Sunday, January 24, 2010

Showdowns and Showcases: Creative Continuance for the National Arts Months 2010

Most of the flagship projects, which remain the core of activities of the Philippine International Arts Festival (PIAF) in celebration of the National Arts Month (NAM) this coming February, are furtherance and continuation of last year’s undertakings, which are the gathering and showcasing of best works, thematically inclined or not. But they are no less interesting or intriguing.
“The flagship projects in each of the seven arts continue to explore new modes of expressions and collaborations with one another even as they firm up their connections with their roots and document their aesthetics,” explains the festival director, poet and professor Ricardo de Ungria, who is also the commissioner of the Sub-commission on the Arts (SCA) of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), which oversees PIAF.
The NCCA has been holding the celebration, a series of festivities and activities mounted throughout the country celebrating Filipino artistry and promoting the arts and the artists, for 19 years now, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 683 signed in 1991.
De Ungria further says the celebration has “featured the genius and talent of the Filipino artist and affirmed the continuing and revivifying evolution of Philippine art from traditional roots to more contemporary forms of expression.”
Indeed, PIAF aims to feature the talents and performances of the many artists and arts groups in the seven arts on whose trainings, competitions, and creative expressions it has invested the past year or so. More than a way of looking back at past accomplishments, the festival is said to be a celebration of the fruits of the creative efforts for the past year and a looking forward to a richer, more fertile ground in the coming years for the evolution of artistic modes of expression available to the Filipino creative imagination.
All over the country, different arts and culture groups as well as local governments will hold events for the PIAF with funding and support from the NCCA with the theme “Ani ng Sining” or harvest of the arts.
“Starting from simple festivities held in Metro Manila and involving a limited number of fields in the art in the early nineties, the celebration of NAM has expanded since then to include the active participation of all the seven arts as flagship projects, to involve various regions in the country as art sites, and to accept as partners an increasing number of private organizations and government agencies at both the local and national levels,” De Ungria adds.
At the forefront and as the highlight of the PIAF are the major projects of the committees of the SCA, namely, Cinema, Dance, Literary Arts, Architecture and Allied Arts, Visual Arts, Music, and Dramatic Arts.

Grand literary gathering in Cebu with Taboan
The NCCA Committee on Literary Arts, also headed by De Ungria, follows up its successful Taboan: Philippine Writers’ Festival, with a sequel, this time in Cebu. Taboan again will gather writers from all the regions and across generations to interact with one another and with their audience on issues pertaining to their craft or the situation of writing in the country, or read from their new works. The three-day festival now gives focus on writers and writings in the Visayas region and expects lively participation from writers in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. There will conferences, seminars, workshops, performances such as a zarzuela and a poetry performance by Sakdap, and recognition of local writers in the first Taboan Writers Awards. For the first time, there will a conference for teachers on teaching literature. Interesting topics to be discussed includes “eco-literature” with Hope Yu, Dinah Roma Sianturi and Mindo Aquino; Visayan aesthetics with Erlinda Alburo, Simeon Dumdum and Macario Tiu; writing erotica with John Iremil Teodoro, Danton Remoto and Richel Dorotan; writing using dreams with Gemino Abad, Scott Sabot, Judith Salamat and Jhonnalyn Cruz; writing and spirituality with Renato Madrid, Calbi Asain, Clarito de Francis and Dante Rosales; and writing ethnicity with Anthony Enriquez, Teng Mangansakan and Arifar Jamil, among others. Slated from February 10 to 12, 2010, at the Casino Espanol del Cebu in Cebu City, Taboan 2010: The Second Philippine Writers’ Festival has the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation as proponent.

Moving images from the regions in Cinema Rehiyon
The NCCA Committee on Cinema, headed by Miguel Rapatan, will likewise hold a second Cinema Rehiyon, after audiences appealed for another run. This is a showcase of nascent cinema from the regions, culling the best from festivals held in various regions of the country. This year’s Cinema Rehiyon will feature 10 regions, four more than the first one. To be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Cinema Rehiyon will show cinematic expressions from Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, Naga, Pampanga, Samar, Central Visayas (Cebu and Bohol), and Western and Central Mindanao, with for a and panel discussions. Showings are slated from February 16 to 20, 2010.

The continuing movements of Sayaw Pinoy
The NCCA Committee on Dance, headed by Shirley Halili-Cruz, will stage Sayaw Pinoy, now on its seventh year, which is a touring dance concert that brings together different dance forms and features local dance troupes of the host cities and municipalities performing back-to-back with the different professional dance companies in the country. Now, with the subtitle “Creating Venues of Creative Interaction Through Dance,” Sayaw Pinoy aims to become more accessible with performances to be staged in public places and to include other art forms as well as indigenous arts and artists. Sayaw Pinoy promises to be in at least 27 localities with at least 30 performances and 40 performing groups.

