Archive for aliwan festival

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!

mecca

Posted in events, people with tags , , , on May 20, 2008 by mijodo

If there was an event where most photography afficionados talk about and would likely participate, then it would be the yearly Aliwan Festival. The festivities would be akin to the Olympics – particularly the Opening Ceremonies – full of color and regalia. Amateurs and professionals would swarm to this event and would do anything to snatch even one photo which hopefully they can boast for many years to come.

Some photographers would bring an arsenal of lenses. Some could go with a camera and a simple kit lens. Some needed a tripod; some needed to use a ladder to perch on. Some ran to cover and shoot an interesting moment. Some just stationed themselves in one spot for that perfect moment to pass by.  All for the glory of one great pic. And this is what Aliwan always does to us camerabugs.

whirl, twirl, swirl

Posted in events with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2008 by mijodo

 

At the Aliwan Festival 2008, there was no stopping the stomping despite the heavy downpour. Members of each contingent just had to show us their moves in the street dance competion from Luneta Granstand  and which was capped with a field demonstration at the Aliwan Theater Grounds.

Proclaimed winners were Lumad Basakananon of Cebu (a threepeat!), Tribu Paghidaet of Iloilo (crowd favorite) and the Carmen contingent of Cebu for first, second and third places respectively.

pride

Posted in events with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2008 by mijodo

As predicted, rain poured in. Undeterred, I went to Quirino Grand Stand maybe foolishly risking my health and my camera. But there was pride in what I was about to do afterall, this is the Aliwan Festival where the best 24 regional dance troups perform for the one million peso pot.

But more than bragging rights of who wins the top prize (there has always been a very fierce rivalry between the Sinulog representatives of Cebu and the Dinagyang delegates of Iloilo for years), each contingent just beams with pride to showcase who they are as a people.  For each group, there is real pleasure to present their own culture and heritage using their ethnic costumes and tribal moves. As such, it gives me esteem to be truly Filipino.