Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anatomy of a Filipino Children's Party, Take 2

Remember my earlier post about a typical Filipino children's party? I managed to go to another one, one that is also 'typical,' but is light years away than the first one I attended. The funny thing about this most recent one is that the adults had fun, too.

I was invited to attend the to-tseh (first birthday celebration) of my college friend's daughter. You know you're old when friends start inviting you to their babies' birthdays. I used to be invited to children's parties as a friend of the celebrant. Now, I get invited as a friend of the celebrant's parents. Ay-yah!

This was one of the best children's parties I have ever attended, and that includes the one's I've been to in my youth. The clubhouse it was held in was done up in a festive, Strawberry Shortcake luau theme, with the celebrant dressed in a tiny blue grass skirt to match. Her mother, my friend, was lovely, clad in asymmetrical Hawaiian-inspired dress that matched her daughter's. If you looked at her, you wouldn't think she had given birth. That seems to be the trend nowadays. All my friends who have babies are thinner than I am. Makes me think this baby thing might be worth trying, after all.

Aside from a separate buffet for children and adults, the party had a Starbucks station, where they served frappes, a Chef Tony's gourmet popcorn station, a nachos station, a chocolate fountain, a nachos station, and an ice cream station that mixed the frozen fruit of your choice with soft-served ice cream and serves the whole thing on a Champola wafer cone. I wouldn't mind having a party like that, and I'm thirty!

The kids had their own tables situated near a small stage decorated with styrofoam stand-ups of the Strawberry Shortcake gang in beach wear. When I got to the party, the kids were being entertained by an acrobat, who was busy piling boards and cups onto a small ball, where he later balanced himself and started to juggle. This was later followed by games, and then a magic act, where the magician made his assistant levitate. I have never seen this done in a children's party magic act. Sure, you can sort of figure out how it's done (it wasn't David Copperfield, after all), but to a child, it would have been... magic.

Threading the whole program together was this great host who had the ability to entertain the kids *and* the adults at the same time. He was really funny. He didn't talk down to the kids in that half-yelling, very condescending “O ano mga bata?” kind of way that used to drive me up the wall, even as a child. He talked to them as if they were people, using words that a lot of people didn't think kids would understand (but really, they do).

He knew how to NOT make a kid feel embarrassed, like when he asked the kids to come up on stage and showcase their talents, and this one little boy came up but refused to do anything. The host said, “I know what your talent is! Your talent is looking cute!” and he gave the boy a prize.

He also knew how to make kids feel good. To two tweens who wanted to sing but couldn't think of a song, he said, “You should sing songs from High School Musical because you're already in high school.”

And lastly, he had a sense of humor of someone who thinks on his feet and doesn't have to rely on a part script. To a child who needed coaxing on what to sing, he said, “(singing) Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again. (to the boy) Why don't we sing that cheerful song?”

Of course, the kids themselves were sources of unlimited amusement. Apparently, all parties now include a portion where guests get to tell everyone what they wish for the celebrant. One girl wished the one-year old birthday celebrant would get “a nice cellphone,” while the other wished the celebrant “a pony.” I almost fell out of my chair laughing because the girls were totally, totally sincere.

Another thing that all parties seem to have nowadays is an overly-loud psudeo-electronica, brain-melting soundtrack. Thankfully, the ones they played at this party was a bit more upscale, so I didn't have to sit through a barrage of the Papaya Song and other similarly dubious “hits.” Also, there were no cheesy mascots (I never understood how some kids think that those things are real) and certainly no children who wanted to grow up to dance half-naked on TV. This children's party seemed to erase all the pain and trauma I've accumulated over the years of attending lackluster, condescending parties, and I hope to attend more like it in the future.

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