MANILA, Philippines - “Xin ni kuai lok!” means "Happy New Year!" in Hokkien.
“Xin nian kuai le!” is "Happy New Year!" in Mandarin.
However way you say it, let me first greet our Chinese-Filipino brothers and sisters A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Everyone was hoping that this year's Chinese New Year would be declared a non-working holiday by our President, as our culture had been greatly influenced by the Chinese way of life, not to mention our President being of Chinese descent. It would have been a first in Philippine history if it was indeed declared a non-working holiday. Nonetheless, the President vowed to look and consider declaring Chinese New Year a holiday maybe by next year.
I visited Hong Kong a day before the eve of the Chinese New Year, and aside from the very cold weather which the Weather Channel announced to be 10 degrees (which felt like 4 because of the wind), it seems that everyone was already in a festive mood including local Filipinos who now reside and work in the bustling and energetic island which once was under British rule.
Filipinos seem to troop to Hong Kong at this time of the year being cooler than expected. There’s a certain high once you’ve touched down at the Chek Lap Kok Hong Kong International Airport. And once you’ve ushered your way to Hong Kong and Kowloon islands, one would notice lion dances snaking from building to building wishing good fortune for the Metallic Rabbit’s year ahead.
There’s no better time to be in Hong Kong where the food takes center stage especially when our Chinese brothers and sisters welcome this Lunar Year! Even Disneyland is giving away big round chunks of chocolate candies to visitors as they enter the park. Apparently, the weekend before the new year, Chinese families eat out, that is why restaurants are oftentimes packed with locals!
Another thing I’ve noticed in the streets of Hong Kong when festivities like this is in the air, is that everyone seems to be smiling back at each other and wishing each one a prosperous year ahead. The somewhat fast moving metropolis of shoving workaholics suddenly transforms into a town painted red with everyone eager to greet each other with a smile!
There are only two sides to Hong Kong, 1) good food and, 2) shopping galore, and when you say shopping, not so far behind are the big bold words which hang on literally in all shopping establishments that spell out: SALE, SALE, SALE and more SALE!
Filipinos love going to Hong Kong. How could you not resist--after just an hour and 45 minutes or air travel, you’ve landed yourself in the magnificent harbor!
It took awhile before Filipinos vacationed back to Hong Kong for their holidays after the bus hostage taking here in Manila. And now, Chinoys are back in Hong Kong! Wherever I turn, there seems to be a Filipino, be it in Mongkok (night market), Kowloon, Lantau Island where the Giant Buddha is, in the MRT, and practically EVERYWHERE!!!
Aside from the normal July-August summer sale in Hong Kong, there is the pre-Chinese New Year sale that goes on for weeks before the celebration.
My mom once told me that back in the 60’s, Hong Kong wasn’t this progressive then. She was even so proud that our Manila International Airport (MIA) was far better than that of Hong Kong’s airport. She showed me pictures just to prove that they had to cross planks of wood upon landing, and Hong Kong’s airport looked like a backward domestic airport literally with the entire airport made only of wood and at the back of her head, she would quietly utter, “the Philippines is far, far progressive compared to Hong Kong!” But now, it seems that it is the other way around.
I would like to greet our Cantonese brothers in Hong Kong “Kung Hei Fat Choi!” Although it is Fookien that is commonly spoken here in the Philippines, that would be “Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!”
It was my second time to spend the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, and I would always welcome the idea of coming back and spending it here in Hong Kong if I had the chance. How can I say no to a city that is so festive, with loud parade chants in every street and extravagant fireworks for my eyes to feast on! Thank you, Hong Kong!