Archive for the tradition Category

(lg2a) way to go

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by mijodo

 

It all started with a passion for photography, and some skill in writing.  Then I started to create a blog that should document all my travels , and probably show off a portfolio of pictures and articles which have been published not only in the world wide web but also in some of the more prestigious inflight and travel magazines that have literally crossed not only the shores within the Philippines, but across the whole globe.
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For many of the travel articles on this blog, Lets Go Pinas, the writing and photography are brought about not only by my interest and skills, but because of the circumstances that have brought me to many sections of the Philippines, and lately, to the vast areas of North America.
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Several weeks ago, I was invited by my cousin Barbara, and her husband, Eliot, to check on an idyllic community, west of Detroit, Michigan, using their Recreational Vehicle or RV. Basically an RV is a motorhome which can bring all the residential trappings as you go from one place to another inside a vehicle as large as a bus.  Our RV can accommodate probably about 4 people to sleep on its beds, even while the the RV is moving.  In  our vehicle, there is a full functioning kitchen and a restroom that can even supply heated water for showers.  Of course, there are amenities like the television, a comfortable couch, and table and chairs for dining. To travel the roads using such behemoth is truly a luxurious experience.
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Just recently, another posh mode of transportation that gives that high and exhilirating feel would be gondola lifts that are propelled by cable lines usually on steep areas such as atop the mountains. This kind of vehicle provides the riders stunning scenic vistas of verdant mountains during summers or ice-capped mountain areas during winter times.
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However obviously, it is not always that I get to ride such deluxe transportation.  Many times, while travelling alone to create articles and photos for magazine publication, I get to employ lowly vehicles, such as tricycles which I usually get to rent for the whole day, at very minimal cost, to take me into the hinterlands. For me, these trikes -not the jeepneys – are the real kings of the road in the provinces since there are more of them that take you directly to the exact places, even if they are quite remote.
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But for sheer excitement, the habal-habal of many island provinces in the Philippines takes the cake.  Again for some small fare, one can lease on such services of a motorcycle, and hop on at the back of the driver, and explore outlying destinations whether in the beaches or in the hills and mountains.  It may be a little dangerous as there is no gear provided just in case accidents occur. However definitely, using such motor bikes while my face is against the wind is already an adventure in itself.
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Many times, the proverbial line – the journey may be even more interesting than the destination itself – is quite true. I personally have collected some anecdotes and stories that have wiggled out during such trips.  One time, in Ilocos Norte, I had to ask my trike driver where La Paz Ilocos Dunes was.  But the driver seemed not to know where it was, or if there even was one around Laoag. So I had to describe it through another way – where Action King FPJ had done his epic movie classics: Ang Panday (series).  In a jiffy, he was able to bring me where I had wanted.
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By just constantly hiring tricycles throughout my trip to Ilocos, I was able to gather some quaint observation about the differences in tricycle sizes from one province to another,  The ones in Ilocos Sur are a lot roomier whereas the ones in Ilocos Norte may only fit one person inside their cabs, and one may even have some difficulty in getting out from the space as their trikes are short and squatlike. 
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I have met some interesting and even familiar faces just by waiting out at the airports or bus terminals, boarding on boats and ships, talking with cab drivers and fellow bus passengers, and hanging on to dangerous habal- habal and speeding jeepneys for dear life.
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However, it is most meaningful to share transport space with family and friends – from my great parents, Lita and Glicerio, constant, travel partner, Ate Mae in the Philippines to the people here in the United States and Canada, such as my sisters, Jane and Christie, brothers in law, Edgar and Rashid, beautiful niece, Ernestine, Uncle Isdoc and Auntie Lelita, Uncle Nary and Auntie Gaying, and cousins Al and Gisela,  Baby Liz, and of course RV owners, Barbara and her husband Eliot.  Thank you very much. Till our next trip together, guys. Happy New Year, and way to go, for Year 2011!
 
