This month of May in the Philippines is a month of fiestas and festivals. It is also National Heritage Month (NHM). Since August 11, 2003, when Proclamation No. 439 was signed, declaring the month of May as National Heritage Month “in recognition of the need to create among the people a consciousness, respect, and pride for the legacies of Filipino cultural history, and love of country,” we celebrate our treasures and legacies. More than being priceless, these treasures tell us who we are, contain interesting stories of our places and peoples, stand as our achievements, and give us character. In this fast-changing world, the need to be aware and conserve our heritage is more pressing and vital.
Many agencies are involved in the celebration of National Heritage Month to drum up interest and foster appreciation for our heritage as well as the works that go with taking care of them. Leading the effort is the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the government arm for arts and culture.
In the NCCA, the Subcommission on Cultural Heritage (SCH), one of its three subcommissions, is tasked in making the celebration of the NHM significant. This year, the SCH is refurbishing its past theme “Taoid: Weaving Our Stories, Threading Our Paths,” and aims to give “a glimpse of the legacies of the past and how it remains to shape the present and the future.” It is also “a recognition and celebration of the different aspects of our national cultural heritage—our traditional art forms and practices, important cultural structures both movable and immovable, and other objects of national importance whether tangible or intangible.” According to Regalado Trota Jose, head of the SCH and the National Committee on Archives, taoid is an Iluko term for “heritage.”
He and members of the steering committee—composed of Imelda Loste, head of the National Committee on Art Galleries; Dr. Maria Nela Florendo, head of the National Committee on Historical Research; Antonio M. Santos, head of the National Committee on Libraries and Information Service; Dr. Jaime C. Laya, head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites; and Dr. Antonio Julian Montalvan, head of the National Committee on Museums; with supports from NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr. and executive director Emelita V. Almosara—has prepared a series of “heritage clinics.”
In these clinics, expert services in different aspects of heritage conservation and management as well as in maintaining libraries, archives, museums and galleries are made available to cultural workers in different areas of the Philippines. Along with heritage clinics, the SCH will conduct workshops on cultural mapping to identify the heritage sites and items of the area and technical assessment of heritage sites in some areas. Usually, the holding of these heritage clinics are in conjunction with the hosts’ festivals. They are not concentrated in May. The heritage clinics started in March, and some will be implemented until October. It seems that these are regular efforts of the SCH appropriated as celebration of NHM. There seems to be a lack of general campaign and awareness efforts for the general public, which the NHM is created for.
From March 11 to 13, the National Museum and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines conducted assessment of sites in Capul, Northern Samar, for possible declaration as National Cultural Treasures, and there was a talk on the Tam-awan experience by Chit Asignacion. From April 3 to 7, a heritage clinic was conducted by the National Committee on Historical Research in Mahatao, Batanes. There were also heritage clinics conducted by the National Committee on Art Galleries and National Committee on Libraries and Information Services, National Committee on Museums, National Committee on Archives and National Committee on Monuments and Sites, as well as technical assessment of sites for possible declaration as National Cultural Treasures from April 9 to 14, coinciding with the Rakanen Festival.
From April 15 to 18, workshops on art, festival management and theater will be held in Glan, Sarangani, as well as technical assessment of sites for possible declaration as National Historical Landmarks by the NHCP. From May 24 to 25, technical assessments for possible interventions and declarations will be conducted in Lake Sebu and Lamlifew in Malungon, Sarangani, coinciding with the Sarangani Bay Festival
In June, workshops on cultural mapping, art, festival management, theater, music and dance will be conducted in Capul, Northern Samar. Activities are planned for July 26 to 28 in Capul, Northern Samar, in conjunction with the Saluka Festival.
In September, there will be workshops on cultural mapping, capability building, art, festival management, theater, music and dance in Pudtol, Apayao, as well as technical assessment of sites for possible declaration as National Cultural Treasures and or National Historical Landmarks. Activities are being planned for October 8 to 9 for the Say-Am Festival of Pudtol, Apayao.