The sum of architecture
Last time, the NCCA Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts, headed by Henry Yap, mounted “Pa(ng)Labas,” a composite of a traveling exhibition, lecture-forum, and a film showing which examined both the medium of film and the form and style of architecture as they relate to the development of film media, architecture and urban landscape. A proposed project this year focuses on the role of water in architecture with “Aquatecture = Water + Architecture,” a multimedia and installation exhibit exploring the long-standing relationship of water and architecture in Philippine society. The exhibit will tackle themes such as water as design metaphor, water-borne architecture, water and sacred space, and designing with water, among others. However, the project changed. Instead, the committee gathered past exhibits for “Archi [types/text]: Architecture in Philippine Life.”
Eight distinct exhibits in different venues aim to “explore the many facets of architecture and the production space in Philippine life through a transdisciplinary lens, which converge landscape and urban planning, painting and photography, cinema, postcards and urban cartography to illustrate that architecture is imagined as at once type and text because it is both a thing and a subjectivity, an artifact and a sensibility.”
These are composed of “Imperial Reproductions: Imag(in)ing the Philippines in Color” at the atelier at the Bulwagan ng Dangal, University of the Philippines, on February 1; “Deco Decadence: Philippine Art Deco Architecture” at the Aldaba Hall of the University Theater of the UP on February 1; The Vargas Collection including “Province/Laan (1899-1934)” and “Unease/Ligalig (1935-1946)” at the Vargas Museum of UP on February 1; “Manila and the River that Runs Through It” at the Plaza Mexico Ferry Station in Intramuros, Manila, on February 7; “PA(ng)LABAS = architecture + cinema” at the Greenbelt mall in Makati City on February 7 ; “Andres Luna de San Pedro: Painter and Architect” at the Museum of the Filipino People, National Museum of the Philippines, Manila, on February 9; “Imperial Gaze: Representations of Far Zamboanga in Colonial Photography” at Fort Pilar, Zamboanga City, on February 16; and “Philippine Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, 1900-1960” at the Ayala Center Cebu, Cebu City, on February 20

Collegiate drama in Tanghal!
The NCCA Committee on Dramatic Arts will hold Tanghal! The Fourth National University and College Theater Festival, celebrating the outstanding achievements by theater groups based in the universities and colleges. Having seen rich exchanges of works and experiences in the past three years, this fourth Tanghal! will face the challenge of highlighting the contributions of university and college based theater groups to Philippine theater. It will have a conference on the contribution of these groups and a showcase of six outstanding works. The theater fest happens from February 1 to 5 at the De La Salle University in Manila.

Music as food for the soul
The NCCA Committee on Music, headed by Joey Ayala, will hold Organik Muzik 2: Palay Bigas Kanin, following up the first Organik Muzik, which was a series of four concerts showing the metamorphosis of elements of Philippine music from village roots to urban manifestations. This time, the committee is staging a collaborative musical production called Palay Bigas Kanin (PBK), with libretto and lyrics by poet Vim Nadera and music and performances by contemporary artists such as Radioactive Sago Project, Junior Kilat, Sigaw ng Tundo and Cynthia Alexander. It will be staged on February 19 at the Atrium in Tagum City, and on February 23 at the University of Baguio in Baguio City.

Feast of colors
The NCCA Committee on Visual Arts, headed by Egai Talusan Fernandez, will mount the Philippine Visual Arts Festival 2010, featuring the masterworks of renowned visual artists. The exhibit will also showcase the talents of the Filipino artists from different regions as well as make their works accessible to the public. Aside from the exhibit, seminar-workshops will also be conducted, and sand sculpture and body paintings sessions will also take place. The festival will be held late February at the Shangri-la Plaza mall in Mandaluyong City, and March on Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan.

