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BLIND SPOT: Forward March

BEFORE kindergarten, I remember inserting my head between bodies of grown-ups to get a glimpse of Ati-atihan. Later, my uncle would lift me up to sit on his shoulders to get a better view. Although I was aware that they were regular people painted black and clad in tribal garb with indigenous weaponry, the sight of them still struck me with dread. Yet it was exciting at the same time. Whatever happened to them? Yes, kids. There was a time dancers with black painted skin, in grass skirts brandishing spears, were part of the September Fiesta. Back then, a child would not really care what the parade is called, the important matter is – there’s a parade. For a young spectator, the military parade was a big bore. Although, there was a general sentiment and notion that it was sort of the main event. What’s so exciting about marching men in green? A youngster would look forward with more anticipation to the other parade with the mascots, the floats, and the marching bands with colorful costumes. As I grew up, this parade eventually became a bore in itself, especially with the floats and mascots of commercial products obviously parading a big marketing scheme. The adolescent spectator’s interest would shift to the Friday parade; particularly with the element of competition among schools. A highlight for me then was when Mr. Benny Decena would announce the winners. Military Parade was never the same without him. “Although the firepower of breech loading rifles and machine guns long ago rendered close formations in battle suicidal, modern armies still use parades for ceremonial purposes or in non-combat environments for their efficiency, ease of organization, and encouragement of discipline.” ( (That makes sense. If a sniper would position himself on a building along the parade route, marching soldiers would be falling like dominos once he opens fire. However, as said, close formations are executed for reasons of efficiency and promotion of discipline. I suppose this is the very value that the tradition of military parade underscores – discipline.) The Civic Parade seems to be a Bicolano invention (at least the term is). I tried googling it and the results showed more entries on the Peñafrancia Civic Parade than the Civic Parade Cosmetic and Medical Center in Altona, Australia, which advertised breast implants, and a real estate ad on a house and lot along Civic Parade which apparently is a road in the said Melbourne suburb. But in the framework of the term being used in the same nature of a procession of people along a street, there is no other event that bears the similar title. Could it be we invented this? By context, any participating unit that would not fall under the category of “military” would be considered “civic”; (or at least, I guess, that’s how it goes). In a conversation with Fr. Rex Alarcon, School Director of the Naga Parochial School, he traces the roots of the parades as influence of the Americans when they came to colonize the nation. A parade of G.I. Joes (as World War 2 US military servicemen were referred to – yes, that’s where the movie/toy/cartoon got their brand name) was incorporated into the fiesta celebration and later on sustained as a military parade of young cadets/cadettes; that it has spun off to include elementary pupils in the guise of the scouts parade. In a personal ignorant assessment of a former ROTC cadet who detested waking up early on Sunday morning to take orders from an upperclassman to march to and fro on campus grounds, all these stomping could not possibly inculcate discipline but distress. How does synchronized lifting of knees and tramping of soles, coupled with a stoic stare relate to efficiency and industry? Surely, there’s a more affordable class for discipline; sans the expensive uniform, boots and other accessories. However, “Long rehearsals. Memorize drill. Memorize music. Early is on time; on time is late. The discipline experienced and practiced is a foundation for discipline later, through college, and in the workplace.” ( “One of the best things about marching band is the idea that each individual member is as important as the next. There’s no such thing as having too many people, as long as the members are able to work together as a team. While each member has his own responsibilities, it all comes together to form one thing.” ( “The traditional marching band… carried the purpose of rallying large number of people together for a common purpose. Whether it’s the war call of the bugle, the festive drums, the ceremonial fanfares, or the rhythmic processions.” ( Besides, in an economic standpoint, it makes for good tourism. Both participant and spectators unconsciously and consciously engage in the facets of commerce of the season. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” Hebrews 12:11

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