The Mahatao Church of Batanes is a National Cultural Treasure
True Santacruzans and pilgrimages
In the early years of the NHM, the Filpino Heritage Festival Inc. (FHFI), a private organization headed by former SCH members Armita Rufino and Araceli Salas, led the national celebration of NHM with substantial funding from the NCCA. While the funding has been cut down in recent years, the FHFI still continues to come up with events in celebration of the National Heritage Month. The FHFI events involve more the public and are geared towards them.
A regular project is the “heritage pilgrimages” to churches declared as National Cultural Treasures (NCT) to raise awareness on and foster appreciation for these priceless legacies. Presidential Decree No. 374 describes a National Cultural Treasure as “a unique object found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to this country and nation.”
According to FHFI, “heritage churches have been at the forefront of Philippine history as a tool in furthering Christianity in the archipelago. The Philippines is home to hundreds of centuries-old Spanish colonial churches, 36 of which have been declared as National Cultural Treasures. Most of these churches were built during the Spanish colonial rule and are mostly a fusion of European and Asian architectural motifs.”
FHFI further stated that the heritage pilgrimage “aims to promote awareness for the sites for their historical, artistic and architectural interests,” and “it also strongly recognizes and acknowledges that these 36 heritage churches have a strong tradition of religious meaning—for devotion, healing and spiritual significance for the majority of the Filipino people.”
FHFI kicked off its National Heritage Month celebration with a heritage pilgrimage to Cavite and Batangas last May 9, visiting two NCTs—the Our Lady of Assumption Church of Maragondon, Cavite; and the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church of Balayan, Batangas. The tour also included the charming heritage town of Taal, particularly the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay in Labac and the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, said to be the largest church in Asia.
The bulk of FHFI events is made of Santacruzans, a May tradition all over the Philippines. FHFI started the advocacy of bringing back the true meaning of the traditional Santacruzan last year and is doing it again this year.
“May is the month of the Flores de Mayo and the Santa Cruz de Mayo. While both are popular devotions, they have separate historical narratives and practices. However, in the course of the centuries, both devotions merge on the 31st of May into one grand pageant called Santacruzan. So while the Santa Cruz de Mayo is losing its lessons and meaning, the Flores de Mayo is fast losing its name and essence,” said the FHFI.
“The Santacruzan itself, before it degenerated into a pageant of beauty queens and starlets, used to be a novena procession commemorating the finding (not the search, because Reyna Elena is already holding it!) of the Cross of Empress Helena and her son, Emperor Constantine, in Jerusalem,” the FHFI informed.
Like last year, traditional Santacruzans will be held in different parts of the country. This year, two different versions of the Santacruzan will be featured—the ones in Pampanga and Batangas—which are unique to these provinces.
In Pampanga, its traditional Santacruzan unique is called Sabat or Goydo-goydo (after Goy do Borgonia, successor of Constantine). According to FHFI, “Sabat is a version of the Santacruzan in which costumed performers interrupt the procession to challenge the sagalas and their consortes to a duel, either through verbal joust or in a swordfight. It is a re-enactment of the ambuscades that infidels (Moros) launched on the Crusaders as they returned to Europe after finding the Holy Cross.”
According to the journal Singsing of the Holy Angel University, Pampangans have three great festival seasons: Christmas, Holy Week and May. Of all the celebrations occurring in May, the most spectacular in terms of costumes and community participation is the Sabat Santacruzan. The romantic elements in the story, which repudiates the notion of Christians subjugating Muslims and implies the equality and ultimate union of all religions, resonate among Pampangans who in 1571 gave up Islam to embrace Christianity.
FHFI partners with Kuliat Foundation, Inc. to revive the Sabat Santacruzan on May 22 (4 p.m.) at the Museo ning Angeles in Angeles City, Pampanga. Different stakeholders of Angeles City will be tapped to participate in the tradition with Romeo S. Rodriguez providing a guided script for the Sabat Santacruzan detailing the characters.
Aside from the Pampangan Sabat, the Batangas version will also be featured as well as the Flores the Mayo. FHFI partnered with Kalinangang Batangan “to take the event a step farther by reviving the devotion of the Flores de Mayo that traditionally precedes the Santacruzan.”