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(lg2a) bluest and merriest

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, religion, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2010 by mijodo

The holiday season should cheer one up. But there’s no denying, it does not happen all the time. In fact, it is during Christmas time that depression becomes even more pervasive. The sad person becomes sadder; the lonely becomes lonelier. That’s the paradox brought about by the supposed merry season.

The blues becomes more apparent for Filipinos who are outside the country.  They may be eking out a living somewhere probably in the heat of the deserts of Saudi Arabia that does not allow Christmas celebrations. Or they may just be retired and watching television alone while the frigid winters of temperate countries blow in. One can probably try to make do with what they have in order to have a semblance of the Christmases in faraway Philippines – where the season is celebrated with much anticipation and much conviction.

It is said that the Philippines has the longest Yuletide season, but in Frankenmouth, Michigan, there’s Bronner’s, a store that sells all the tinsels, ornaments, and trimmings that conjure the merriest season – all year round.  By January, right after the holiday season, you can buy such decors with significant discounts. Or if you want to plan for the forthcoming Christmas, you may visit even in hot  July and see the latest trends in decorations and gizmos that should brighten up the event by December.
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But you know and I know that nothing beats the spirit of the Christmas in the Philippines. The  morning novena masses or simbang gabi.  The crave-inducing aroma of bibingka and puto-bumbong.  The whimsy of  lights from the parol and the eloquence of the nativity scenes that deck the homes.  Kid carollers asking for money and yet insulting you just the same – “ang babarat ninyo.”  Silly games in office Christmas parties that end up with finding your Monito or Monita.  The unending shopping list for acquaintances, friends and family despite the small budget. And the exuberant embraces  and warm meals with loved ones during Noche Buena at Christmas and Media Noche at the end of the year.
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We outside the Philippines will just be glad and thankful of the joyful memories back home.  Such remembrances will lullaby us as we sleep throughout the holidays, just hoping that the blues will just move away.  Let us just comfort ourselves with such hopeful song – “I’ll be home for Christmas.” Till next year.
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Happy Christmas Dad and Mom, brother Mokoy, and my cousin, Ate Mae, Little, Nang Nida, Nang Bina, and to the drivers and workers, and friends and family back home!

(lg2a) give me the dirty, the dingy, the dazzling new york city

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, news, people, religion, sports, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2010 by mijodo

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“This reminds me of Cubao, Quiapo and Makati altogether,” one sister declared.
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Yes it can be true. Just go to the heart of New York City – Manhattan that is, and you get a melange of all our iconic busy places in Metro Manila. The monumental glass buildings and skyscrapers, and fancy boutique glasswindows remind you of Ayala Avenue. The corner delicatessens, the quaint coffeshops and small emporiums, and the ubiquitous hotdog stands are reminiscent of the old Cubao, just before the posh Gateway Mall was built. Oh yes, the seedy, dirty streets, the incessant scaffoldings blocking pedestrians, and  the chaotic volume of people, crisscrossing the grid streets (which then Manila Metropolitan Commission Governor Imelda Marcos wanted to impossibly copy for the layout of Metro Manila )of Manhattan implore a Quiapo feel overall.
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“I will never come back here,” another sister threatened. She is happy to stay in a quiet suburb somewhere in the midwest.
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It is not only her who seems to be disillusioned by New York City. Aside from the disarray of Manhattan, some have outrightly warned of the bedlam that happens in the Big Apple such as frequent muggings and  the saucy attitude by the New Yorkers. There was even a time when all patrons were forcibly asked  to leave a store just because it was already closing. My sister pointed out such crudeness to a store manager. The store got some rude awakening from a Detroit diva there!
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But it is the diamond in the rough that makes New York special and iconic to many of us non-New York dwellers. The Statue of Liberty at the harbor, United Nations Headquaters and the Financial District appeal to those who have romanticized the ideals of freedom, harmony and capitalism. The beaches at Hamptons, the artifacts of the numerous galleries and museums, the runway fashion shows of designers, and the explosion of architecture connect highly to the desires and senses of the erudite, the avantgarde, the sophisticated, and the moneyed from all over the globe.
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But for many of us, hoi-polloi, including me, it is the razzle-dazzle of pop culture that makes us warm with delight in the City that Never Sleeps. Aside from the music and stories that are churned out from musicals and plays of Broadway and the numerous movies which featured the city, it is the weekly and probably daily television shows, old and new, that familiarize us with a piece of New York life. Shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City give the couch potatoes a weekly dose of insights regarding independence, fraternization and even perhaps fabulous urban living, aside from the quality comedic scripts that comeout from these shows. It is the involved appreciation of such shows that make travelling to this megapolis quite surreal and a definite treat for pop culture afficionados. 
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It is quite a testament to New York City, a city that has experienced trouble in the last few years, in terms of finance and security, of how it has remained on the top, for visitors and travellers passing by America.  No matter how shoddy and dirty New York is, the spotlight stays on that Big Apple.

