Monday, December 25, 2017

Imagination Comes Alive When the Dark Comes: Raniag: The Vigan Twilight Festival

Float along Crisologo Street
Contemporary Western Halloween celebrations on October 31 are characterized by themes of horror, fantasy and fun, and the Filipino Undas on November 1 is about remembering and honoring the dead, which has become an occasion for gathering. These observances are incorporated into the new Raniag: The Vigan Twilight Festival in Vigan City, the capital of Ilocos Sur, on the eastern seaboard of northern Luzon, and a popular tourist destination because of its heritage.
Besides taking in the practices of Halloween and Undas, the local government of Vigan, which organizes the Raniag, throws in several events and extends the celebration to several days to be a veritable modern Philippine festival.
This year, the Raniag Festival was held from October 21 to 31, 2017, with a line-up of events including a drive-in movie marathon in Barangay IV; the lighting of candle floaters and a competition of bands at the Celedonia Garden in the barangay of Beddeng Laud; the launching of sky lanterns at the Jardin de Caridad, a memorial garden; a heritage house transformed into the walk-through horror house; a marathon at the Tamag Open Grounds; and a parade of “little saints” along Nueva Segovia Road. Also included were the regional competition and exhibit of the World Costume Festival, but the highlight were the float parade of lights and the street dancing.
During those days, tourists came pouring into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage site, 408 kilometers north of Manila, and the city welcomed them with an array of spectacles besides its main attraction of heritage houses.
Since the opening of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), an 88.85-kilometer, four-lane expressway in Central Luzon, travel time to Vigan from Manila has lessened, encouraging more people to visit. Also, attracting them are the year-round events the city is constantly holding.
There are six special events in Vigan City, starting with the Longganisa Festival in the middle of January, which leads to the feast day of the conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, the city's patron saint, on January 25. The Holy Week during the summer with its religious traditions is also attracting many tourists. The Viva Vigan!: Binatbatan Festival of the Arts is held on the first week of May, with the celebration of the feast day of the Black Nazarene of Vigan's Simbaan a Bassit, popularly called Apo Santo Cristo or Apo Lakay. The UNESCO World Heritage Cities Solidarity Cultural Festival is held in early September. The Raniag Festival, which is now on its seventh year, caps the year. 
The name of the festival is derived from the Ilocano word for “light,” evoking the image of the lit candles of Undas, and most of its events are held during twilight or night, such as the float parade of lights.
This year, the Raniag Electric Float Parade, on October 27, had 24 major floats from communities, private organizations, businesses, schools and other institutions, which were in competition. The parade was beefed up with the participation of the different departments and offices of the city government, the employees dressed in costumes and their little floats mostly inspired by popular culture, especially Western television programs and movies such as The Flintstones, Game of Thrones, Captain America, and different Disney productions. American pop culture is very much popular in Filipino lives.
The big floats, eye-catching with their lights, were actually dressed-up tricycles with persons atop. The themes were varied. The first prize was awarded to a float depicting a haunted house, while the second prize went to the peacock float. Xentro Mall's entry, a woman dressed as a fairy with gigantic and scintillating wings, was awarded third prize. A float bearing a woman dressed in large and colorful flowers was judged fourth place, while a lavishly dressed woman in gold with an entourage wearing period pieces bagged the fifth prize.
The street dancing and showdown the following day also drew large crowds. Eleven contingents from the Divine Word College of Vigan; Vigan West National High School; Silnag Dance Troupe from San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Most Wanted One Pamilyas; Liyab Creations; Ilocos Sur National High School Sangalaw Dance Troupe; El Mafia Familia; Vigan East National High School; University of Northern Philippines Senior High School; Dynamics Dance Company Iloko Fire Dancers from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte; and Dance Project participated and competed.
Disney princesses, chess pieces coming to life, dancing bees and flowers, and ancient Egypt motif were used as themes. Dynamics Dance Company's tense and energetic dance harnessing fire power garnered a third place, while the University of Northern Philippines's group placed second with dancing mermaids and mermen carrying luminous jellyfishes. Dance Project had India as a theme, dancing to “Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny),” and they won the top prize.
The World Costume Festival, organized with the Organization of International Scenographers, Theater Architects and Technicians, was incorporated into the Raniag Festival. The first festival was held in May 2013 in Vigan as part of the Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival of the Arts. Different legs are held every year-the regional, the national and the international. This year, the World Costume Festival held its Vigan and regional legs.
The costume design competition had contenders designing for a particular festival. Vigan designers Marc Leo Aguilar, Raymund Andallo, Gian Claude Ben, Melvin Fernando and Darwin Ramirez created costumes for Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival of the Arts, while Veronica Hernandez, Delmar Pisalbo and Jose Remolete III created costumes for the Longganisa Festival, and Rene “Ian” Antendido for Raniag: The Vigan Twilight Festival.
Third-place winner Ramirez created more traditional pieces—terno and shirt—made with hand-woven textiles, while second-place winner Ben painted giant flowers on the skirt. Remolete received the top prize for dresses embellished with cut-outs of Vigan cultural icons.
Participating in the Luzon leg were Frederick Amid from the province of Apayao, with costume for the Say-am Festival; Margaret Ancheta from San Fernando City, La Union, for the Caoayan Festival; Michael Abe Benzon of Vigan City for Raniag: The Vigan Twilight Festival; Christian Fider from Tayug, Pangasinan, for a sunflower festival; Erwin Gascon of Ilocos Sur for the Buri Festival of San Juan; JM Tan of Ilocos Sur for the Kannawidan Ylocos Festival; and Philip Jerome Vaquilar of Vigan City for Raniag.
Vaquilar's mythical-hero costumes won third, while Tan's costumes inspired by Cordilleran culture placed second. Benzon's costumes of foamy sea theme were declared first place.
The show was held in the middle of Crisologo Street, the heritage core of the city, with an arresting backdrop of old Vigan mansions, warmly lit, an fine assemblage of shadows and stones, still inspiring wonderment and imagination. 

Floats assembling at the plaza

First place winner in the float competition

Costume design by Christian Fider

Costume design by Darwin Ramirez
Costume design by Delmar Pisalbo
Costume design by Erwin Gascon
Costume design by Frederick Amid
Costume design by Gian Claude Ben
Costume design by JM Tan
Costume design by Jose Remolete
Costume design by Marc Leo Aguilar

Costume design by Margaret Ancheta

Costume design by Melvin Fernando

Costume design by Michael Abe Benzon
Costume design by Philip Jerome Vaquilar
Costume design by Raymund Andallo
Costume design by Rene Antendido
Costume design by Veronica Fernando