Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest – Pinamungahan

Still far from center of town, the local tour guide from Pinamungahan joined Tony at the microphone. As of this writing, am still busy deciphering my notes for her name. I know I wrote it somewhere! Like Susan and the rest of the Aloguinsan “local tour guides”, Pinamungahan’s also wore a distinct wear. However, it was not just a colored t-shirt but no less than a beautiful a Filipiniana Dress (of the Maria Clara genre). And she was totally made up! I thought that was exquisitely beautiful but to a fault – meaning not necessary for guiding a tour! Imagine the weight of that dress, the layers, the intricate beads and things attached to it, then you ask her to stand holding/talking to a microphone on a bus speeding on a highway?! I thought, “who were we anyway, we were just tourists, so you don’t have to dress that fancily for us”! Then again, on this tour, I have started to realize that each town really put its best foot forward if only to ensure that visitors do enjoy the brief tour. And enjoy to the max I did! She not only was impressive with her Maria Clara dress but with all the information that she shared. After introducing herself, she went on to describe the many things about Pinamungahan. Thus started another interesting facet of the Suroy!

Pinamungahan is sometimes spelled Pinamungajan. The former is a Filipinized version of the latter which is the ‘original’ Hispanic spelling. It’s like Caloocan now being written as Kalookan. And hey, let me share with you that sometimes… just sometimes… possession of previous historical facts can lead you to incorrectly presume/assume things. It happened to me and here goes…

Hearing that the town’s name is Pinamungahan, I immediately assumed that there was a lot of “bunga” in this place. And I know too that linguistically, all throughout the Visayas and Mindanao – even down to Malaysia and Indonesia, “bunga” is a term that can interchangeably mean either “fruit” or “flower”. So I was not too eager to hear about how the town got its name. I already assumed there were either a lot of fruits or flowers at this place in the past. You know how Philippine vernaculars usually play with verbs to become nouns like Pinaglabanan, Calicoan, Nasipit, etc., that’s it! But when I heard what the guide had to say, my ears flapped in attention! She related that this town became Pinamungajan in the course of time from the original Pinamu-ohan – translation of which means “a worker’s share in the harvest” (or something near that). Well, okay, now I know… probably it was in this place that workers came to divide and get their share of the communal harvest. Hmm, lesson: listen to the tour guide! But am almost apt to contest how Pinamuhoan became Pinamungahan. Just almost hehe, cuz another part of my brain is saying “why can’t you just accept and agree with what they say?!

I was impressed with the barrage of interesting facts from this lady as she seemed to be like a talking tour brochure and an NCSO pamphlet combined! She not only mentioned populations per barangay but also hectares, kilometers, east, west, north, south, shorelines, crafts, number of schools – even vehicles and tons of produce. All I could murmur about was OMG! In fact, when I looked at the brochure she has just distributed, the printed matter contained not even half of what she was telling us! I know she memorized those! But it must have been an effort – just for us the visitors! Then again, she is a high school teacher!

Fantastic Welcome
Our buses stopped near the municipal hall and beyond/inside the big crowd of townsfolk who came to greet us. For me, that alone was already an indication that we were special to them. As each of us alighted, locals wearing green shirts gave us native-woven fans printed with “Pamuhuan Festival” on one side and the town’s name on flip side. Others were on hand to control the crowd and led us to the side of the road across their attractive municipal building. Let’s describe this in better detail…

Side of the road. Yes, it is not just the side of any road but the national highway at that. That’s in front of the municipal hall. They closed it for our visit. While a troop of performers were dancing on the municipal building’s grounds, monobloc chairs lined the other side of the road (across) for us to watch them perform.

Municipal Building. It’s beautiful! I don’t care if they spruced it just for our visit. The color is uniquely different from the many municipal buildings in the country that would either be white or dirty white. Theirs is painted with a mix of orange and pink… am not sure if that is called peach or fuchsia or melon. Just see the picture okay?! And the video! Oh the frontage is a garden with manicured grass, ornamental plants and trees.

Dancers. There must have been a hundred or more of them kids dancing/performing on the municipal grounds. Their movements and facial expressions indicated to me that they did not learn those sequences just a month ago. They were very good. I am inclined to believe that those kids must have been winners from last year’s festival. I enjoyed watching them with their occasional celebratory shouting (okay, I’ll call it ‘cheer’) as they danced. And this they probably did not prepare for… the brightly colored costumes and props actually blended well with the municipal building and foliage! Wow!

Hey, not long after Gwen shook hands with the green-shirted people and extended her hand to children’s foreheads who were there to greet her, another set of green-shirted men came walking to the center of the road (between us and the dancers). They were carrying in their shoulders a cute little bahay kubo (nipa hut) probably good for four to six people to sit in. Then they carefully laid it on the ground and just stood by the sides. I thought that was a nice way to highlight the ‘bayanihan culture’, which is purportedly still existent and one of those traits that the town is proud about. But I didn’t know what was to happen next!

And it happened! The Pinamungahan Mayor invited Gwen to hop into the little bahay-kubo. Gwen obliged and the mayor followed in. Soon as they were seated, the green-shirted men lifted the thing with the governor and the mayor aboard and started heading for the church. Other townsfolk asked us to follow them to the church. We left the municipal hall area with the troop still dancing to the tune of “Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo”! Inside the church was a group of old men (also wearing that green shirt) playing music for us! After the short prayers and photo ops in and around the church, some of the visitors were coaxed by the men to try riding the little hut then they would lift it for photo ops! Really fantastic!

On that road leading to the church was a flea market selling various products of the town and more (including trinkets, beads etc). The foodstuffs were a hit to many of us visitors. Earlier during the bus ride as we approached the center of town, the local tour guide already told us that there is this market encounter in town held every Friday. And today was Friday so we’d be able to see it. This weekly market thing had been a local practice since the olden ages that no one can anymore recall as to specific dates. The fun thing is that the day of the week – Byernes (sp. Viernes) caught up with the folks to become the name of the event. Since it is held every Friday, in the long run, townspeople had been using ‘Byernes’ as the name of the market encounter. Then it even evolved into a verb freely used by the people as in “Mamyernes mo?” (are you going to the market encounter?) and so on.

After roaming the “Byernes”, tour guides asked us to go back to our buses as we were ready to depart! Oh them buses, followed us to the side of the church so we never had to walk back to the municipal hall!

And that was it for pinamungahan? No no no… we were to see that the best was yet to come! Let us talk about that in the next article!


For a chronology of the stories in this trip, click the following numbers:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12


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