Archive for philippine festivals

(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.

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!

crimson

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, history, locales, people, religion, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by mijodo

It was one day before the height of the activities for the fiesta of the Black Nazarene of the Quiapo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and St. John the Baptist Church. If you want to avoid the swarming of the crowd and the heightened passion for the reverence of the statue, then you better go there before January 9

And true enough, there were less people.  Last January 8, if you are around the vicinity of Quiapo Church, then you could  still feel  the anticipation of the devotees, milling around and inside the church, for the coming festivities. The church was full, during the almost hourly mass. Some had to contently wait outside the church premises. Security men, usually ardent followers of the Nazareno and in dark red shirts, were ready to make things orderly during the occasion.

Vendors were taking advantage of the need for Nazarene shirts, pendants, fans, face towels, hankies, and other chotskies, usually in predominantly maroon which is the color of iconic statue’s robe.

It is said that in 1606, the galleon ship from Mexico carrying the statue of the Nazarene burned (hence the Nazarene’s ebony color) on its way to the Philippines in 1606.   The statue’s survival, and the dramatic color change provided that mystic aura to the relic. Since then, people have sworn about the supernatural occurrences such as healing miracles, and positive changes in their lives  because of the Black Nazarene.  

Although the adoration for the Nazarene has been strong over several generations, it is in the last two decades that the media seems to have picked up the tumultuous, almost overzealous affection for the representation of the pitiable Christ, kneeling haplessly on his way to his Crucifixion.
There have been several mishaps, even deaths, related to the pushing, shoving and jostling for space near the truck that carries the life-sized statue from the start of the procession at the Luneta Grandstand, to the narrow streets of Manila, and eventually to its home, Quiapo Church .  Yet this obvious, almost fanatic devotion for the Christ’s image is how some Filipinos, clad in crimson shirts and barefooted, manifest willful need to show appreciation, and cleansing of past transgressions.

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.