Arts all-over
PIAF will be launched in Metro Manila at Rajah Solaiman along Roxas Boulevard and in Intramuros, Manila on January 31,2010, with a soft launching on February 1 in a morning show of a local TV network, featuring numerous performances. It will also be launched key cities around the country.
In addition to the flagship projects, the NCCA also awarded grants to new works, restagings and tributes to National Artists for the NAM celebration in different regions of the country.
Local artists of Jose Panganiban in the province of Camarines Norte will mount a showcase of art works and dance performances called “Pagkilala sa Ani ng Mambulao sa Angking Sining” at the town hall from February 1 to 28. The UP Visayas’ Balangaw and the UP Diliman’s Kontragapi Music and Dance Ensemble will stage a musical concert, Bag-o Nga Timpla Pinoy Performing Arts Festival, at the Balyu-an Amphitehater in Tacloban City on February 28. In Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao, the Capitol University Dance Troupe and Capitol University Glee Club will perform local and contemporary dances and songs in a series on shows called “Saulog, An Anniversary Concert of the Capitol Dance Troupe and Glee Club” at the Capitol University Gym on February 1 and 13, Cogon Market and Night Café DVsoria on February 6 and 20, and at the atrium of LimKetKai Mall on February 27.
An exhibition of art boxes that will showcase the dream and aspiration of Filipinos called “Damgo Quatros Ka” for the whole month of February in different venues in Bacolod City and Dumaguete City. “Mga Kwentong Pinagmulan,” a cutout animation film tackling the myths, legends, origin and culture of the Negros Island, will be shown in Silay City, Bacolod City, Kabankalan, Bago City, Sibulan and Dumaguete City.
Led by Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan awardee Bai Lang Dulay, the T’boli cultural community in Lake Sebu of South Cotabato will hold its first National Arts Month celebration with “Ken Kenhulung (A Celebration of Arts)” for the whole month in several venues in the town.
The “Pahandaja na Mamanua Ka Surigao” is a “one day gathering of the Mamanua cultural community in Surigao City to present, promote and develop creativity, specifically of local indigenous talents, through various form of expressions,” will be on February 24 at the Surigao del Norte capitol grounds.
A dance-drama called Hilum-na Pag-ampo, meaning “silent prayer,” promises to “give a moment of healing through dances accompanied by Mindanao divine chanting and lullabies” on February 25 at Malitbog, Bukidnon, and on February 26 at the Kung Hua Auditorium, Kung Hua School, Cagayan de Oro City.
From February 19 to 28, the Kaliwat Theater Collective, the Kathara Dance Theater Collective, the Magugpo Theater Guild and the TCNHS special Program for the Arts will mount a series of musical, dance and theatrical productions at the Tagum Trade and Cultural Center Pavillion in Tagum City.
Old works will be restaged for further appreciation such as Severino Reyes’s zarzuela Walang Sugat in Marinduque by Bulacan’s Barasaoin Kalinangan Foundation from February 15 to 21. “Interaksyon” of the group Tupada will again “set venues for instantaneous and independent performances, which enticed and encouraged local artists from various disciplines to explore performance art as a less restrictive and more inclusive form of creative expression” in Manila, Batangas and Cavite from February 17 to 21. Writers based in Baguio City and Benguet including young Cordillera writers will read their poems for “Panagbenga: Baguio Poetry Reading for Arts Month 2010” at the University of the Philippines-Baguio, University of Baguio and Benguet State University. The Philippines will host the 3rd ASEAN Puppetry Association, showcasing ASEAN puppet tradition from February 24 to 26 at the Tanghalang Abelardo Hall Auditorium of UP Diliman. “Pangalay at Musika ng Bayan,” an annotated performance of an endangered dance style indigenous to the Sulu archipelago, will be mounted on Feb. 12 at the Emilio Aguinaldo College Auditorium and February 24 at Holy Angel University in Pampanga.
In the Visayas the Arte Kalye: Art for Earth will have public art talks, street dance festivals, street fashion shows, painting, art workshops, art sale, music festivals and live street performances at Artekalye Street, San Agustin Extension, Bacolod City.
In Mindanao, Ballet Philippines will perform “Masterworks” in Davao City; “Silip Sayaw sa Mindanao,” a touring dance performance and workshop of indigenous dances and rituals of the Bukidnon, T’boli, Blaan, Maranao, Maguindanao and Tausug cultural communities, will be held on February 6 to 8, 13 to 14, and 24 to 26 in Camiguin and Lanao del Norte; and “Tecla: Mga Kwentong Kababaihan,” presenting the vulnerability of women in domestic violence through dance, poetry and music, will be shown on February 11 to 12 at the KCC Mall Convention Center.
Works of and tributes to National Artists will also be put so that people will have greater appreciation and awareness of our artist heroes.
A series of performances at the Rizal Shrine in Calamba City called “Ang Artista ay Bayani: Romancing the Arts at the Rizal Shrine” will highlight songs and stories that pay tribute to National Artists as well as music and narrative traditions of Laguna on February 5, 6, 12 and 13.
“Saludo! Tribute to Philippine National Artists,” a multi-media and multi-disciplinary presentation of National Artists from the Visayas region, will be held on January 31 in Bacolod City, February 7 in La Carlota City, February 14 in Silay City and February 21 in Ilog.
The Panaghugpong 2: Xavier Arts Festival will feature the art and works of Edith Tiempo (literature), Lucresia Kasilag (music), Jose Maceda (music), Ramon Obusan (dance), Lino Brocka (film) and Eddie Romero (film) throughout February in Cagayan de Oro City.
The arts will also be brought to different government offices through the “Ani ng Sining sa Iba’t Ibang Sangay ng Gobyerno” and the malls, particularly the Ayala malls. Also throughout the month, people can get free entrances or discounts to museums
Indeed, it will be an enriching month. “Come and join us one and all as we allow art to restore us to high spirits once again and to the wisdom of our still undreamed dreams!” De Ungria invites.

For more information, contact Rene Napeñas, head of the NCCA Public Affairs and Information Office and PIAF media director at 527-5529 or mobile numbers 0927-5582656 and 0928-5081057 or Vanessa Marquez, PIAF deputy festival manager at 527-2209 or 0918-6380412. Call also 527-2192 (local 612 to 615), e-mail at, or visit or

Friday, January 22, 2010

Negros Oriental in a Blast: Central Visayan Province Celebrates the Buglasan Festival

For all its occasional tackiness, ostentation, artifice, theatrics, commercialism and loose interpretations, a festival is a considerable summation of a place with its display of folklore, livelihood, history, character, aspirations and identity. With the recent Buglasan Festival, the province of Negros Oriental, the Cebuano-speaking half of Negros Island at the heart of the Visayan archipelago, presented a moving panorama of itself via dance, costumes, songs, tableaux and mock rituals in a grand showdown from several of its towns and cities.