(lg2a) boo!

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, people, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by mijodo

Towards the first day of November, we, Filipinos, busy ourselves in remembering and honoring our dead.  Ordinarily, the feast for the commerating the dead is on November 2, however we seem to start trekking to the cemeteries on the first day of November for some reason.

As November approaches, we ask family members or our handymen to repaint the tombs, niches or family mausoleum of our dead relatives for All Saints Day or Todos los Santos. We spruce up the surroundings, trimming overgrown grass. Then we lit up candles, and buy a pot of flowers as an offering to our dearly departed. Some try to remember their loved ones with quiet prayer and masses, but some opt to have a grand reunion party in the very place where the dead is buried. Obviously, just like in any family gathering, filipino fare, like suman and pansit will be served for everyone who remembers. Some cemeteries will even allow some dance music and a little gambling for the people to while away until the wee hours of the morning.

However, in most parts of America, many prepare for Halloween instead. Americans busy themselves preparing their houses, with scary decorations usually made out of carved pumpkins for jack o’lanterns or some familiar creepy figures to entertain, and perhaps spook out kids, asking for some candy treats from them.

It is said that next to Christmas, halloween is the most anticipated celebration in the calendar.  Parents try to look for some fun costumes  to be worn by their kids during the day. The origin of wearing costumes with masks is done to ward off and confuse the evil spirits roaming around during this season.

It is quite interesting to see how Americans have incorporated the otherworldly into their tradition and customs such that the whole country even celebrates halloween with gusto, and with no religious guilt.  Surely, the Philippines is rich with folklores and mythical creatures like the manananggal (usually a woman who can detach its upper torso from the lower body part), tiyanak (evil toddler), or mangkukulam (witch).  And it is even very popular to scare ourselves about ghosts, hauntings and other deathly concerns during this time through television and movies, and in print. However, our national government is not into celebrating the ghouls and the ghosts of the netherworld, much less putting the event in the timetable of Philippine holidays.

However, there was one time when a certain province in the Visayas Region unabashedly played out its infamous reputation through a festival observance.  Some non-government offices in Capiz, a province in Western Visayas, thought of the Aswang Festival, despite its controversy as aswang is another diabolic folkloric creature that changes in form, from human, usually a woman, to an animal, usually a dog that pounces and eats the fetus of a pregnant woman.

But for some unknown reason, the Capizenos have been unfairly and preposterously identified as aswangs through generations. Probably many of them are offended by the connection, but some have played along with some chagrin.  Some creative Capizenos just tried to utilize the labelling as another way of promoting the province in terms of tourism.

By October 31, 1994, a day before the yearly Todo los Santos, the Aswang Festival was celebrated through parades and  costumes that depict the evil mythic creatures of the Philippines, just like the Halloween festivities in America. However, local government and the Catholic heirarchy intervened, and condemned such celebration as it relates to the evil spirits, and may just make the stigma of the aswangs in the area even more pronounce. It seemed that the festival died out eventually years after.

As they say, to each his own.  Whether we celebrate Halloween or All Souls’ Day/All Saints’ Day or both, may the good spirit be with us always.

