Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest – Tabuelan

Tabuelan was the last of seven towns in the itinerary of the Suroy. What a grand finale!

On entry to the first barangay alone, we were already awed at how Tabuelan handled this leg of the tour. So the local tour guides in costume joined our bus and started the briefer – just as it was in all towns we visited anyway, right? But hear this… motorcyclists in the hundreds, sporting their uniform color per club came to fetch all the vehicles in the convoy! Wowowow! Each group of about 30 to 40 (I think even more) motorcycle riders would position themselves in formation, front each bus van or car and move forward like we were in a grand parade! Whew! Sirens incessantly sounded from police cars and motorbikes. Children in their festival costumes performed on both sides of the highway while residents and students waved with flags to welcome us!

There was even some unnecessary logistics like making the opposite lane of the highway stay at a complete halt as we passed. And that was a good many kilometers yet to our first stop in town! I asked one of the local guides why stop all vehicular traffic just for us to pass. She smiled and said (in English) “timing of your tour and the performances is very crucial”. She even jokingly added “we were expecting you an hour ago, you seem to have enjoyed too much at previous towns we were starting to worry you might not come to see us. Laughter in the bus! I think that laughter was a sigh of relief that we finally arrived.

Now reflecting on the many things we saw, if I were the mayor or even just part of the organizers in the Tabuelan leg, I would already have fretted (probably fainted) in anxiety as to why the suroy guests were more than an hour late. Time per se was actually just fine since this was the last leg and if I was the Tabuelan organizer, I can ask the guests to leave at midnight going back to the capitol. However, the whole Tabuelan show made use even of the sun and the sunset. If anything got too delayed no one can reverse the setting sun and things may have had to be adjusted. Reflecting again, I think they may have done some quick fixes due to our late arrival. But whatever those were, I still say it was such a grand finale full of the unexpected, and truly commendable indeed!

Alright, back to our tour! Before the town proper, we headed left to a beach from the highway. I think that was Barangay Maravilla. The vehicles stopped at the edge of the water, a white sandy beach where there is a plaza, beautiful public areas, basketball court and some barangay offices. Children in colorful costumes portraying various sea creatures lined at the sand area dancing. Over at the shallow portion of the sea (about waist deep) were seven bancas facing the shore each carrying a big letter that spelled W E L C O M E! All these with the softly lit afternoon sky and the deep blue sea as backdrop. OMG that was really grand! Goose bumps, goose bumps! I noticed that guests literally excitedly ran for the sand and started a shootout with all available digicams, videocams and phonecams. I was thinking this was the grand show and we’d surely head back to the bus for our next stop. So I took some shots too. But, I was wrong and I was surprised.

The performing children faced to their left (or right) and started moving towards the far end of the beach. First I thought it was just routine formation and that in a while the performers up front will turn back and the whole troop would be dancing again in front of us. But it did not happen. It looked like they were exiting towards the other end of the beach and it was over. Hey, I was not alone in this observation, okay?! Proof is, all my tour mates started clapping as if to say thanks for the grand show. There were even some whistling and shouting to applaud the children. But alas, something was not right hehe!

Just as we stood there clapping and taking our last shots of the colorful performers, the guides and marshals asked us to follow the children on the beach. Without waiting for any second invitation, we jumped to and merrily walked on the fine sand! Wherever we were going and whatever was to happen, I did not care anymore. With the rhythm of the drums from the performers, I just thumped on the sand with my bare feet, shoes on my left hand and camera on my right! Now it was already like a parade, a streetdance! We were in a parade by the white sandy beach! Oh wow! And OMG, I noticed the seven bancas were also moving with us! So the W E L C O M E spelled at sea was still there as background of the performers. Whoa!

By the way, that was probably some hundred or so meters of sandy beach that we paraded upon… perhaps even two or more. But who cares about distance when happily walking on a beach? Sus, I have walked from Discovery Shores up to beyond the D’ Mall on Bora and I think it can never be less than 5 kilometers! Plus on this Tabuelan beach, I was not just walking… I was in a parade! Yey! Our walk was a merry mix of us the tourists, local residents, the military, the local guides, local officials, Gwen and virtually everyone! It was a free walk with no rules on who precedes who!

As we moved along, we noticed costumed children sitting upon the beach. They were just there in restful poses and not talking or giggling as boys and girls would normally do! OMG, it was a tableaux! They were there to accent the big paintings installed with standees on the sand, highlighting the history of Cebu. Goose bumps again! What a grand sight! Of course, they obliged to the pictorials when asked to smile or asked a question or two. Otherwise, they just all sat where they were. That was their performance! Great show!

After the long jolly walk, I easily guessed we were arriving at some end of the parade because a sea of bubbly young girls also in festival costumes met each one of us to offer us leis. Oh, those were not your ordinary leis or garlands. Those are actually cotton shawls niftily folded lengthwise to a nice width and tucked with a clam shell painted with a panoramic farm scene and the name Tabuelan! Ingenuously ingenious! Where were we anyway?!

Aha, we arrived at the beachfront garden and play area of a simple but beautiful resort. Singers perched high up on the second level of what seemed to be a big round house regaled us with Visayan songs. My bad, I cant remember the name of that resort and the name of the singers. But they were good! And the Tabuelan organizers really knew what they were doing cuz as we all arrived at that place, bottled water, iced-tea and sodas were on offer for those thirsty after the long walk hehe! And yes, tables lined one side of the area with all the kakanin from this town. So there we were… eating again!