The cavernous Lamberto Macias Sports Center in the capital Dumaguete City burst with colors and pulsated with energy as dancers converged for the Festival of Festival Showdown on October 23, 2009. The event later spilled on to the streets including the famed Rizal Boulevard, which is flanked by a strip of bars, restaurants, hotels and remnants of old mansions on one side and a street lamp-lined promenade overlooking Tanon Strait on the other.

We gawked at the spectacle from the bleachers in the sports center, entertained by the brisk movements, crafty costumes and the stories they tell. Later, from the terrace of the old Perdices house, we gazed at the jubilant images of towns we’ve visited or longed to visit as floats in the form of icons of each towns, carrying their “kings and queens,” trailed behind groups of dancers—a papier-mache volcano of Canlaon City, the caves of Mabinay complete with indigenous Atis drinking tuba, the chocolate pot of Tanjay City. The stories were told during the showdown, participated in by Negros Oriental’s 13 towns and cities—Santa Catalina with its Pakol Festival, Canlaon City with Pasayaw Festival, Zamboaguita with Baulan Festival, Dauin with Kinaiyahan Festival, Dumaguete City with Sandurot Festival, Bayawan City with Tawo-Tawo Festival, Jimalalud with Hambabalud Festival, Tanjay City with Bodbod Festival, Bindoy with Libod Sayaw sa Bindoy, Bais City with Sipong Festival, Sibulan with Gapnop Festival, Mabinay with Langob Festival and Bacong with Sinulog de San Miguel.

Santa Catalina made a rousing start with dynamically choreographed dancing with the dancers, mostly high-school students, swayed, jumped and ran, carrying bunches of bananas, the town’s most important crop, to enact the Pakol Festival, which it celebrates every April 25 in honor of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Choreographed by Widmark Alanano, the dance enacted a common town scene—bananas being harvested, brought to the tabu-an or makeshift marketplace, and sold or bartered in a practice called tag-ilis. As a comic interlude, children dressed as monkeys tried to steal the bananas. The dance concluded in a thanksgiving to the saint for the good harvest of bananas or pakol, saying that “the devotees celebrate their prosperity and well-being, believing that in the heart of the lowly pakol their lives are alleviated [sic] and their faith strengthened.”

The cultivation of cut flowers and vegetables was the focus of the dance, choreographed by Stalen Gabuan, for the Pasayaw Festival of Canlaon City, the northernmost local government unit of Negros Oriental. The dancers traipsed across the ground carrying large replicas of calla lilies and vegetables in a dance that celebrated the fertility of the land because of Mount Canlaon and told the folklore on the origin of the volcano—the ill-fated romance between the warrior Kan and the princess Laon. The name of the festival, which is celebrated every July 1, the city’s Charter Day, is a contraction of “pasalamat diha sa mga sayaw,” a thanksgiving through dance, which is an important purpose of many festivals in the country.

Many contingents showed grandiosity and gimmickry such as Zamboanguita, a coastal town south of Dumaguete City. Aside from the dancers carrying big replicas of corn, there was a humongous corn wheeled in, revealing children dressed as grasshoppers gnawing at the kernels upon peeling of the husk. Men fetched the “pesky” kids from the corn with bamboo poles, to the amusement of the audience. Not only that, the float was fashioned into a convincing likeness of a giant grasshopper for the parade. The dance, choreographed by Ryan Garcia, aimed to relay the meaning of Zamboanguita’s Baulan Festival, the name meaning “field” and celebrated every May 12, which implies the people’s transformation from being hunter-gatherers to cultivators of the land, with the corn being the main crop and the grasshoppers or locusts one of the problems of farming life. The show was able to incorporate the Polka Biana, Zamboanguita’s unique dance, as a tribute to the town’s culture.

Dauin, very near Dumaguete and where many resorts cluster, presented a melange of superstition, environmentalism and religious faith in a dance for the Kinaiyahan Festival. The dance, choreographed by Angelo Sayson and Ronilo Jaynar, told of townspeople cutting down the galawin or dalakit trees which “they believed were the refuge of supernatural creatures and were therefore cursed.” As a consequence, their town and farms were flooded when strong rains came. A dawinde or elf suddenly appeared from a galawin and offered seedlings for the people to plant. The seedlings they planted grew into forests, and they realized the importance of caring for the environment. The dance also showed the people’s devotion to their patron saint, Nicholas of Tolentino, whose feast day on September 10 is the origin of the festival.

Another patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, was the featured in Dumaguete City’s Sandurot Festival, held every November 22, in the dance, choreographed by Ariel Distrito, relating the social history of the city, the different people coming together, and the role of the saint, who protected the city in times of danger. A gigantic image of Saint Catherine was the highlight of the show.

Choreographed by Arlan Entac, the number from Bayawan City for its Tawo-Tawo Festival, celebrated every February 17 before the feast day of its patron saint Thomas of Villanueva, condensed the history of the town—the life of the early settlers, the Bukidnons, and the coming of the Spaniards—with emphasis on farming, showing how birds were pests to their crops and the tawo-tawo or scarecrow, said to be “an indigenous device…perceived as representative of the guardian spirits of the rice fields to protect their crops.” The festival dance, they explained, “revisits the defining moment from hostility to assimilation, from simple rice production to celebration. It breathes life into the central character of the rice fields: the palay, the tawo-tawo, the maya birds, the farmer with his wife who play roles as protagonists in the age-old struggle for survival between man and nature.” Simple made dramatic, indeed.