(lg2a) stripped

Posted in architecture, culture, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by mijodo

The handsome architecture of new hotel buildings won’t be enough.  The exemplary performances showcasing magic and circus combined (Cirque de Soleil), broadway musicals (such as this time, Phantom of the Opera and Jersey Boys), and starstudded concerts (Celine Dionne) may just not satisfy.  Travellers, from all over, even from the Philippines, come to the Las Vegas Strip probably for one reason – gamble  till their pockets run dry!
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People somehow can’t be blamed for getting weak in the knees and  possibly wasting much moolah. The casinos just know how to create a sensorial experience to entice people to risk their hard earned money, and hope for some more cash at the end – if not, take the jackpot!
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The plush casino dens’ interiors. The slot machine monitors’ blinding lights and striking indoor colors (usually red). The fanciful computer sounds and animation. The heady mixed odor of cigarette smoke and casinos’ own Glade-like scent.  It is quite a rush to win some, and win some more as the people press intensely the slot machine buttons, and see which patterns create more cash for them.
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Aside from the rows of slot machines, there are quite a few tables for those wanting to beat the odds on card games like, poker and blackjack. Roulettes, dice, and large monitors that simulate horseracing  just enhance the playing experience.
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Bellagio, Harrah’s, Mandalay, and the venerable Caesar’s Palace  in Las Vegas provide high-rollers (those who spend much) hotel rooms for free to lure them to play some more. To the just-initiated, some coolers or Margarita could do the trick for them to wage again. Who knows, this newbie could turn out to be a gambling afficionado.
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To many, gambling in Las Vegas (or even in Manila where one casino is right across the newest airport) may just be another fun getaway. But to others, gambling can be a cruel experience as one may lose everything, including his shirt, not only for a day, but probably for a lifetime. As such, there are responsible casinos that offer psychological help to those who have the addiction to gambling.
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Actually, the compulsion to gamble can be explained through the theory of stimulus-response conditioning.  If certain stimulus or set of stimuli (gambling apparatus – slot machines, card tables, etc) do not produce a reward (cash winnings) given a response (gambling behavior), then gambling will decrease or will be extinguished. However, if the stimuli give out  rewards at different intervals such as the gambler wins at times or loses at different times then the behavior of gambling increases, and may be difficult to extinguish.
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Obviously, this stimulus-response model translates to all forms of gambling, including the most prevalent ones in the Philippines, including sabong (cockfighting), majhong, bingo, lotto, and even of course, jueteng (illegal numbers game).
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Here’s hoping that through this behaviorism constructs, we get to be more aware of how gambling can induce a malady of addiction. Have some fun, playing at that slot machine, but don’t let that machine work on you – stripped dry.

mystic quiapo

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, history, locales, people, religion, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by mijodo

Metro Manila is supposedly enjoying the cool crisp morning weather of the earliest month of the year. Yet the swarm of men’s bodies is heating up the very environs of Quiapo, apparently the religious and cultural epicenter of Manila every 9th of January. During the Feast of the Black Nazarene, tens of thousands make their way to Quiapo Church and pay tribute to the image and what it represents for the miraculous wonders and bountiful blessings the Almighty has provided them through the years.

Quiapo Church, also known as the Parish of St. John the Baptist, is home to the most revered Jesus Christ incarnation here in Metro Manila. As the Philippines is a devout Catholic country, the intense and passionate adoration for the Black Nazarene, particularly during its feast is much palpable. The main roads and streets going to the church are closed to traffic by the Manila administration for the impending seeming madness of the devotees right at the thoroughfare. Ladies who garb themselves in crimson robes similar to that of the iconic image bearing the cross, wait patiently for the novena high mass, amidst the chaos. Men inch their way to the truck that brings the life size statue in a procession even through the narrow streets of Quiapo District. In the frenzied mob, each man tries hard to reach for the long and substantial rope hemp attached to the main truck, and participate as one among the many voyadores (men carrying the image). Every so often, as the truck transports the revered figure, hankies and towels are thrown to the main truck by the people, for the truck leader to pick up, wipe on the face or body of the Nazarene, and throw the cloth back to the crowd.

