Archive for Bulacan

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!

it’s a wrap

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, lifestyle, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by mijodo

 

Among the many Pinoy pastries, the tender and sweet pastillas de leche or simply put, pastillas are worth the bite and more. It used to be that as a child, I would buy by the dozens these two inch, almost candy-hard pastillas, delicately but simply wrapped in white paper. I am not quite sure if such pastillas are still being manufactured until today.

 But then I realized that there is another way of creating and presenting these pastillas. Such can be soft, chewy, sugary concotion where fresh carabao milk is incorporated.  And definitley, these pastries should please those who have the proverbial sweet tooth.  And if lucky enough, one may partake the ones wrapped in the most interesting and most elegant manner – direct from the pastillas corner of the Philippines – San Miguel, Bulacan.

These specially made pastillas from the last town of Bulacan, just before Nueva Ecija, are beautifully packaged in Japanese paper, which has a tail, almost similar to the ones of a traditional Filipino Christmas Lantern (parol).  Take a look at the tail, and be at awe with the delicate cut-outs which reveal a dainty lace design. It is almost tempting not to open the “pabalat” (wrapper)  itself as the wrapping is just too pretty to waste.  But then one  just has to give in to taste more of that creamy pastillas!
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It is said that the tradition of creating these pastillas wrappers dates back probably to early 20th century, and the folk art has been passed on through the generations. Alas, today, as there are less people (usually ladies in their 70s and 80s) who are adept in doing the intricate cut-outs, one needs to find a specialty shop in San Miguel, Bulacan to preorder the pastillas (now in different flavors such as keso (cheese) and ube (purple yam) and be astonished by the taste and the sight of these native sweets.
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You may want to order a box and proudly present it to a loved one from Aling Nene’ s Pastillas Shop. Just call Erwin at 0905-791-1123.

glorious

Posted in artifacts, locales, religion with tags , , , , , , on July 2, 2008 by mijodo

There is a hilly place just a little beyond Quezon City where supposedly miracles do happen.

This place is called Grotto of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. The area is a replica of the famed Lourdes Grotto in France. It is told that matriarch and owner of the place had cancer in the 1960s. And she had decided to go to the Lourdes Grotto to seek help for her condition. Apparently she did receive a miracle, and was free of the disease. Since then, she vowed to put up a similar place. And for many years, many Filipinos have visited the place as pilgrims, and have even claimed miracles as well because of the healing water that gushes out from the place. Even at the main grotto site, one can see hundreds of crutches left behind by people who apparently can now walk well.

The place particularly during Good Friday is teeming with people. They do their Holy Week obligation by praying the Stations of the Cross passing through all 14 stations with life size statues. And there is the Rosary Hill where one can have a face to face encounter with the figure of Christ himself. And in this place, one can be overwhelmed by the majesty of its still unfinished church. As one walks the hilly paths under the heat of the sun, there is undeniable sense of the passion for religiosity and faith, a mark distinctive to many Filipinos.

the flag to its nation

Posted in artifacts, events, locales, people with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by mijodo
Author’s note: I am featuring an article I had done for the new website, brownheritage.com (http://brownheritage.com/index.html).  I hope the readers here enjoy my other articles and the other articles written by my fellow writers in the said site.
                     
The flag was just not cooperating. I was about to take this supposedly great picture for Philippine Independence Day, but the flag was too lifeless to create a searing picture that could stir up one’s patriotic fervor. Alas the wind  was not helping.
 
As it has been told, ours is the only National Flag that can convey that the nation is at war. Once the flag is hoisted having the red horizontal band as its upper part, then war is declared with another state such as when the Commonwealth was against the Axis Nations, like Japan during World War II (1941-1944). The red is known to mean courage while the blue section – peace and unity.
 
But in relatively calmer times, it has been a rallying point to many Filipinos, most specially in international sports and competitions. The victorious boxer drapes himself  in a cloth that had been  created originally by Marcella Agoncillo for Emilio Aguinaldo’s Declaration of Independence from Spain (1898). The Filipino audience sees the blue and the red, and claps for the new hero that has just made the whole islands of  Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao proud as symbolized by the three stars in the white triangle part of the Flag.
 
In modern history, the flag has been used to bear witness in creating social changes either made in peaceful revolutions or tempestuous conflicts. The need for reforms is made more consequential, once the National Hymn or even Bayan Ko is performed in public gatherings such as in EDSA or secret hideaways in the boondocks and hills of the provincial areas . Afterall, the flags eight rays of the sun represent the first eight provinces that revolted for independence in 1896. These were Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite , Batangas, Laguna, and Manila .
 
 
But to the youngster, it is where they make their solemn pledge of allegiance or “Panatang Makabayan” on a daily basis. After reciting a daily prayer to his Creator, the school kid stands up erect in front of the waving flag and makes the oath to be the good citizen that is expected of him by his family, his school, and his government.  And the flag’s emblematic sun shows how the Filipinos have shone through to build progress for their nation despite the incredible odds and chaos through the years.
 
And to just instill life to the flag for the photoshoot, I asked my assistants to toss the flag a little bit. Let their hands be the propeller of action to the almost motionless nation flag. Lo and behold, with the help too of nature’s wind, the flag started to undulate and reveal its glory.  The flag was able to make its own dance – carefree and confident. The Philippine flag was already ready for its own close-up.