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Aliwan Fiesta: A celebration of diversity


Co-written with Manuel D.A. Cordova

Lex Artifex
gladys vilchez

04/27/2008

May, the month of fiestas, is here once more, ushering in a season of merrymaking, pomp and pageantry. Taking center stage is the Aliwan Fiesta, a cultural extravaganza organized by Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in cooperation with the cities of Manila and Pasay, which brings together the best of the best from the various street dancing competitions all over the Philippines to compete on a national level.

More than 3,000 musicians, dancers and acrobats will perform along Roxas Boulevard from Quirino Grandstand to the CCP Complex, gyrating to contemporary interpretations of their local traditions, legends and beliefs. Adding color and pageantry are the participants’ original and innovative costumes that utilize traditional and indigenous materials. Alongside the street dance competition, there will be a float competition that will showcase Filipino craftsmanship and ingenuity. A bevy of pretty muses will also vie for the coveted title of Reyna ng Aliwan.

The popularity of this annual event, which is now on its sixth year, is shown by the number of participating regions, literally from Aparri to Jolo. This year’s fiesta will be on May 1 to 3.

Metro Manila will be represented by Pasig City’s Pakalog Festival, anchored on the native delicacy called bulig, and Navotas’ Pangisdaan, which celebrates the city’s basic industry and the different phases of its livelihood development program.

Baguio City’s immensely popular Panagbenga will showcase its myriad blooms, while the Mountain Province will present the Lang-ay Festival of Bontoc, which emphasizes the breakdown of barriers as indigenous practice merges with modern-day traditions in unifying the community.

Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival will pay tribute to the hard-working Ilokano in the context of panagdaklis or fishing as livelihood. Angadanan, Isabela, in turn, will feature its Gakit Festival.

Showcasing the artisans of Hagonoy and the Bulakeno’s mien for lyricism in its art forms will be the Desposorio Festival. And as residents of Catanauan, Quezon, present the wild revelry of the Boling-Boling Festival, the Bicol region will express religious fervor in the Penafrancia Voyadores and Pilgrims Festival of Naga City.

Participants from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, will blend dance and drama in presenting the legend of Princess Nabingka in the Pinta Flores Festival. Iloilo will field two entries – the Sa-ad Festival of Leganes, which is based on the miraculous deeds of San Vincente Ferrer, and the highly acclaimed Dinagyang Festival, which features the aboriginal tribes’ offering to the infant Jesus.

This worship of the Santo Nino, which prevails in many parts of the country, will likewise be shown in Midsayap, Cotabato’s Halad Festival, along with Cebu’s two-part pitch of the Sinulog, as interpreted by defending champion Lumad Basakanon, and the contingent from the municipality of Carmen.

Not to be outdone, Leyte will likewise present two entries — the Alikaraw Festival of Hilongos, which expresses the fervent religious devotion of tribesmen who have learned to co-exist with their environment, and the Buyogan Festival of the town of Abuyog, which will bring to life the mystical bees of the magical fairy Opayda.

Ecological concerns also comprise the theme of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay’s Bakhawan Festival, which will draw public attention to the role of mangroves in protecting the community’s marine resources.

The Shariff Kabunsuan Festival of Cotabato City will be a grandiose portrayal of how the city was introduced to the Islamic faith. From the province bearing the shariff’s name, the town of Upi will present the Meguyaya Festival, which highlights their ritual traditions prior to beginning the work cycle. Sultan Kudarat will display its opulent coronation rites in the Kang’Gelal, while Parang will present its Buklod Festival as a show of unity and peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians.

From Mamasapano, Maguindanao, will be the eternal story of ill-fated love and a community’s quest for peace in the Kalilintad festival. And finally, from Lamitan, Basilan, will be the Lami-Lamihan, a joyous festivity showcasing the skill of their master weavers as the Yakan chieftains gather to preserve and propagate their cultural heritage.

Since fiestas provide excellent opportunities to celebrate Filipino craftsmanship and ingenuity, the Aliwan Fiesta will also feature a float competition that will feature local folklore and indigenous traditions from various regions all over the country. Float designs will make use of local textiles, decorative mats, and basketry in vibrant colors, all bearing distinct regional imprints of master weavers. Agricultural produce and flowers will also be used as accessories and raw material for the floats.

To kick off this year’s Aliwan Fiesta, MBC is organizing “Pasakalye,” an inter-scholastic dance competition in line with the grand street party on May 1. Various schools have been invited to form groups that will interpret dance tunes currently enjoying airplay on MBC stations. MBC is also mounting a photography competition, which carries the theme “Sayaw, Padyak, Indak.” The contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers, using digital or film-based cameras.

As tribute to the men, women and children who have shaped Aliwan Fiesta into the grand celebration it is today, MBC commissioned cultural affairs specialist Susan Isorena-Arcega to document the festival’s first five years by sifting through the myriad pictures taken by various photographers, and compiling them into a volume that captures the essence of the Filipino fiesta.

In the book Aliwan Fiesta: Celebrating Life In These 1,707 Islands, Arcega takes readers on a journey throughout the archipelago, touching on the Pinoy’s festive psyche, developing a multi-pronged treatise on what festivals are rooted in, and dwelling on aspects of cultural heritage as seen through dance and craftsmanship. Photographs by Josaias de la Cruz, Joey de Leon and Rico Gonzales provide the stunning imagery, which were ably laid out and digitalized Adrian Arcega.

Indeed, the Aliwan Fiesta is a celebration of the diverse cultures that can be found in our county’s 7,107 islands, highlighting the ebullient, fun-loving Filipino in his many incarnations. As MBC president Ruperto S. Nicdao, Jr. says, “Few nations in the world can compare with the diversity of culture and the arts found in the Philippines.”

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N.B. Press information and photos are courtesy of Manila Broadcasting Company

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