The town of Jimalalud presented a medley of its culture. The Hambabalud Festival, celebrated every January 14, was originally the feast day for its patron the Holy Infant Jesus, and was named after the hambabalud trees, from which the town also derived its name. Basically, the festival is a form of thanksgiving, particularly, for saving the town from a destructive typhoon long time ago. This was re-enacted in the dance, which was made more colorful by incorporating cultural elements like the reciting of balak or poetry and the signing of balitaw and harana, native songs.

The contingent from Tanjay City presented images the city is known for or wants to project—as the province’s oldest settlement and first parish, as a “city of professionals” because of the large concentration of degree holders, a “city of musicians” and the native sweet called bodbod. The last became the focal image of its festival, the Bodbod Festival, held on December 15, and the dance, choreographed by Jaymar Salboro, had maidens dancing with bodbod.

Choreographed by Robert Enopia, Rico Valencia, Jovanie Ampil and Joel Eullaran, the show of Bindoy to represent their Libod-Sayaw sa Bindoy emphasized the importance of the coconut, a ubiquitous sight in the town and in most of the island. Actually the festival—whose name libod means “to move around” or “sway” and sayaw means “dance”—is to honor of their patron saint, Vincent Ferrer, every April 4 by dancing. It is said that the present form of the festival originated with Jesus Trumata, once the town’s parish priest, to “draw crowds and set a festive mood,” as well as preserve the “dance traditions that enrich Bindoy culture.”

Thanksgiving was also one of the main themes of the number from Bais City, choreographed by Glenn Vincent Torres. It was for their Sipong Festival, celebrated every September 7, inspired by sipong, a thanksgiving gathering. “The Baisnons traditionally celebrate their bountiful harvest with merrymaking…comprising a Holy Mass, dancing, a tabo, agri-fair and other post harvest activities,” they explained. Bais, like most of the towns of the country, is an agricultural city, and its main crop is sugarcane, covering 36 percent of the cultivated land.

Gapnod means “driftwood.” In the town of Sibulan, there is a popular local lore about a fisherman finding what he thought was useless driftwood. While the fishers of the town were having bountiful catches, one fisherman was having no luck since daybreak. By the afternoon, he caught something but turned out to be only driftwood, which he threw back to the sea. But he kept finding the same driftwood in his net. The puzzled fisherman called out to his fellow fishermen and examined the wood. An image was engraved on it. They took it to the priest, who said that it was the image of Saint Anthony of Padua. Now, Sibulan celebrates the Gapnop Festival to commemorate the founding of the image, and the story was dramatized in a dance choreographed by Archie Baconaje for the Buglasan Festival grand fete.

Held on January 25, the Langub Festival honors its patron saint, the Holy Infant, and promotes the caves, with which Mabinay is endowed and is famous for. One of the few landlocked and upland towns of the island, Mabinay is a backwater place whose charm lies in its rusticity and feel of adventure. Its Buglasan presentation choreographed by Wisley Magalso highlighted its trademark geologic attributes with a story of early cave dwellers clashing with new settlers and an environmentalist aim. “The new settlers, who were lovers of nature, made efforts to stop the cave dwellers from destroying the Mabinay environment. In time, the cave dwellers came to understand the good intentions of the new settlers, stopped hunting bats and birds, and began to care for all creatures and the environment,” they told.

Another form of thanksgiving, the Sinulog de San Miguel is celebrated by the town of Bacong. Its presentation showed a peacefully and abundant town being ravaged by disasters and pestilence under the rule of the fallen angel Lucifer and being saved by Saint Michael the Archangel.

These 13 delegations showed their arsenals of creativity and energy to impress the crowds and the showdown judges, mostly dance experts from Metro Manila, to win pride, prestige and the cash prize. In the end, Santa Catalina’s mesmerizing Pakol Festival presentation was declared the most impressive, the group taking home Php100,000 in cash, a trophy and the right to represent the province in Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, as it did in 2008.

The Tawo-Tawo Festival number of Bayawan City was placed second, while the Kinaiyahan Festival of Dauin was third. Special prizes went to Sipong Festival of Bais City for having the best in drum corps, which accompanied the dance; Baulan Festival of Zamboanguita for creating the best float—the amazing grasshopper!—with Libod Sayaw Festival of Bindoy and Hambabalud Festival of Jimalalud the second and third best, respectively; Zamboanguita again for the best identification arc, which preceded the dancing contingent during the parade, with the Langub Festival of Mabinay and the Pasayaw Festival of Canlaon City the second and third best, respectively.

As jubilant as the winners were the festival organizers, headed by provincial board member Mariant Villegas, who has been at the helm of the festival for several years now. People have been very participative this festival. In 2008, only five towns and cities deployed contingents for the showdown and parade.

