Austin McPhil S. Yao
Asian Oktoberfest: Far from home? Not quite….
I am quite interested in German culture. Perhaps this is the reason why I took German as my FLC this semester (and next too). Whenever I ask people what come to their minds when I mention the word “German”, they actually have a lot of differing opinions. Some people have positive things to say like the industrial heartland of Europe, a country with cool people AND cars (who doesn’t like BMW, VW, and Mercedes Benz?), and where delicious and high-quality beer is made. Negative connotations of Germany include it as being stereotyped as the birthplace of Nazism and racist Jew-hating people. Nevertheless, I believe Germany is a country bent on modernizing and trying to bury and forget her not-so-good past.
Last week, My German teacher mentioned that there will be a mini Oktoberfest in Goethe Institut (a German-language institution that has branches all over the world). Basically, Oktoberfest (in Germany) is a sixteen day event where people drink and celebrate “beer”. In Germany, this is an important part of Bavarian culture and the event is known locally as “die Wiesn”. After hearing this, my blockmate Roxanne “Rox” Monteclaro from EU who is also taking German as a FLC invited me to go there. She said that it was like “hitting two birds with one stone”. We get to experience and small yet “authentic” Oktoberfest celebration and at the same time acquire a topic for our SA blog. As a person who likes food and drinks (although I only drink a little during occasions hahaha) I agreed and off we went.
We left on October 5 (yesterday) at around 2pm. Rox and her friends (who are also my blockmates) flagged a passing taxi and we went to Greenbelt first. I do admit that I felt a little guilty strolling in Greenbelt as it is my finals are scheduled for next week. As we strolled around the mall passing time (the party starts at 6), I jokingly told my blockmates that we can actually use the mall for our SA blog. There is an obvious “transition” that can be observed when a person passes from a “rich” part of the mall to the “poor” or “ghetto” part of it. The stalls and the attire of the people change considerably. After a few more hours of walking and enjoying the “magic sing” (Rox and her friends LOVED it) we flagged a taxi, albeit with a hard time, and off we went to our destination.
The trip to Goethe Institut was plagued with mishaps. First of all, we had an insolent and rude taxi driver who blatantly refused to talk to Rox’s mother on the phone (she knew the directions) when we got lost. He didn’t even bother to give us back our change! Secondly, Ria, another blockmate of ours, was dropped by another insolent taxi driver in an unfamiliar place somewhere near Goethe Institut. And thirdly, the traffic was horrible!!! It took us more than an hour to get there! After Rox and She volunteered to find Ria, she sent us (Bea and I) to the party to observe.
It was funny when we first go there. I expected the Goethe Institut to be situated in a huge building. It was quite the opposite, in fact. The institute was somewhat small, it was only “renting” a few floors in a building called Adamson centre. The well-lighted library was at the ground floor, and guess where the party is – at the very small patio near the stairs!!! The crowd was cheering, laughing, and screaming beneath the cold October night. I was quite surprised! I imagined the party to be inside the institute with people clad in corporate attire chatting and drinking with each other. In fact, there was only one person, ONE PERSON! Clad in corporate attire and yes, he’s one of the bosses of the institute. The rest were clad in “party attire”, the German men there usually wore either denim shorts or jeans and a T-shirt or a polo shirt. The German women wore party dresses and they are usually chatting with their peers. The local Filipino folks wore casual attire. I also saw one student from La Salle there. Rox, She, and Ria eventually caught up with us and we “immersed” ourselves in the party using participant observation.
The atmosphere there was electric, the air was hot and humid. There was an unpleasant smell of cigarettes that “clogged” my nostrils. Awesome German music (pop, rock, hip-hop, and rap) blared out of the various speaker systems which rendered me somewhat deaf (hahaha). Since I heard that there was FREE beer there, I immediately tried to find where it was (hey, what’s Oktoberfest without beer? Aren’t we required to participate in the activities? Hahaha). A guy from a canteen directly beside the institute offered me a bottle and I was about to open it when I realized that it might not be free (the other people were drinking beer out of cups). It turned out that I was right! That beer costs 60 Pesos, unbelievable! Someone passed me a cup and I promptly asked the “bartender” for some beer. After a wary glance at me since I was wearing shorts and I am short in stature (how could I look more totoy than this?) Worse, there were a lot of VERY pretty German ladies there, and I looked like a kid!!! An epic FAIL indeed. After a while, our German teacher showed up and she entertained us a bit. She refilled my cup of beer and told us to enjoy the party. ALL of the Germans there were drinking, young and old, men and women alike. Surprisingly, PSY’s Gangnam style was played over the speakers. That was the only song I danced to (I don’t really enjoy dancing). One can definitely see the “mixing” of German and Filipino culture as there was a mutual “exchange” of customs. Perhaps the German people who went there (my teacher said that most of them are working here) already “integrated” and understood the local culture and traditions. This was best seen when Filipinos and Germans interacted with each other and by the very awesome “drum band” that performed. Even the Germans were impressed! As long as there was music, Germans and Filipinos alike danced crazily on the patio. There were also some German men with their Filipina girlfriends. As the night drew to a close, my father picked me up in his car. I could not help but feel an awesome sensation that I got to experience and immerse myself something new. I definitely enjoyed my experience!