventually I could sleep, when morning came and I woke up, I still felt worn out.
Days went by. I did my usual routines. In one of my silent moments, suddenly an idea came into my mind. It was like a voice inside my head was asking me questions. It went like this: “Are you a Chinese or a Filipino? What is your faith? Are you a Taoist, a Buddhist, or a Catholic Christian? Would you dare to say to yourself that God’s blessing is a curse? I must remind you that the house being built for you is a gift from your God.
With those questions in my mind, as if a lightning bolt had hit my whole being, peace came. I no longer feared what the Feng shui expert told me. I realized I am a Filipino, not a Chinese; thus, my faith and cultural heritage are different. So why must I believe in Feng shui?
It was in 1994 when I moved in my own house; I say it was a blessing from God. Twelve years later, I am still living in the same house. I must admit that my life the past twelve years were a mixture of good luck and bad luck. In short, I had, I am having, and I will continue to experience the high and low points of my mortal being, which is the cycle of life in my abode. Furthermore, I can assure myself, even if I change my residence, I will encounter the same sequence of life.
I believe my house was a gift from God, that any blessings I will continue to receive from Him will forever be for my good. I recall a saying in Tagalog which goes like this: “Aanhin mo ang isang palasyo kung ang nakatira ay kuwago; mas mainam pa ang kubo kung ang nakatira ay tao.” (What is the use of a palace wherein the owls live; it is better to have a nipa hut where humans live.). I do respect the beliefs of others; I hope you will also respect mine. Another thing to keep in mind—God’s hands created man; it is men who build houses … therefore, the man is more important than his house! Kung Hei Fat Choi!