Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anatomy of a Bonfire

What exactly happens when a collegiate team celebrates a basketball championship? I can't speak for other schools, but at the Ateneo (Arreneow), we have a bonfire. And this year, we had a big reason to celebrate: three-peat, baby!

The event usually starts off with a mass, then the crowds spill out onto the school grounds. This year and last, the bonfire was wisely held at the Grade School grounds. (I remember a particularly muddy year at Bel field. Ick. But Parokya totally rocked!) There, all the blue bloods--from grade schoolers to alumni grandparents--wait patiently for their beloved teams to come onstage; while doing so, they walk around looking for friends, or guzzle on beer--one of the rare times alcohol is actually allowed on campus. Food stalls and booths selling souvenir shirts are erected all around and do pretty good business. Hamil and I normally hang out at the ASSOC tent, where alumni of his old org gather. (There was lechon these past two bonfires!) We see people we haven't seen in ages; unfortunately, my close friends aren't a basketball-loving bunch, so we mostly see Hamil's friends. This year though, I bumped into pro baller and member of the '02 championship squad Rich Alvarez, who told me that to him, I "will always be Alvarez." (He used to joke that I shouldn't change my last name when I got married!)

The juniors' team is usually introduced first, and their high school groupies let out little shrieks. And then, the much-anticipated seniors' team and their coach (Norman Black) go up onstage. Key players get interviewed, and hosts normally have a bit of fun with them. This year, American Kirk Long was asked to speak in Filipino. The team was also asked to dance with one of our favorite Blue Babble Battalion boys--the one who dances in the bleachers when most of the crowd has exited Araneta!

After that, the pile of wood is set ablaze!

We then sing the alma mater. Then homegrown bands take to the stage to play the rest of the night. My favorite is Parokya ni Edgar, mostly because they have such hilarious spiels in between songs.

Two years ago, they kept talking about how pogi Chris Tiu was. This year, they talked about their La Sallian bandmate...

Lead singer Chito: "Itong gitarista namin, La Salista. Pero pumunta siya dito para mag-celebrate kasama natin."
Crowd cheers
Chito, to guitarist: "O, bumaba ka diyan, magugulpi ka!" (Try going down there, you'll get beat up!)

While the bands play on, a long line snakes its way to tables, where the team is available for autographs and photos. (The most epic line I've seen in the years I've been going to bonfires is the one after the 2002 championship. Come to think of it, that team was super hyped, guesting on everything from talk shows to sitcoms!)

And then, inebriated with both alcohol and school spirit, people head home, or to a nearby bar. Here's hoping we'll have an even bigger reason to celebrate next year!

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