The mother of all RP festivals
Summer time may be fiesta time, but organizers of different Philippine festivals have already trained their sights on a grander, louder and more colorful festival that is happening outside of their own provinces, and right at the core of Manila on April 26 to 28.
Aliwan Fiesta ’07, organized by the Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC), together with the cities of Manila and Pasay, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, is fastly shaping up to bring excitement up to a whole new level on its fifth year.
Dubbed as the ‘’Mother of All Fiestas,’’ Aliwan ‘07 brings together hundreds of the country’s finest craftsmen, street performers, and amateur models hand-picked to compete in the dance parade competition, float competition, and the much-awaited ‘’Reyna ng Aliwan’’ beauty pageant. A grand parade along Roxas Blvd, will kick off the culmination activities on April 28, starting from Quirino Grandstand and ending in front of Star City, CCP Complex.
"Aliwan represents regional pride which is very important to every Filipino. The beauty of Aliwan is that all contingents are eager to showcase the richness of their hometown’s culture and heritage not only in their area but also to city people, and to the world," said MBC president Ruperto S. Nicdao, Jr.
More than the P3 million in cash prizes, the contingents are after the honor that they will get for being named as the best of the best.
‘’That’s why months of preparation and hard work go into each costume, each float, and each dance, as contingents look forward to competing against their peers for the top prizes. In local festivals, people would already shout ‘A-liwan’ in anticipation of the fact that winning groups will go to the city to compete for the big time,’’ Nicdao shares.
Of course it helps that the grand prize winner will get P1 million; with second and third runners up to win P500,000 and P250,000 respectively. The top 10 finalists will each get P50,000.
In the past, both local and foreign tourists have witnessed along the stretch of Roxas Blvd a 25-in-1 festival that showcases fiestas from the popular Sinulog, Dinagyang, and Panagbenga, to the new ones like the Alikaraw Festival of Hilongos, Leyte, and Pamitinan Festival of Rodriguez, Rizal.
Faisal Monal, artistic director of the Sambulayang Cultural Dance Group of the Kuyog A Sagayan Festival of Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan, hails Aliwan Fiesta for promoting the best of what their region has to offer. The Kuyog A Sagayan is a celebration of thanksgiving through the Maguindanaoan dance sagayan.
"Spectators are enlightened about our beliefs which we express through dance,’’ Monal says.
To make it to Aliwan Fiesta, dancers undergo a stringent process for qualification to the contingent, Monal reveals. They undergo several elimination cycles during various local festivals to determine the 100 dancers, 60 musicians, 90 support staff, and 25 float staff to represent Shariff Kabunsuan. The performers then undergo weekly rehearsals, which increase in frequency in the weeks leading up to the Aliwan Fiesta.
"We were watching the videos of the Aliwan Fiesta 2006, and we realized that we were up against heavyweight contenders," he notes. "’Di na pwede ang basta-bastang performance [we can’t afford to put on just any performance]. It has to be spectacular."
READY TO ROLL
Meanwhile, defending champions, the Cebuanos of the Sinulog Festival contingent, are determined to hold on to the crown.
Norman Navarro, choreographer of the Sinulog Festival contingent, emphasizes that they are putting on an entirely different routine this year. "While we focused on farming last year, this year’s routine highlights fishing. So we have all-new dance steps, and different formations."
"Our ranks number 100 dancers, and our contingent adds up to 200, including instrumentalists, propsmen, and staff. We rehearse thrice a week, but as soon as school’s out for the summer, we will be practicing every single day, to prepare ourselves for defending our title as the ultimate Philippine fiesta."
Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of the Sinulog Foundation, also reveals there will be more props.
Other festivals joining the "Aliwan Fiesta 2007" are the Pakalog Festival of Pasig City; Panagbenga Festival of Baguio City; Sambali Cagayana Festival of Cagayan; Disposorio Festival of Malolos, Bulacan; Paminitan Festival of Rodriguez, Rizal; Boling Boling Festival of Catanauan, Quezon; Pili Festival of Sorsogon City; Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City (Ilonganon and Kahilwayan contingents); Babaylan Festival of Bago City, Negros Occidental; Alikaraw Festival of Hilongos, Leyte; Padul-ong Festival of Borongan, Eastern Samar; Pasalamat Festival of Pagadian City; Zamboanga Hermosa Festival of Zamboanga City; Kalilangan Festival of General Santos City; Padang-Padang Festival of Parang, Shariff Kabunsuan; and Melimud Festival of South Upi, Maguindanao.
Sponsors include San Miguel, Smart Communications, PLDT, Unilab, Western Union, Dunkin Donuts, Super Ferry, Negros Navigation, Sulpicio Lines, M. Lhuillier, and McDonalds.