The showdown and parade were two of the highlights of the 10-day festival that transpired in late October. The festival calendar was replete with events—parties; contests on cooking, singing, and dancing; sports activities; a congress; religious services; fairs; awarding and recognitions; and exhibits. The incorporation of traditional arts and entertainment—rondalla, kumparsa, balak, balitaw and harana—in the form of contests was commendable.

The fireworks display and competition over the Tanon Strait were spectacular, the varicolored sparks embellishing the night sky and being reflected on tenebrous waters. It drew sizable crowds to the city’s night strip. A band started playing while the oldest building of the Silliman University, a century old, which houses an ethnological museum, loomed in the background. On another side of the city, in the barangay of Piapi, the Sidlakang Negros Village was also abuzz.

Aside from the street dancing parade and the showdown, another staple of Philippine festivals is the fair/exhibit/expo, in which products are displayed and attractions promoted. In the past years, the Buglasan Festival organizers invited the provinces towns and cities to set up booths on the provincial capitol grounds. Through the years, the booths have become grander and more elaborate, some recreating their famous landmarks. The capitol grounds had virtually become a theme park of sorts. At the end of the festival, the booths had to be dismantled and it could be a heartbreaking occasion. Additionally, many people saw the activity as a waste of money as much had been spent in building the booths.

Thus the Sidlakang Negros Village, built and opened in 1988, was expanded to include permanent booths for all the province’s towns and cities. The village was designed to be one-stop showcase and shop of the province’s tourism, delicacies, arts and crafts. The main building houses the administrative offices, the office of the provincial tourism, a souvenir shop, a showroom featuring furniture and other products, a conference hall and a gallery.

The buildings were tastefully designed by Rene Armogenia, one of the province’s famous architects, who used to own and designed the Bahura Resort in Dauin and now operates the charming restaurant Azalea perched on a cliff in Cambaloctot, San Jose. He merged the rustic and industrial looks—an assemblage of unpainted cement walls, steel pipe banisters, glass panels, bamboo beams and grass roofs.

Behind the main building is an open-air auditorium of sharp geometric design, where the Festival King and Queen pageant was held and crowned. Beauty contests are another festival staple. In Buglasan Festival, the contestants, both male and female, are part of the major activities. They are featured in the dance showdown and they ride in the floats, representing the best of their towns and cities. On pageant night, they show their poise, beauty and alertness in answering questions. The 2009 Festival Queen and King crowns were both clinched by contestants from Bayawan. The Festival Queen first runner-up honor was won by Bais City and the third runner-up place by Dauin. The Festival King first runner-up title went to Santa Catalina and the third runner-up to Jimalalud.

Scattered on the one-hectare grounds were the booths of the different towns and cities. One was given to the province of Siquijor, which was formerly part of Negros Oriental. The province’s 25 towns displayed their wares and promoted their attractions. Tanjay’s house was virtually a cafeteria serving bodbod, which is their version of the suman or cylindrical rice cake, eaten with hot chocolate and slices of ripe mango. The Mabinay house exhibited photos of its many caves, the façade made to look like a cave entrance. One could arrange for a dolphin and whale watching excursion at the Bais house. There was no need to cross Tanon Strait to reach Siquijor for its amulets, talismans and even potions. They were all available at the Siquijor booth. Perhaps, there are no other permanent exposition grounds in the country of this scale and attractiveness. Although many of the booths are closed without an occasion, Sidlakang Negros Village is open year-round.

The Buglasan Festival is getting grander through the years, showing its aspiration to be at par with the festivals of their neighboring islands, which have garnered much attention, such as the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, the Ati-atihan Festival of Aklan, the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, the Masskara Festival of Negros Occidental.

The first three were borne out of tradition—feasts in honor of their patron, the Holy Infant Jesus—which has acquired the flamboyance of the Mardi Gras and Brazilian carnival, as the national government wants to draw visitors and created a tourist attraction. In the process, festivals have been made where there is no or little tradition on built on like the Masskara Festival. Likewise, the Buglasan Festival is of recent concoction. It started in 1981 as a contingent to the Folk Arts Festival convened by then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Organized by Foundation University and the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran-NCRFW Negros Oriental chapter, with support from the provincial government, five towns showcased their dances at the Folk Arts Theater in Manila—Siaton’s inagta, Zamboanguita’s Polka biana, Dauin’s kasal Kadauinonan, Tanjay’s sinulog and Manjuyod’s amamaranhig. Collectively, they named themselves Buglasan Festival, after buglas, the napier-like reeds that once covered Negros Island. Also, Buglas Insulis was the former name of the island, according to a1572 map attributed to encomendero Diego Lope Povedano, a member of the expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Legazpi’s men saw dark-skinned natives, which they called negro, on the island, which was eventually called Negros.

