Dancing with the Golden Dragons

Dragon dancers are a fixture in Chinese New Year celebrations. They are supposed to bring good luck.

MANILA, Philippines – Dragon dancers are a fixture in Chinese New Year celebrations. They are supposed to bring good luck.

David Lozada follows them as they walk around the streets of Binondo.

Even before the sun rises, the Golden Dragon team sets up their props. They will go around Binondo town performing the traditional dragon dance and collect donations from stores.

Chinese New Year is now a highly competitive market for dragon dancers. The team leaves early hoping to collect more.

Chinese worldwide see the dragon dance as a festive way of welcoming the lunar new year. They believe that the longer the dragon, the luckier they get. For dragon dancers, the performance is a way to earn money.

Twenty-four year-old Jason Cedeño makes his living dragon dancing.

JASON CEDEÑO, DRAGON DANCER: Bata pa ako mga 9 years old nagsimula na akong sumali ng grupo. Hanggang sa ngayon. Halos yung mga pamangkin ko ako na rin yung nag-guide sa kanila kung papaano gumawa, sumayaw. Para kahit papaano magkaroon sila ng experience at kumita rin sila. (I’ve been a dragon dancer since I was 9 years old. I helped my nephews join our dragon team so they’ll have experience and extra income.)

But there are bigger dragons in Binondo that the team can’t take on. Jason’s nephew Allen Cedeño says it’s difficult for them to compete with other teams since most of their members are newbies.

ALLEN CEDEÑO, DRAGON DANCER: Kapag may iba pong dragon, humihinto na lang po kami. Hindi yung nakikipag-kumpitensiya pa kami.(JUMPCUT) Yung ibang grupo po kasi nakikipag-away pa. (When we see other dragons, we just stop. We don’t want to compete. Some competitive groups assault us just because we’re competitors.)

On lucky days, the Golden Dragons can earn as much as five hundred pesos each for an entire day’s performance. But sometimes, they go home empty-handed.

This Year of the Horse, Jason and Allen wish the dragon dance will bring them more luck.

JASON CEDEÑO, DRAGON DANCER: Bahagi na ito ng buhay ko eh. Ito na yung buhay ko. Itong pagsasayaw ng dragon dance. Okay lang sa amin kahit gaano kahirap kung paano sumayaw. Okay lang sa amin. (This my life. Performing the dragon dance is how I make a living. I’ll continue dancing no matter how hard it is.)

David Lozada, Rappler, Manila. – Rappler.com

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