After some welcome remarks from the local executives, the children performed for us a sampling of the Sandagat Festival of Maravilla. What a view! Children performing on the white sand and on a stage with the fantastic dusk view of the sea and the sky as their backdrop! Hey, I did not realize there is such a thing as “Sto Nino Sa Dagat” and that is what the Dinagat Festival is all about! Oh okay, the performers were not just children but included even some of their moms and dads.

As the performances on the beach went and darkness started to creep in, a group of fire dancers suddenly appeared over at the knee-deep part of the sea! Whew! An exhilarating view! Those guys and gays swishing fire by the water at dusk was such a nice visual treat. And yes, behind them were the “WELCOME” boats. I liked it that even the performers themselves were watching in awe while their co-performers did their routines. And yes, not only us were armed with cameras but so were the children and parents performing for us. Hey some of them even came up to me for a photo-op! Oh di ba?!

After the spectacle, performers did their “street-dancing” again, this time headed towards where our buses were parked. And we were asked to follow them. Of course I already knew that was a signal it was the end of the afternoon and sunset spectacle by the beach. I noticed though that everyone walked slower this time! Maybe all were silently saying “we don’t want to leave yet”? Or maybe we all just wanted to savor more of the interesting atmosphere on the beach. Ah, as I walked, the sweet lovers Duke and Christina were in front of me enjoying the stroll on the sand as they clung to each other. Hmm, very sweet and they had better be since they are going to wed on August 8!

Back on the bus, Tony was still his same jolly royal gaynessh! And he exclaimed, “if you will please allow, we are on our way to our final meal of the tour” and everyone laughed. The convoy made its way to the center of town and parked in front of the municipal hall interestingly perched on a hill overlooking the plaza. And we had to climb down some steps to catch dinner!

OMG how many children does this town have? As we descended from the city hall, a group of teeners was busy beating drums just by the foot of the stairs and it set everyone to some kind of dancing mode. I thought that was just it, like the drummers over at Toledo City as we partook of the evening snacks yesterday. But when we turned left to enter the plaza, my goodness, there was another sea of children dancing for us. That was not it… I saw that over near the stage were also many kids busily getting ready for a performance. And I recall there were children dancing for us along the streets and highway earlier. I think virtually all the boys and girls of Tabuelan participated in entertaining us!

The plaza was brightly lit and as if fenced on the sides by long buffet tables! Just looking at them tables was already an indication that there was more food than all of us the suroy guests needed. So I asked one of the usherettes why so. Her reply was that the town’s officials and some guests would join us in the dinner. I still thought there was too much food prepared. Oh usherette I said? Yes yes, acting as waitresses or assistants during the dinner were another set of lovely young ladies who wore the same Filipiniana dresses as those girls who welcomed us with the leis over at the beach. If they were the same cute giggly ladies, well, there were just too many of them too!

Dinner? I don’t want to dwell on describing them as am sure you got the drift. If food was aplenty wherever we went, then this final binge cannot be any less, right? And OMG Tabuelan wickedly knows how to be different! I found it cute that they placed the lechon in pairs! At various parts of the buffet tables, when I looked for lechon, them shiny delectable pigs laid side-by-side as twins hehe! Real cute! Oh, I got only on the “panit”, a plateful of it, plus bottles of coke and mangoes! The “problem” here was that the lovely troop of youngsters kept roaming all the tables asking if any of us wanted anything more. “Do you want more mangoes sir?” or “Do you want more drinks sir?” or “How about more lechon, talaba, shrimps?” ahh!

Here is what not to do during the suroy suroy sugbo… when one of the girls asked a tour mate if he wanted more food, the reply was “I am already full, can I just take them home?” I knew he was joking. The girl politely said she will check and no sooner returned with a plastic bag and a stypopack asking him what he liked to take away. Our eyes all widened in disbelief. Then I took the courage of telling her that the man was just joking and don’t bother packing anything for anyone. Now, that is not a joke to do… never ever say that you want to take the food home for indeed, these gracious hosts can oblige! However, that would be too crass of you as a guest, wouldn’t it be?

Alright, as dinner went, there were the usual welcome remarks from upstage and of course, the performances. The town regaled us with historical dances and music of Tabuelan and Cebu. The highlight was a sampling of the Ani-anihan Festival performances. Fantastic! Oh oh… as the vice mayor spoke, tiny little droplets of rain came – and he even said, I will not make this long as it seems the skies are not going to be as cooperative! More performances… the fantastic fireworks… and it started to drizzle lightly! We inched to our buses, and I know there was supposed to be more performances. But the skies were acting up.

Well, as we headed out of Tabuelan, you guessed it right… a very strong rain fell upon us that the bus had to sometimes go slow due to visibility problems. It was like Balamban all over again… there was thunder and lightning and drops of rain tapped on my bus window. Unlike in Balamban though, the skies were a bit more cooperative in Tabuelan hehe. At least they were able to serve dinner and able to showoff their great performances and fireworks before the damn villain of a rain came forth! Whew!

Oh well, Tabuelan… I shall return! Why? Because the beaches there are too inviting and the Ani-anihan festival seems to be fantastic!


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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