Eventually, the Buglasan Festival came under the management of the local government, culminating in the passing of an ordinance in 2002 designating the Buglasan as the province’s official festival. So every October, the usually laidback Dumaguete City, a known educational center, springs to life with a frenzy of activities. Negros Oriental claims the Buglasan Festival as the country’s first “festival of festivals,” a festival that gathers all other festivals. This proved to be true with the substantial participation of its towns and cities for the 2009 celebration. The provincial government with Negros Oriental governor Emilio Macias is always in full support as well as numerous national and local organizations and institutions. Hopefully, the crowds and the visitor influx will get bigger in the coming years, making the Buglasan Festival not just a window to the culture of Negros Oriental, but also a cherished tradition.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Have Responsibility, Will Travel

In early December at the lobby of the posh Greenbelt 3 mall in Makati City, early holiday shoppers go through bags, gears and travel accessories of the little expo called Mad About Travel, which also offered special travel packages. A closer look revealed that this was no ordinary expo.
Organized by The Travel Club, a local shop offering quality travel essentials with several branches around the metro, the expo displayed products with a particular thrust. For example, there were Jansport and Timbuk2 backpacks, which do not use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can cause severe health problems, in the reflector tabs and tails. Other featured products included Sea to Summit, which creates innovative, lightweight products that support minimal human impact and is one of the founding sponsors of Leave No Trace Australia that assists outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions on how to reduce their impact when they hike, camp, bike or climb.
Aside from the products, there was a series of talks on Philippine ecotourism by representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, ecological sustainability courtesy of the Ayala Group. On the other hand representatives from Eagle Creek gave insights on packing properly.
Little booklets were given out, offering tips on being a responsible traveler. There were banners featuring models as different types of travelers using hip but environmentally conscious products with slogans like “I carry nothing but a sense of adventure.”
The travel shop, a member of the Primer Group of Companies, was launching its I Travel. I Care campaign to drum up awareness on responsible traveling, not just merely traveling. The campaign encourages customers to travel responsibly by observing several guidelines, which include the use of environmentally-friendly travel gear, supporting local businesses, selecting modes of transportation that minimize carbon emissions and sustaining local culture, among others.
With exposure from the West and the affordability of transportation, more and more Filipinos are getting into travel. One can get that idea from Filipino blogs, many of which deal with travels. However, most Filipinos still treat travel as an excursion and an opportunity to have pure fun—splashing around the beach or pool, eating out, looking for night outs and being disappointed when a place offers none. Many felt little accountability on the place they went to, thinking that they are just passing through and may not return, at least immediately, and that they are residents of the place and feel no responsibility. In the process, they leave behind, well, a trail of little “destructions.”

When Mount Banahaw was closed to pilgrims and tourists, a cleanup was done. Tons of garbage were brought down including liquor bottles and pornography, unsettling for a place considered sacred by many.
Also, the notion of travel as a source of enrichment, learning and personal growth, all of which are profoundly pleasurable with the right mindset, is still to be imbibed. Important aspects of the place and travel—the environment, the culture, the people, the history and heritage, etc.—remain untapped, unexplored and unappreciated. The knowledge of these fosters a deep appreciation and engenders a kind of responsibility, a sense of duty to protect, uphold, preserve, care.
This responsibility is being promoted by The Travel Club.
“Green travel necessitates a genuine desire to protect the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. It entails conserving plants, wildlife and other resources; respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities,” the I Travel. I Care booklet states.
It further says, “Contrary to popular belief, engaging in green travel will not cramp your style or result in further expenses. Quite the opposite, actually. Since more and more travel agents and hotels are making a real effort to help save the environment, you don’t have to sacrifice creature comforts or go broke to be a green traveler.”
The Mad About Travel expo was aimed to prove this point. Many products were offered at discounted rates. Many products might prove to be expensive, but we are assured of high quality, thus durability that we can use them for many years. There will be lesser need to constantly buy stuff and contribute to the growing garbage.
The North Face products are one example. An old and worn but still durable bag can a stylish badge of well-traveled-ness, like wrinkles on the face connoting experience and wisdom. And a bag surely lasts very long. Moreover, The North Face designs and produces high performance outdoor equipment, apparel and footwear while reducing greenhouse emissions and minimizing waste products.

Also on the offer were Nalgene, whose products do not contain the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), and Envirosax, which provides eco-friendly reusable bags that are lightweight, portable, waterproof and can hold the equivalent of two supermarket plastic bags.
Aside from bags and travel products, the expo also offered travel packages courtesy of travel agency Rajah Travel, presenting an opportunity to practice responsible travel through special packages to the hottest hotspots in Europe, Asia, North America, Canada and Australia. The travel agency recommended the Insight Vacations European tour for 2010, in which one can enjoy the famous Oberammergau Passion Play, a dramatic reenactment of the Passion of Christ performed every decade. For US$799, Rajah Travel can let everyone experience Europe’s legendary sights, hidden treasures, breathtaking scenery and vibrant cities. There were also discounted land and cruise packages to Asia, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
When you have decided on a travel package or for any of your travel, try to be a responsible and intelligent traveler. Take an I Travel. I Care booklet for tips. If you want to go a tad hardcore, you may want to put to heart The Responsible Traveler Creed they formulated, which says: “I travel with a bagful of knowledge about the culture of my destination, express appreciation for ethnic traditions, and show respect for the locals’ spiritual beliefs and overall way of life…I am an economically responsible traveler. I care about the livelihood and quality of life of local communities…I am an environmentally responsible traveler. I care about local ecosystems and natural resources, and strive to help protect them in any way I can.”
Here’s for a travel that is truly enjoyable, enriching and responsible.

