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MANILA, Philippines – Amid the deafening drumbeats and firecracker blasts, the dragon snakes into a building in downtown Manila while three lion heads bob to the crowd's delight.
The Chinese New Year performance is by the Pink Panther Dragon and Lion Dance Group, a business operated by eight Filipino siblings who live in a creekside slum in Manila's Chinatown area. They are hired by businesses that believe the show will drive misfortunes away and bring good luck.
Manager Joseph Sicat says they started the business 10 years ago with only two Chinese lion heads. Now they have 25 lion heads, nine dragons and a team of 100 workers.
"We got the name Pink Panther because when we started we were the first ones who had a pink lion," Sicat said. "We added 'Panther' because we think it sounds fierce."
The busiest season is now, while ethnic Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year. Two lions and drums cost 10,000 pesos ($226) and a complete package with dragon dancers costs 35,000 pesos ($791).
A big show could take nearly three hours, such as one the company recently did at a large post office building. A crew of about 25 went office to office and up and down stairs with their drums and costumes to perform and take selfies with workers.
"We pay our regular dancers 400 pesos ($9) per day during the off-season. During the Chinese New Year week they usually get as much as 1,000 pesos ($23) per day," said Sicat.
He added that while it's hard work to transport the performers, costumes and equipment from show to show, "When you see the happy crowd, our exhaustion goes away."