Monday, June 29, 2009

Saving Sangyaw

"Behind the tough Waray exterior is a very generous heart. A Waray invites strangers to his home to partake of food on his table during a fiesta.

I regret having to leave yesterday, the eve of the city’s fiesta, a much-celebrated event in the Tacloban calendar.

But if ordinary Taclobanons are magnanimous, their leaders are petty.

Pettiness is nowhere more evident than in Mayor Alfred Romualdez disallowing the holding of the Pintados, a parade where participants, their faces painted, dance in the streets much like Aklan’s Ati-atihan, last Saturday, three days before the fiesta.

Romualdez did not honor a court order lifting his ban on the holding of the yearly parade.

The parade organizers, however, held the parade anyway in complete disobedience to the mayor’s order.

City policemen, ordered to block the parade, would have clashed with fellow policemen assigned in the province and the regional command who escorted the Pintados revelers, but did not.

Why did the mayor try to prevent the holding of the yearly parade?

Because he had his own parade similar to the Pintados—the “Sangyaw.”

Pintados is sponsored by the provincial governor, Jericho Petilla, whose family is an arch political rival of the Romualdezes.

Politics is supposed to make people magnanimous, but in Tacloban City, it has made a petty tyrant.

The great politician, Daniel Z. Romualdez, once a Speaker of the House of Representatives, a grand-uncle of the mayor’s, must be turning in his grave."

- Petty Politics in Tacloban City by Ramon Tulfo

Nothing like a controversy to spice up an event. My friends and I spent much of yesterday, June 29, sunbaked in the streets of Tacloban (with a few minutes of rain shower as we waited outside the Balyuan Amphitheater) for the Sangyaw Festival. This would be the second year running that Mayor Romualdez is reviving this event.

The conflict between the city and provincial government has somewhat split the fiesta celebration: the Petillas with their own events at the Pintados-Kasadyaan park and at the Leyte Sports Development Center, and the Romualdezes at the Balyuan amphitheater and at the Tacloban Convention Center. During the Ginoong Leyte pageant sponsored by the provincial government, the emcees neglected to mention the big event happening the next day- the Sangyaw, which is an initiative of the city government. In turn, the city-sponsored events also snubbed festivities sponsored by the provincial government.

This is so unfortunate, not to mention embarrassing for both government leaders. They all talk about unity and peace all the time, and yet their actions speak otherwise. The celebrations have been tainted by politics, and political giants joined in to push their agenda: Imelda hinting that Bongbong Marcos might run for the senate, Manny Villar and Senate President Enrile also made themselves visible for the 2010 elections.

Excuse me, but isn't the celebration to honor Sto. Nino? Isn't the whole point of the Pintados-Kasadyaan and the Sangyaw to showcase and enrich the Waray and the Filipino culture in general? With all the fuss going on, we must have forgotten what the events were really about.

In spite of everything though, both festivals were very successful. There were two categories for Sangyaw- the School category, and the "Open category". Nine local elementary, high school, and colleges vied for the championship where the winner will receive 200 thousand, plus more prizes in special awards. The Open Category- with contingents coming from neighboring Naval, Biliran and Basey, Samar- to as far as Isabela in Luzon and Surigao in Mindanao. The first prize for the open category gets half a million.

The Balyuan amphitheater was overflowing with people (another unfortunate consequence of the political rivalry- the only decent place that could hold thousands of people comfortably would be the "grandstand" or the Leyte Sports Development Center, which is under the provincial government, so the Sangyaw was a no-no there), yet most stayed on even during the rain just to watch the performances.

The most noteable were the ones from Isabela, Basey, and Surigao. The crowd went wild with Banigan (Basey, Samar) Festival's complex dance routine which was flawlessly executed, with costumes made entirely of banig (native mat from which the town is known for), and stunts which had the crowd shrieking to no end.

Hands down for me, it was Surigao's Bonok bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival that was the winner. Their metallic costumes shimmered (they had the advantage of being among the last to perform at sundown which upped the drama factor in their routine) as they danced in unison to the drum beats. Their spectacular dance ended with a long banner which said, "Godbless Tacloban" to which the crowd clapped and cheered to.

In the middle of the crowded amphitheater overlooking Cancabato Bay sometime during sundown, I really got to realize how much religion is rooted in our culture as Waraynons and Filipinos in general. I said a silent prayer of thanks and smiled to myself- in spite of controversies and whatever trials we Leytenos face- we gather, young and old, rich and poor, to celebrate and pay homage to our patron who watches over us.


Ming Meows said...

well. thats how dismal philippine politics is

iurico said...

hasta diri natatapos it pataasay hit ihi hit mga napungko ha Tacloban, maluya it kabubuwason hit mga waray.

Thad said...

@iurico: I agree..


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