The Travel Club stores are located at Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 3, Power Plant Mall, Alabang Town Center, Ayala Center Cebu, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, SM City North Edsa Annex, SM Fairview, SM City Batangas, SM City Marilao, SM City Pampanga, Marquee Mall in Angeles City, SM City Clark, SM City Baguio, SM City Cebu, SM City Iloilo, SM City Davao, SM City Cagayan de Oro, Robinsons General Santos, Gateway Mall, V-Mall in Greenhills, Shangri-La Plaza, Robinsons Ermita, Festival Mall, SM City Bacolod, Robinsons Tacloban, Robinsons Dumaguete, Robinsons Ilocos Norte, Limketkai and TriNoma.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Longboard and Short of It

The winners

Marvin Abat

Luke Landrigan

Twenty-seven-year-old Luke Landrigan, the poster boy of Philippine surfing and hometown bet, rode the waves with grace and skill, impressing the international panel judges, to clinch the top prize in the national longboard surfing competition called Global Surf Industries and Nike 6.0 Longboard Pro Invitational, organized by Aloha Boardsports, in Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union, on Nov. 29, 2009.
The three-day event drew in 32 competitors from all over the country as well as surfing enthusiasts and excursionists taking advantage of the long weekend and the proximity of the surfing area to the capital Manila.
Born in Australia, Landrigan grew up in the Philippines since his father set up a resort in La Union in northern Luzon. Since childhood, he has been surfing, body boarding first and eventually longboarding. With his good looks and the rise of the popularity of surfing, Landrigan is getting noticed, landing him in pages of magazines. Prior to the Aloha Boardsports tilt, he has competed at the Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia, in 2008, winning a silver medal in the longboard division and bronze medal in the team surfing division.
Coming in second place was Marvin Abat, only 17 and also a La Union native. Landrigan took home a cash prize of P100,000 while Abat was awarded P50,000.
The other competitors included Tangjun Fietas, Tsuyoshi Takahashi, Anthony Leubben, Ian Saguan, Rommel Rojo, Junior Ventura, Ronnie Esquivel, Ibrahim Gandawali, Arnel Hermosura, Jomar Ebueza, Jesse Ebueza, Anthony Valdez, Omar Gandawali, Chris Par, Argie Hugo, Lemon Dines, Mickey Boy Merida, Mike Oida, Chris Watkins, Lui Tortuya, Buji Libarnes, Saddam Faraon, JP Sarmiento, Jong Magsanoc, Noel Mendoza, Ali Gandawali, Bjorn Velasco, Kim Honasan, Ejay Ventura, Benito Nerida, Jeff dela Torre and Kiddo Cosio.The competition was held at Mona Lisa Point, in front of Little Surfmaid Resort, where the contestants, judges and officials were billeted. Competitors were trimmed down through a series of heats with Landrigan, Abat, Dela Torre, Nerida, Takahashi, Valdez, Ebueza and Hermosura landing in the quarter finals. Nerida, Dela Torre, Landrigan and Abat emerged in the semifinals, the latter two battling it out for 30 minutes on four to five foot waves for the championship.
“We have seen some amazing local surfing talent and this exclusive competition was the perfect venue for them to display their skills and gain extremely valuable competition experience,” said Freddy Gonzalez , the president of Aloha Boardsports, which mounted the event for the second time now.

Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union

He added: “For surfing fans, it was also a great excuse for hanging out on the sand and witnessing some intensity in the water. Good weather, great swells and the growing interest for this growing sport all made this a success.”
Aloha Boardsports, a local distributor of action sports apparel, hardware and accessories brands, has made the competition into a sort of mini festival with parties and other activities. There were free surfing lessons for the media people, and a concert featuring Crowjane and fire dancers and party for all. The awarding was highlighted by games and a raffle to benefit the victims of the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, which ravaged many parts of Luzon late September.
The competition further promoted the province of La Union as a surfing destination. Though the Philippines has numerous surfing spots such as the famous Siargao Island of Surigao del Norte, Baler of Aurora and Daet of Camarines Norte, La Union’s Urbiztondo Beach in the town of San Juan is the most accessible.
The town, just after the capital San Fernando City, is a five-hour ride north of Manila, and the beach is just off the main highway. The stretch is now studded with several resorts. Local surfers offer surfing lessons year round. Urbiztondo Beach itself is friendly to non-surfers. Those wanting to try surfing, this is it. Every year, the local government and the Department of Tourism organizes the La Union Surfing Break late October to early November to entice non-surfers especially students on their school break to get into surfing. The event also promotes the place, bringing in vitality to the province’s tourism industry.
Urbiztondo has long been attracting foreign surfers, particularly 62-year-old Japanese Kazuo Akinaga, who has been staying in Urbiztondo for more than 20 years now and is responsible for introducing surfing to the area. He taught the local boys to surf and then advised them to teach surfing for income. Now, La Union is producing surfing champions.

Mona Lisa Point in Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union

Little Surfmaid Hotel

For more information on Aloha Boardsports, log on to