My friend and fellow columnist Gerard Pareja once called it “intellectual homosexuality,” when men fail to impress women and thus end up trying to impress each other. Macho swagger thus becomes a way by which men mutually affirm their “manhood” and thus end up more drawn to each other than the girls they proclaim to be eyeing.
You see it when some of them easily exclude women in their conversations during gatherings, usually in celebrations like Christmas or the New Year’s.
Here’s a typical scene of male bonding: A group of men are drinking on the lawn of a house on New Year’s eve. When they start to get drunk as fireworks begin at exactly 12 midnight, the host, who is a military man, enters his house and returns with his shining automatic pistols, not those issued to him as service weapons.
He proclaims to his friends that he wants to welcome the New Year with a gun salute and asks his friends to join him. They are pleased by the invitation and eager to hold the hand guns that they now pass around to inspect and admire. After giving praises to the firearms and their owner, they watch the owner fire the first shots in the air.
They all cheer and begin taking turns firing in the air, their shots muffled by the sound of even louder firecrackers.
It’s not known whether somebody got hit by the bullets that later fall down from the sky. The one who witnessed this incident many years ago somewhere in Luzon did not also find out. After all, it was a small village where everyone was almost a relative.
Here’s another creepy story told by my aunt when I visited her in the morning of New Year’s Day. She had just done customary general cleaning when she noticed a streak of light coming from the ceiling of one room that was not used for the night. When my aunt looked down she was shocked to see a bullet lying in the middle of the bed.
She had removed the bullet when I arrived but my aunt showed me the hole in the roof. She thanked God that nobody in the family decided to sleep in that room that night. Her sister and one of my cousins had been living in the United States for years now so the room is often left empty.
The next time I visited my relatives in barangay Labangon, they had built a second floor with a concrete roof garden. It was rented out to a small family. But I guess part of the reason for building it was for them to be able to hide from stray bullets that always fall randomly on New Year’s eve.
After I learned about this story from my aunt, I have since become paranoid about stray bullets during New Year’s eve celebrations. At the risk of being called panicky or overacting, I always urge my family to hold our media noche or sleep on the ground floor of the house.
Once, while window-shopping at an army surplus store, I even thought of investing in a Kevlar helmet for my daughter to wear even if she was still two years old.
I become restless whenever we spend New Year’s eve in a one-story house with only a tin roof and plywood to protect our heads in case bullets from some idiot’s automatic weapon falls in our direction.
Despite police pronouncements of decreasing casualties from stray bullets each year, I am pretty sure there will always be lots of men out there who desperately seek mutual confirmation of their manliness by firing guns. Perhaps they find solace in the illusion that their weapons seem to augment what little virility they possess.
The longer and more powerful the guns, the more they seem to make up for some short-sightedness if not shortness of some physical endowment. Thus, the urge to acquire and show off. One doesn’t have to be a shrink to suspect that perhaps some of those who enjoy this communal firing didn’t get over the experience of group masturbation in early adolescence.
With the way this nation ends the year with one last act of deadly stupidity, the New Year celebration has become the scariest time of the year in the Philippines. I understand the Chinese way of driving away demons with noise and firecrackers, but since when did it requiring firing bullets in the air.
New Year’s celebratory firing? It’s more fun in Somalia. But perhaps, the Philippines is not so far behind.