Friday, May 01, 2015

Oneness and Diversity at the 2015 Panaad sa Negros Festival

La Carlota’s Pasalamat Festival performance during the festivals showcase on April 13 2015
When the vice governor of Negros Oriental, Edward Mark Macias headed a delegation to go to Negros Occidental and met its officials, headed by governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr., to discuss mutual cooperation between the two provinces that occupy the Philippines’ fourth largest island, he was surprised to learn that both delegations share the same sentiment about a deeper relationship.
It’s a mutual dream, said Macias to a large crowd gathered for the first day of Negros Occidental’s biggest local festivity, the Panaad sa Negros Festival. That dream is to join the two provinces—“long lost sisters separated at birth,” he described—into one separate region.
Currently, Negros Oriental belongs to the largely Cebuano-speaking Central Visayas region while Occidental to the largely Hiligaynon-speaking Western Visayas region. The division of Negros Island into the two provinces was implemented in 1890. It was not just political and arbitrary. A range of mountains also divide the island, and the provinces belong to two separate ethnic groups with their own unique histories and cultures as well as shared features.
            The idea for the single-island region dates back to the late 1980s just after the Marcos administration. Resolutions have been drafted on the Negros Island Region over the years, and the movement has recently acquired renewed energy. It is believed that making Negros Island a single and separate region will speed up development. The Panaad sa Negros Festival 2015 highlighted this with the theme “Negros: One Island, One Dream.”
While the theme furthered the movement in unifying the two provinces, the festival also featured the diversity and unique qualities of the towns and cities, which make Negros Occidental distinct. This was very much evident in the festival booths, which were made permanent structures in accordance to the initial plan of a one-stop shop for all things Negros Occidental, as well as the festival dances.
The annual Panaad sa Negros Festival is meant to showcase the history, cultures, heritage, industries and tourism of the province and be an occasion to gather Negrenses together as well as entice visitors. Panaad means “vow” or “fulfilment of a vow,” or “panata” in Filipino. The first festival was held in 1993, timed also to celebrate Negros Occidental’s becoming a separate province on April 30, 1901. From being a three-day event, Panaad sa Negros has become a one-week affair. This year, it was held from April 13 to 19.
            The festival began with a mass and the ringing of a bell, announcing the start of festivities and activities, one the early morning of April 13. The week was jam-packed with events and activities, almost all held at the 25-hectare Panaad Park and Stadium in the barangay of Mansilingan in the capital Bacolod City. The sports complex, constructed for the Palarong Pambansa in 1998 and planted with eucalyptus trees, has become home to the festival after being held at the provincial capitol and at the BREDCO Port during the early years.
            The Panaad sa Negros events are the kind that has been de-rigueur in Philippine festivals and fiestas such as the Lin-ay sang Negros beauty pageant, a fun run and other athletic tournaments, agricultural trade fairs, motorcades, etc. Local culture was cultivated in activities such as the Kultura Negrosanon: Paindis-indis sa Binalaybay, a poetry contest; and a rondalla contest. They have a contest on composo, the Hiligaynon ballad, before. The Panaad Bulang, a cock-fighting derby, showed that the culture of cock-fighting is very much alive and entrenched in Negros Occidental communities it is difficult to eradicate. The trade in fighting cocks s considered a top industry here but remaining undocumented.
In recent years, the organic farming movement has been strong and receiving local government support, becoming a prominent part of the Panaad Sa Negros Festival. The Organik Village at the Panaad Park has become one of the attractions during the festival with its own set of activities such as a market of fresh produce, food stalls offering inventive items, seminars, quizzes, all promoting organic farming. This is one of the ways that show that province has already diversified its agriculture and industry. Negros Occidental is still known as the sugar producing capital of the country. In the past, vast tracts of land were dedicated to only one crop—sugar cane—making the province vulnerable to the fickleness of the sugar market. With food security as one of the thrusts of the local government, Negros Occidental is also focusing on vegetables and fruits cultivation, livestock and fisheries. There was a sizable livestock fair that can be very interesting
            But the most interesting attraction was the Panaad Tourism and Agri-Trade Fair and Exhibits, composed of the themed pavilions of the 19 municipalities and 13 cities of Negros Occidental. This fair is one of the best in the country. The towns and cities have their own spaces on which they build their pavilions. It is a combination of a weekend market, a theme park, exhibition spaces, information centers and a tiangge. Here, they showcase agricultural produce, tourism exhibitions, cultural products, local cuisines through makeshift eateries, handicrafts through souvenir shops, etc.
The pavilions can get creative. Calatrava’s is in the shape of cave while Moises Padilla’s is in the shape of a carabao. Toboso’s is the shape of a fish, while Cauayan’s is in shape of a bamboo tune.
The Silay City pavilion is a replica of an old ancestral house, which the city is known for. Inside, it presented an exhibit on the old lifestyles and homes of the prominent families.
