Of Sky Lights and Symphonies: The 2014 Philippine International Pyromusical Competition

Monday, March 31, 2014


I never knew that the night sky could become so beautiful from being lit by another kind of light other than the moon and the stars.

Last March 22, the last day of the 2014 Philippine International Pyromusical Competition (also known as The World Pyro Olympics), in the SM Mall of Asia, I witnessed the otherwise inky sky transform into a canvas for the art of fireworks.

Atlas Pyro Vision of the United States of America, who completed the ten competitors, was one of the two artists that got to paint the sky with their pyrotechnics. And, fateful as it were, the Philippines, represented by Platinum Fireworks, Inc., also got to splash the evening sky with myriad of colors for the closing exhibition.

Initially, I thought the Philippines would be joining the contest. But upon seeing the schedule in the official website and doing a little googling, I've found that, just as the four years before, our beloved country would only be hosting the event. In all honesty, I was feeling a bit dubious about the entire arrangement. In my book, one only gets to be a non-competing event host when one has reached a certain level of mastery and excellence on one's particular field. It's not that I don't believe in the innate ability of the Filipinos to excel. It's just that I was a pyromusical noob and hadn't been really aware of any news about the Philippines being a front runner in fireworks displays. Well, I did know that we had a thriving firework/cracker industry in Bocaue, Bulacan - but that's a different story. What I'm trying to say is that I wanted to see for myself if the Philippines was truly worthy of being a non-competing organizer.

So anyway, I went to the event with Dennis and some of his colleagues. They had purchased our tickets in an online group buying site for a 50% discount. When we arrived on the venue of the event, there was an offer for a "seaside" (the equivalent of a front-row seat) upgrade for 150pesos. Well, most of our companions were fine with our current seats (gold, which was the "second row"). There were five of us who were willing to shell out extra cash to get the upgrade but ultimately decided to stick with what we had. This was a decision Dennis and I would later regret.

Moments later, it was announced that Atlas Pyro Vision would be taking the stage. It was explained that every show would have a theme and the US's would be rock n' roll. We cheered and sat, er, stood back to enjoy the post-January 1 fireworks:





The concept of fireworks is not really new to Filipinos, what with sparklers and kwitis being one of the highlights of our New Year celebrations. So despite it being my first time to watch a proper fireworks display, I came with a set of standards in tow. These standards, however, had been easily surpassed when Atlas Pyro Vision took the stage. (In retrospect, I might have had unwittingly set the bar low - being a pyromusical-newbie and all.)

I thought the USA had a spectacular performance and that got me a little worried. I told Dennis that the Philippines should really put out the big guns - I believed we had something to prove. So I metaphorically kept my fingers crossed during the hour-long intermission.

While waiting, Dennis and I went around the area to explore, and to grab a bite. We came a bit unprepared; we weren't able to bring snacks with us. What a bunch of noobs.

In any case, being the isip-bata that I am, I got excited and all jumpy with the carnival feel of the event. There were fire-dancers (which I don't have a picture of), mascots (which I do):
I don't really know who this is. Haha.
...a snowmen marching band:
I was willing to suspend disbelief and really committed to thinking of them as actual snowmen. I got truly disappointed when I caught them without their costume on. Aw. :(
 ...and - to bring out the otaku in me - mecha cosplayers:
Nerdtastic!
Look at my dorky expression! 
After posing for photos, we lined up for a quick snack. We gorged down hotdog sandwiches because we were incredibly famished. I kept muttering that next time we'll come prepared.

Moments later, the speakers boomed with the voice of the MC. The winners of the competition were already being announced. Here they are:

  • 2nd runner-up: Jubilee Fireworks, United Kingdom
  • 1st runner-up: Liuyang New Year Fireworks, China
  • Champion: Royal Pyrotechnie, Canada

We didn't get to watch the performance of any of the winners but I'm sure they deserved their wins. But I was really looking forward to the closing exhibition of the Philippines. I wanted to see how good our local pyrolimpians were. 

So after a couple more minutes, it was announced that Platinum Fireworks would finally be painting the sky with their own brand of pyromusical. It was made known that the ensuing display was the winning piece from a recent competition held in Canada. (Come to think of it, it was a little suspect that we won in Canada, and Canada won here. Hmm.)

I, together with the thousand others, directed my eyes to the sky and held my breath.

Despite the below-par picture quality, I'm sure you'll still be amazed:












My jaws dropped. I was speechless and in the brink of tears the entire show. I was blown away by how epic the Philippines' piece was. I was pleasantly surprised. Everything was excellent - the choice of music, the timing, everything! Every scattering of colorful lights was perfectly in sync with the music. The almost alarming detonation of propellant black powder did little to curtail the magnificence of the iridescent bursts. I had momentarily forgotten about the environmental consequences of having these kinds of event. I cheered with everyone when two remote-controlled birds crisscrossed the sky and left trails of gold-white sparks.

But it was really the part when "Let it Go" blared from the speakers that made me swoon. Granted, it was Demi Lovato's version, but it's the thought that counts. I was euphoric, extremely ecstatic! "Elsa?" I even blurted out in the middle of the spectacle. I'm such a weirdo. Haha.

I couldn't stop myself from shedding a tear. I was so proud, some of my pride spilled from the eyes. I scolded myself for being a skeptic. The Philippines deserves to host a pryomusical competition!

At any rate, what blew my mind even more (if that were even possible), was that some of Dennis' colleagues who opted for the seaside ticket told us later on that the view from there was more dazzling. They claimed we missed some really good parts. If what we saw were not the whole thing, I mean, imagine what an unimpeded view would look like! Dennis and I swore that next year we will not hesitate to go for a front-row seat.

In spite of this, I was still very much grateful to Dennis for tagging me along. Not only did I get to meet new friends:



...I get to witness the Philippines' pyro industry at its very best!

What an experience! Hooray for the Filipino Pride!

And cheers to the next adventure!

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