Image by glenmcbethlaw via Flickr
Today is my birthday. I’m holding off celebrating until tomorrow, the 13th, because my little nephew Mazen is turning 4 tomorrow and we’ve decided to share our birthday … I was born on the 12th of September and he was born on the 13th of September, but it will still be the 12th back there in the States where I was born when we have our party here in Marilao from 9 to 11am tomorrow, the 13th. Convoluted enough logic for you? Get used to it, that’s the kind we use here.
Frankly I would never be having a party on those hours … I’m always up long before 9 but those hours are in my prime online and coffee drinking time, but we only booked the party venue a few weeks ago and that’s the only Saturday hours they had available.
What party place is that busy you might wonder? Well, where else but Jollibee? Birthdays are a big thing with Jollibee … in fact many Jollibee locations (like the large one at our local SM Mall) can’t book parries … they don’t have the space. This is a serious business. (Jollibee, for newcomers, is a fast food chain similar to McDonalds that started in the Philippines and has now gone international, at least in much of Asia and even on the US west coast. It’s unique also because it’s the only franchise anywhere that I know of that absolutely kicks McDonalds butt, business-wise … any country I’ve ever been in that had McDonalds, every other fast food chain was never higher than a poor second, but here in the Philippines there is “The Bee”, then McDonalds in a distant second and everyone else way far back eating dust.
So what does it take to book a party? Well, a lot more than you would think. You certainly don’t do it over the Phone, or online (do people actually book tings on line?). You visit the venue of choice and sit down in a small dedicated sales area with the event booking manager. Once you have a date and time agreed upon, the fun begins. There’s a bewildering array of choices for everything down to the “tray liners” … you know, those pieces of paper that they use both in the Philippines and the US to substitute for the simple service of providing you a clean tray, instead of a germ-soaked piece of plastic that hasn’t seen soap and water in it’s lifetime … the tray liners normally are part of the overall party decoration themes, of which there are about 20.
But they don’t have to match with the theme .. you can mix and match to your heart’s content … likewise with other themed items such as “loot bags” (three different sizes of them, along with other options). Then, the menu. I noted at least six menus but they all looked alike to me, except in price. The main difference seemed to be if they included a “Yum” or not … the “Yum” is Jollibee’s standard burger, abut the same as the “regular” hamburger at McDonalds. All the meals have spaghetti and fried chicken which is virtually Jollibee’s standard fare. It’s for the kids, after all.
Now of course it wouldn’t be a birthday without a cake, would it. You can buy a cake from Jollibee or you are welcome to bring your own. We opted for a large sheet cake from Jollibee in a Superheros theme (Superman has just a made his “return” here. I’m not keen on their cakes, but one of the many rules is, you can bring cake from an outside source, but you can’t consume it on premises. To me it ain’t a birthday if you don’t cut the cake.
When all the decisions are finally made, the manager excuses himself and goes away for a bit and comes back with a huge contract document … our’s looked like seven pages but really it’s only two, legal size, printed on both sides with fine print. After a lot of fluff, you finally get to the bottom line … about 7200 Pesos for up to 30 pax (slang airline term for passengers which is used everywhere in the Philippines to take the place of other terms like people or guests). You pay the same fee for 1 guest to 30, and then if more than 30 show up, you negotiate and add to the contract what meal items they get, all billed individually by the piece of chicken or the soft drink. I know I bought a car once in the US, on credit, with a lot less paperwork than this party generated.
Oh, and the reason the contract looked so thick? Three pages are a separate attachment of the rules and regulations … what you can and can’t do at the party. You may think I’m exaggerating, but stop by the house some day and I’ll show it to you … I did not now in my wildest dreams that a kiddie birthday party could have that many rules and regulations.
So the contract is signed, the down payment is made and properly receipted for, “Rhey”, the party manger (he could have called himself Rey but “R-hey” is kind of Filipino “valley girl kewl” will have my separately negotiated reserved parking space available in front of the building at 8:50 tomorrow morning, and Mazen and I will have fun dancing with the Bee.
Birthdays in the Philippines, ya gotta love it.