Although the feast day of the Nazarene is in early January, it is every Friday, whole year round, when devotees come to the church and mass in honor of the Black Nazarene. And it still becomes more crowded during Fridays. Yet almost everyday there are other happenings and things related to the spiritual and even supernatural within and outside the church of Quiapo.

Within the confines of the church, near the main entrance door, there are several women, usually seated in children’s plastic stools, deep in prayer many times. But many of these prayers are not for exactly for their own needs, but actually for those who have sought them for some spiritual intercession for specific intentions.

One such lady is Beth de la Cruz who does padasal (praying for an intention as a paid job service). It is an occupation passed down to her by her mother and grandmother many years back. She explains that there are some people who feel that their prayers are not enough for God to bestow positive responses. Some even seek her because people literally do not know how to pray and it would be a big relief for them if she can help out in asking the Father to grant them their wishes and requests. She says that the Quiapo church administrators and priests are aware of their existence, and it is only in Quiapo Church that such group is known to exist – asking prayerful intentions in behalf of others as a job.

Upon knowing one’s problems and concerns of the client, Beth writes down in a small notebook all the information needed such as the name of the person needing prayers and his circumstances lest she forgets what she will be imploring even days after. But then upon consultation, she gives a fast delivery albeit hushed, of a prayer in Tagalog. Then she opens her prayer book which focuses on the guidance of Padre Pio, the Capuchin Monk, popular for his stigmata (having the same wounds of Christ during his crucifixion) and miraculous healings. Then she prays again, intensely this time using the text from the prayerbook. At the end, she accepts some token money for the service rendered. The whole padasal event is quiet and should not even draw attention to those there, primarily for the masses. Thus it is wise to be discreet.

Outside the Church premises, there is a more conspicuous set of ladies and a few gentlemen who are offering help of a different kind. These are the famous and sometimes infamous manghuhulas (fortunetellers). They do all kinds of different ways of pointing out someone’s past and present, and offer to give out pieces of advice for the future. They huddle together in their makeshift consulting spaces consisting of a table and tiny chairs for themselves and their patrons. The clients listen intently as the seers whisper to them on what fortune can befall them.

In this area, Filipinos have sought counsel from the oracles on issues encompassing all facets of life -mundane or not. Middle aged ladies troop to the place to confirm about the suspected philandering husbands. Even business people seek opinion from fortunetellers on what enterprising endeavor is most profitable for them. And of course, the out of luck and out of job would ask if they could be more fortunate outside the Philippines. Or some rich lady would just like to know who the culprit is that stashed away her set of jewelry.

In such sessions, there are times that the socalled psychics are on point dishing out specific moments of past experiences, but largely the readings are too general to make a real impression. Therapeutic in a way, whether one gets to have a perceptive clairvoyant or not, let the client enjoy the ride, and take in the more positive comments to create a better person in him and probably, a better future ahead of him.

Many times, such seers will ask their clients to buy whatever concoction and medicinal remedies to ease out the problems, or to bring goodluck to their homes. But actually many of these preparations are also sold by the vendors surrounding the church premises. Herbal blends and brews are sold very cheaply. Some are offered as panacea to all physical ailments, but some have supposedly specific results to uncommon conditions, even of the bizarre kind such as house poltergeists, and possibly exorcism. In such places, one can even order a personal talisman that should protect a person from accidents and aggression.

Quiapo Church may be a famous landmark for first time foreign tourist, and even for nostalgic balikbayan (visiting or returning Filipinos from abroad). Probably, a novena mass on a Friday would be the highpoint of the visit. But it would be also interesting to explore the more mystifying attributes of the area, and perhaps enhance his fascination of this most valued place in the minds and the hearts of the Filipinos.

4 Things to Do in 4 Hours in Quiapo.

Quiapo has been synonymous to many spiritual exercises and religious rites. But one has to remember that this is a busy place too for business and commerce. And definitely one just has to scour some areas for cheap finds and discounted items. There is just a treasure trove of items to be had in this vicinity.