The Negros Occidental pavilion, called Balay Kalamay, featured a small exhibit, “Camarin: The Story of the Negros Occidental Sugar Industry” about sugar and the sugar industry, curated by leading tour guide, Raymond Alunan Bayot. The exhibit featured old photographs, equipments, the story on the National Federation of Sugar Planters, the processes of making sugar, etc. It even recreated, on a small scale, the interiors of a home of the so-called sugar barons, complete with authentic pieces of furniture and appliances. There was a fully functioning turntable that can play vinyl records, the oldest if which dates back to the war years, from the collection of the tour guide.
The most popular attraction of the provincial pavilion was an authentic steam locomotive, used to transport sugar cane harvests, donated by the Central Azucarera de la Carlota.
The Bago City pavilion was also impressive. There was a heritage trail that guides visitors through the attractions. One attraction was a fortune teller. The city is said to be also known for manghuhulas, besides from the ancient priest called babaylan, highlighted every year with a festival. A replica of the Kipot Falls proved to be a highlight.
The pavilion of Murcia this year caught the eye with its whimsy and bright colors. Giant pinwheels and candies adorned its yards. They called their exhibit “Enchanting Murcia” enumerating why the town is captivating.
            Crowds of thousands went through the pavilions, feasting on grilled seafood of the coastal towns and cities, checking out the root crops of the upland towns, buying Guimaras mangoes at the Valladolid pavilion, etc.
            By late afternoon, the stadium, which can accommodate about 25,000 poeple in its main grandstand and open bleachers, hosted the showdown of festival dances of the province’s towns and cities. A performance from Bacolod City’s popular Masskara Festival introduced the spectacle of 20 participating local government units that proved to be the highlight of the Panaad sa Negros opening day.
            La Carlota’s Pasalamat Festival, a thanksgiving event for harvest and tribute for workers, presented an exuberant dance with attractive pineapple-inspired costumes to the original beat of the samba. San Carlos City’s Pintaflores Festival dance was a kinetic display of painted bodies and flowers, as the name implies. The Kabankalan City’s Udyakan Festival dance was inspired by the five folk dances of the city. Bago City’s Babaylan Festival emphasized the role and powers of the ancient shamans. Sagay City’s Sinigayan Festival’s dance advocated for environmental protection.
Cadiz City’s Dinagsa Festival, a Santo Nino festival, shared features from other famous Santo Nino festivals including dancers mimicking the Ati. On the other hand, San Enrique’s Bulang-Bulang Festival highlighted its cockfighting with dancers, beautifully dressed like fighting cocks, demonstrated the five movements of the fighting cock—dalagan, tuka, lupad, arigay and bulang.
La Castellana’s Bailes de Luces Festival performance used lights in imaginative ways. With dancers clad in all gold, Sipalay City’s Pasaway Festival performance told about the saway, a piece of copper found in riverbeds and hills, believed to cure ailments and fashioned into amulets to guard against aswangs. Talisay City’s Minuluan Festival celebrated how the early villagers, led by Kapitan Sabi, warded off the attack of sword-wielding pirates from Jolo with only rattan canes.
In Cauayan’s Lubay-Lubay Festival dance, the bamboo was prominently used, while Candoni’s Dinagyaw sa Tablas Festival performance told the town’s history.
Valladolid’s Pasundayag Festival used the steps of its folk dances pasiguin, pamulad isda and salate mais in a dance that celebrated the town’s bounty and patroness Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The dancers of Ilog’s Kisi-Kisi Festival imitated the movements of crabs, fish and shrimps to highlight the province’s longest river.
            History and local culture got enthralling dance-drama interpretations from the rest of the partipants—Manapla’s Manang Pula Festival, Silay City’s Hugyaw Kansilay!, Victorias City’s Kadalag-an Festival, Hinobaan’s Pag-Banaag Festival, and Murcia’s Tinabuay Festival.
            The “festival of festivals” show ended with the Magayon Festival dance of Moises Padilla, considered as the province’s livestock center, depicting the colors and noises of the tabu or weekly market day, encapsulating partly what Panaad sa Negros is—a marketplace but on a yearly basis. But is also a venue for gatherings, celebrating the produce and bounty of the earth that nourish lives and cultures. With an assortment of things, the people are one.   

The lechon, or spit-roasted pig, is a fixture in Philippine festivities. About a hundred lechons were paraded and feasted on during the Panaad sa Negros opening day.

The Livestock and Dairy Fair
The Bago City pavilion
Replica of Kipot Falls at the Bago City pavilion
Fortune teller at the Bago City pavilion
The Negros Occidental pavilion
Exhibit on the sugar industry at the Negros Occidental pavilion

Tour guide Raymond Alunan Bayot curated the exhibit at the Negros Occidental pavilion

A real steam locomotive at the Negros Occidental pavilion

Guimaras mangoes at the Valladolid pavilion

Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Maranon Jr.

Bacolod City's Masskara Festival


Cadiz City's Dinagsa Festival

Cauayan City's Lubay-Lubay Festival
La Carlota's Pasalamat Festival

San Enrique's Bulang-Bulang Festival

Sipalay City's Pasaway Festival

Talisay City's Minuluan Festival

All photos by Roel Hoang Manipon

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