A script in the traditional Batangas Tagalog poetry form introduces each participant in the procession citing her role in the history of salvation. Likewise tarpaulins or streamers with the name of the character and a short description of her will take the place of arches usually carried overhead. Thus, the procession will be a short colorful lesson on Biblical personages that played a role in the story of Jesus and the cross.
The Flores de Mayo will be held from May 21 to 29 at 4 p.m. at the Plaza Mabini Amphitheatre in Batangas City, while the Santacruzan will be held on May 29 at 6 p.m. starting at the Plaza Mabini. The procession will turn left to P. Burgos Street, left to M. H. Del Pilar Street, enter the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, exit left to M. H. Del Pilar Street, right to D. Silang Street, right to P. Herrera Street, right to C. Tirona Street and ends at the Pastor Ancestral House grounds.
FHFI-supervised traditional Santacruzans will be held in Silay City, Negros Occidental, on May 25; Intramuros in Manila (4 p.m., from Fort Santiago grounds to San Agustin Church), Enchanted Kingdom in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and Majayjay in Laguna (2 p.m. with Flores de Mayo, and 3 p.m. mass at San Gregorio Magno Church, and 4 p.m., start of procession), on May 26; Batangas City, Batangas (6 p.m., Plaza Mabini Amphitheater), on May 29; and Carigara, Leyte, on May 30.
Numerous exhibits in malls and other public areas will be held to further promote Filipino heritage. The exhibits will feature fiestas (April 29 to May 4, SM Molino; May 14 to 21, Robinsons Mall, Manila; May 27 to June 15, Cagayan de Oro City), old lighthouses (May 13 to 19, SM Masinag; May 14 to 21, Robinsons Mall Manila), old buildings (May 13 to 20, SM Baliwag; May 15 to 19, SM Bacolod; June 10 to 16, SM Lucena), traditional mats (June 10 to 14, SM Dasmariñas), Bangsamoro (May 27 to June 15, Cagayan de Oro City) and designer Ben Farrales (May 20 to 26, Robinsons Mall Magnolia). Additionally, there will be exhibits featuring the works of the Camera Club of the Philippines (April 28 to May 3, SM Taytay; and May 18 to 24, SM Southmall); Leyte-Samar birds (May 30 to June 1, Carigara, Leyte); National Artists’ palettes (June 13, the National Museum of the Philippines); the hibiscus with plants sale (May 28 to June 2, Kanlungan ng Sining, Rizal Park, Manila, 10 a.m); and Filipiniana gowns by Patis Tesoro (May 31 to June 4, SM Podium; and June 7 to 14, SM North Edsa’s The Block).
FHFI will also mount “Eskultor ng Bagong Lahi: A Retrospective on the Life and Works of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino” at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Art Gallery, which will open May 30.
Also, FHFI will mount the Pahampang Pinoy, a demo and exhibition of traditional games, on May 20 in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental (3 p.m.) with a heritage tour for the youth.
For more information, contact the FHFI at 523-9692, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.heritagefestival.ph.
Cordilleran body ornamentation in Baguio City
Annually, the Chanum Foundation, which manages the Tam-awan Village, a tourist attraction with galleries, souvenir shops, a café, traditional Cordilleran huts and lodgings in Pinsao, Baguio City, holds its arts festival in May, independent of the National Heritage Month. As it falls on National Heritage Month, the event is frequently included in the National Heritage Month calendar.
Now on its fourth year, the Tam-awan International Arts Festival (TIAF) will be held from May 15 to 19, with the theme “Jewels of the Cordillera,” featuring performances, exhibits, lectures and cultural shows. The festival will highlight the tattoo and tattooing, and other forms of body ornamentation.
“The Cordilleras is comprised of provinces and two cities. All these areas have distinct jewels and accessories,” said the Chanum Foundation. “The art of tattooing is a part of the Cordilleran brand of accessories and is still being used to date.”
The fourth TIAF will be focusing in these intricate beadwork made from indigenous materials, precious stones and other materials as well as tattoo art.
The opening on May 17 will have South African ambassador Agnes Nyamande-Pitso talk on South African jewelry and University of the Philippines Baguio professor Ikin Salvador on reinventing the traditional tattoos of the Cordilleras. A tattoo exhibition will be mounted by the participants of a tattoo workshop held from May 15 to 16.