1. Commission a sastre (tailor) to produce a maong (denim) pants for you. Just go to the Quiapo Underpass near Isetann Mall at Recto Avenue. There is a variety of shades and textures of denim textiles to choose from. Quite inexpensive for a whole pants starting at P400 a pair. Can be chic too.

2. Get a new digital camera. Go to photographers’ haven at Hidalgo Street, near the Quiapo Church, and canvass the newest photo equipment, usually below the mall price cost. Cameras are brand new and original, but at grey market price thus they may not have explicit warranties.

3. Haggle with the vendors for intricately weaved baskets and embroidered tablecloths. Passby Ilalim ng Tulay (Under the Bridge) where all Filipino handicrafts are proudly displayed. A favorite haunt of Balikbayan tourists for souvenir items.

4. Sample the time honored Excellente Hams, near Quinta Market. Even if it is not Christmas time or New Year’s eve, why not bring some for pasalubong (homecoming treat) from Quiapo.

mesmerizing merriment

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, history, locales, nature, people, religion, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by mijodo

 

“Aaalliiiwaaannnnnnnn!!,” a man’s voice bellows over the speakers, in a low yet forceful timbre. Then the big drums begin to give their tribal beat.

The call for the yearly Aliwan Festival to start, is raw, primitive and much spirited. It is a call for all the best representative tribes of the land to participate in a gathering of rhythmic music, animated ethnic dance movements, and unceasing gusto to showcase their centuries old, cultural way of living.

Produced by the media conglomerate, Manila Broadcasting Company which owns popular Metro Manila radio AM and FM stations, DZRH and Love Radio respectively, the yearly Aliwan Festival invites all the contingents from many parts of the Philippines to demonstrate their indigenous cultural way of life through costumes, music, and dance.

Each group must have at least 60 individual participants, but there is always power in numbers, thus many times a group goes as large as a hundred people. And each contingent is solidly backed by the respective local government which shoulders transportation to and from Manila, housing, and food for a couple of days. Financing for their stay in Metro Manila alone (usually in dormitories and low cost hotels) can come up to a hundreds of thousands of pesos. But still the provincial government or the municipal government is ready to foot the bill, not because of the One Million Peso Stake as prize for the overall champion, but also there is much pride in showing off what their places can offer in terms of festivities, revelry and folkloric experience. You may want to say this is the Olympics of all Pinoy Festivals – a gathering of cultural champions.

Every year, for some years now, many groups vie to be the grand winner in the Aliwan Festival. Each group has to do several minutes of field presentation in an open arena (usually both at the Aliwan Theater grounds and this year at the SM Mall of Asia Grounds, fronting Manila Bay) and street dancing along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard.  The Festival is usually done during summer months, particularly during May. Yet somehow over the years, the fete has been moved towards late April as rains have disrupted the celebration even during the summer month of May. The show starts around 4 in the afternoon and finishes toward midnight. By then, victors for each category are called, and an over-all champion is heralded.

 Photographers’ Delight. But on the eve of the awaited day of the events, there is a precursor. Each contingent has a muse who will outdo each other in a favorite of many Filipinos to watch – a beauty contest. Just like any town fiesta where a queen is crowned the night before the day of the fiesta itself, Aliwan Festival has to have its own Reyna ng Aliwan (Queen of Aliwan). Usually held at the Aliwan Festival Grounds, the ladies don their most elegant ternos (Philippine Gowns) and come up with witticisms to clinch the crown. But of course, it goes without saying, the winner has to be truly beautiful and epitomize the Filipina of today who still dearly holds old Philippine traditions and customs that can still be relevant during these times.

On the very day of the dance competition itself, at around 2 in the afternoon, one can see multitudes of men and lady participants, dressed in their most elaborate and most enthralling traditional costumes. Each piece of the garment, from the headdress to the footwear is a work of art. The refined embroidery of those coming from Marilao, Bulacan (Halamanan Festival), the feathered headpiece of those from Iloilo (Dinagyang Festival), the ornate jewelry from those coming from Cotabato (Halad Festival) – all done with a labor of love and dedication from their particular places. It is a heyday for all camera junkies as there is much to capture from their garb alone.

Although, from year to year, contingents and troops change, there are still somehow, favorites that take part almost yearly. Veritable overall champions Sinulog tribe of Carmen, Cebu and the Dinagyang group from Iloilo are among those who have shown up in full force and in full regalia this year. Throughout the years, the representatives come from places near and far – as near as Pasig catapulting the Pakalog Festival and as far as the Maguindanao, featuring not only one tribe but three tribes, each showcasing different ethnic festivals – Kaguinakit Ta Laya, Indarapatra Sulayman and Kagkawing.

Field Demo. As the famous Manila sunset slowly creeps in, the sound of the syncopated drums from each participating tribe becomes louder and more vigorous at the field demonstration areas. Every tribe should come up with its own rhythm and pulse from its own set of musicians to bring out the feel in their performance before an audience and the judges. During the field demonstrations, this is where creativity and production values of hired choreographers, managers, and directors can run wild. It is possible that the more gimmickry they come up with, in terms of presentation, the better chances of winning the coveted crown for their personal group. But of course, precision in its choreography and the authenticity of the ethnic dance movements earn big points too.

Each tribe is allowed a considerable amount of minutes to showcase a story or perhaps to just present a sense of the cultural identity of the place.  As such, the delegation from Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival imparts the importance of the Sto.Nino in spreading Christianity amongst the Aeta natives. The huge sets, the fancy props, the colorful costumes, and the searing music just enhance a strong and usually winning performance from the representatives of Iloilo.

Other groups will come up with ways of staging a performance that illustrates their respective specific cultural identity. Different kinds of flowers will be the focal point of Baguio’s Panagbengga or Flower Festival such that young men and women will form ways to create floral patterns during the show. The contingent of  Marilao does the graceful Filipino dance steps, featuring the lush gardens of Bulacan. 

Don’t Rain on the Parade. Each contingent upon completion of the field demonstration will need to parade through Roxas Boulevard to reach Luneta Grandstand, and do the same field demonstration for a bigger audience.

And during the parade of a kilometer or so, another set of jurors will be checking on the delegates’ intricate yet traditional dance routine moves inspired, of course, from the festival each group embodies. Each group must show exact and almost measured movements among all members, and yet, they need to provide the same jovial character just like any Filipino festival parade.

For several years now, heavy rains have not stopped the parade, nor the Aliwan Festival for the matter. Here the can-do spirit and resiliency of all participants are most appreciated. Men and women, the old and the young, residents or not (yes, there was a foreign lady student who gamely danced for a contigent) try their best not to get thwarted by the extreme weather conditions – whether under the heat of the sun or the impaling sudden outpour. Managers and choreographers habitually remind them to focus on their moves, and not get bothered by the cheering crowd nor the over-eager photographers who obsessively interrupt their march for good photos.

Some managers would be strict in implementing a triumphant choreography on the heavy cadence of a set of marching drums. But some would use this time to relax a little bit. Thus the assistants and managers would let the members sip on some water for replenishment, and even some energy drink to invigorate the body and morale while making through their way to their final stop.

Final Routine.  As each contingent provides a second and final dance routine at the Aliwan Theater Grounds, and as each winner is called out for the different categories in the wee hours of the night, it is safe to assume that every participant can only have the feeling that the immeasurable amount of time and finances for the rehearsals in their respective places have not been wasted at all.  The whole Aliwan Festival experience is an edifying test to the will and pride of the people and the local governments to boost unity not only with all other participants, but oneness with the unique and very Filipino traditions and culture passed on from one generation to another.  For some years now, one can say that the tribes of Aliwan have not only spoken and shown our deep heritage to a new young audience, but have stirred up the spirit of the Filipinos to a new cultural high. Mabuhay ang Aliwan Festival!