Lectures will continue the following day with Natty Sugguiyao and Mary Grace Pocais (“Reinterpreting Beauty: The Kalinga Tattooed Women and the Aliwadog, Kalinga Heirloom Beads”); Delia Albert (“Mountains of Gold: Mining in Baguio-Benguet, A Historical Perspective”); Beatrix Angeles (“Arts and the Copyright Law”) and Sonia Daoas (“Traditional Cordilleran Accessories and Designs”) with a show of Cordilleran accessories and native wear. The night’s cultural show will be provided by University of the Cordilleras’s Maria Aplaten and Saint Louis University’s Tanghalang SLU and Center for Culture and the Arts. On Sunday, Kenneth Esguerra of the Ayala Museum will talk about the excavated gold jewelry of the Philippines.
The Tam-awan Village in Pinsao, Baguio City, will hold its Fourth Tam-awan International Arts Festival from May 15 to 19, with the theme “Jewels of the Cordillera”
Culminating the National Heritage Month celebration is the Gabii sa Kabilin on May 31 in Cebu. This is a night-long tour of the museums, galleries and heritage sites in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Lapu-Lapu, with each site featuring fairs, exhibits, dining, performances and many others.
The Gabii sa Kabilin, literally “night of heritage,” is a project of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation’s (RAF) Culture and Heritage Unit for seven years now, taking inspiration from Lange Nacht der Museen or Long Night of Museums of Germany and other European countries, which is replicated throughout the world. According to RAF, the Gabii sa Kabilin is the only event of its kind in Asia to encourage “the public to visit museums and understand their position as a venue for cultural understanding and fun and dynamic learning.” During the event, museums and cultural institutions will remain open until late night for public viewing and visits. Cultural presentations and other activities are also offered.
Held every last Friday of May, the Gabii sa Kabilin, which is also in celebration of the International Museum Day on May 18, started in May 25, 2007, with three Cebu City museums and a heritage site. Over the years, the event has grown bigger and better. This year, 33 museums, galleries and cultural institutions and sites will be participating in four cities.
With a ticket worth P150, visitors can have access to as many museums and sites as they want included in the Gabii sa Kabilin circuit as well as unlimited rides in designated buses and tartanillas (horse-drawn carriages) in Cebu City’s old district.
In Cebu City, participating institutions and sites are Casa Gorordo Musuem, Cathedral Museum of Cebu, Cebu City Museum, Cebu Cultural Center, Colegio del Santo Nino, Don Sergio Ormena and CAP Art Gallery, Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple, Fort San Pedro, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Cathedral of the Holy Child, Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum, Museo Parian sa Sugbo, Museo Sugbu, Plaza Independencia, Plaza Parian-AboitizLand Heirtage Pocket, Sacred Heart Parish Church-Alternative Contemporary Art Studio, San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church, San Perdo Calungsod Chapel, Sugbo Chinese Heirtage Museum, United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bradford Memorial Chapel, University of the Philippines Rizaliana Museum, University of the Philippines Cebu College and Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House.
In Lapu-Lapu City, participating institutions and sites are the Mactan Shrine, Muelle Osmena, Nuestra Senora Virgen dela Regla Parish Church and Plaza Poblacion. In Mandaue City, participating institutions and sites are Mandaue City Presidencia, Bantayan sa Hari, the plaza complex and National Shrine of St. Joseph. In Talisay City, participating institutions and sites are the Liberation Monument National Historical Shrine, Museo de Talisay and Santa Teresa de Avila Parish Church.
For more information, call (32) 418-7234 local 703 and look for Karl Damayo or Florencio Moreno II; visit www.rafi.org.ph or www.facebook.com/rafi.org.ph; or follow @rafiorgph on Twitter.
The Casa Gorordo Museum in Cebu City is an interesting stop of the Gabii sa Kabilin
The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
The FHFI will hold Santacruzans the traditional way to bring back its true meanings
The St. Gregory the Great Church in Majayjay, Laguna, a National Cultural Treasure where a traditional Santacruzan will be held