Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toledo City

Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest – Toledo City

It was a similar entrance as the previous locality… Toledo’s local tour guides joined us at the very first barangay of the city. I call them the “yellow people” as they were wearing yellow t-shirts. As the male local guide did his piece, yellow ladies distributed “loot bags”! Now I was starting to feel like I would be going home tomorrow grander than an over-adorned Christmas tree! The bag contained a sun-visor made out of some part of the coconut tree; a foldable big map with the city’s information on the reverse side; a souvenir-invitation to four events happening in the city that day; and a brown paper bag containing two colors/flavors of the city’s famous “puto lancho”.

Hey, every neck alighting from the bus was readily embellished with a necklace made of little seashells with no less than a mother-of-pearl pendant! I do not want to call it a “lei” or “garland” as indeed it beautifully looks like an outsized necklace. And, mine now hangs on a wall in my bedroom!

More yellow ladies and men assisted and escorted us as we walked to the church while festival costumed children lined both sides of the road dancing for us. How cute… a group of little children from the “lingap center” wearing white t-shirts was at the church stairs to welcome us. Some of them (the younger ones) even wore angel costumes. I guess that “lingap” thing is a pet project of the governor since she and all of them were quite enthusiastic to meet each other and it looked like this was not their first meeting! I’ll browse more on that but I guess those kids were orphans. Hmm, Toledo has a big wide church by the way! And airy too!

After the church, each of us were invited to ride pedicabs called trisikad with uniformed drivers in white t-shirts and red neckerchiefs! I asked where they were taking all of us and the excited reply was to the plaza. These trisikads btw are different from the common tricycle or pedicabs you see mostly everywhere. They have rather small cabs and use little BMX Bikes to propel the whole thing. I hesitated thinking I did not want to be cramped in there and the yellow ladies noticed that but quick to advise me that the plaza was just two corners away anyway. And so, some of us walked. I think I enjoyed more of the children’s dancing along the side since I walked. Those who rode the trisikads will have had only a swift view of them. I liked those kids with a lot of gold (colors) in their costumes. They would even stand on those cylindrical golden backpacks that they were wearing!

What a welcome!
OMG again! As each guest (that’s us hehe) arrived in that big plaza, they were “paraded” right across the middle for everyone to see, heading towards the stage! Now good for those who rode on the trisikads since their crossing of the plaza encircled by thousands of spectators were just a few seconds of the limelight. But three of us who arrived last and were walking had to tread the entire expanse while everyone looked, waved or clapped. It was a bit awkward for us to be watched as if we were celebrities.

Maybe we over-enjoyed shooting pictures of the performers along our way since it appeared that they were just waiting for us. Even Gwen was already merrily perched on her seat at center of stage. On our arrival at the foot of the stage, the ceremonies immediately commenced. The yellow people escorting us hastily motioned for us to occupy some of the many vacant seats upstage. When I asked why, one of them told me “those seats are really for you the Suroy Suroy guests, but many of your companions are too shy to come up here so they filled those seats below which we even only readied for spillovers”! Another one added “some of them even grabbed seats from up here so they could sit down there”. Ah the stage had the best view of the performances… so the hell I cared if I seated with the provincial commander and the nun who is head of one of the schools in the city! I was rightfully one of their guests anyway hehe!

And we watched the whole program – the final showdown of the 2nd Hinulawan Festival! What a grand competition… what a grand showdown!

Just the second of such festival in the city and the performances were already too expert. Probably those contingents had been constant participants of Cebu City’s Sinulog since their moves are at par. The costumes, props and performance levels would make you think you were watching the Sinulog Finals itself!

Aside from the group performances, there was another contest – the best festival queen and festival king or something like that. Yup, you guessed it, these were the frontliner guys and gals who carried the image of their patron saints as they danced.

I particularly liked the portion when all of the city’s officials went down to dance with all the competing groups in such a big big unison of dance to the tune of “Mabuhi Ka Sugbuanon” (I think that means Mabuhay Ka Cebuano a.k.a Long Live Cebuano). Very apt to the song, they were all dancing as one group and the hundreds of them filled the whole plaza. Different groups, different costumes, one dance! You get the message, right? And one of the city officials came up to grab the dear governor who gamely danced with all of them. Get the drift this time? That means… in this entire province let anyone hear that tune and they’d be dancing the very same steps and movements! AS of this time, I observed they do this to already 3 songs - One Cebu, Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo and Mabuha Ka Sugbuanon. Let those tunes play anywhere on the island and the dance steps will be the same. That’s wonderful indeed!

Okay, judges perched on an elevated row of the stage behind us gave their verdicts and winners of the various categories were announced. We had a good vantage on “the joys of winning” and the “dignity in defeat”! The whole city seemed to be rumbling even if it was just the 3rd prize being announced! Of course, not only the performers but also even the audience, supporters and spectators shrieked, thumped and jumped as their favourites were declared winners!

It was obvious the program was not yet done after announcement of winners. However, there came the almost unwelcomed announcement from the lady emcee that had us suroy suroy guests started moving. It came something like this: “Suroy Suroy guests, please stand and start moving to your next activity… our guides and marshals will accompany you to that area at right and behind the stage… you have a schedule to follow…” [laughter].. Then she enjoined the whole audience to give us applause as a sign of gratitude for our visiting! As we slowly filtered to where we were herded, emcee was still saying something like “you are not leaving our city yet but you better move or you’ll be sorry” [laughter from the whole city again]. Then as we went away from the plaza, we overheard the emcees titillating the audience that the show was not over as there was to be some kind of a concert by artists (singers/actors) from Manila.

Another grand welcome – a heavier merienda!
We were moved to the city’s new seaport area and OMG again… FOOD! This is probably why the lady emcee said we better get moving or be sorry! I agree with her! What a super fantastic setting! Welcome drink was a fresh mango or orange juice… Sunset… dusk… and the port area was converted to become a huge banquet for all of us the suroy suroy guests. We all knew that per schedule dinner was to be had at the town of Balamban but in front of our bulging eyes was bigger than a big wedding reception! Golly!

The style here was some kind of an afternoon barbecue. By the waterfront outside of the passenger terminal were all the tables dressed as you would see at wedding receptions. On the sides were erected a lot of little nipa huts to serve the buffet. One nipa hut per food-group and that repeats many times from one end of the port to the other! Really grand! On the water were a number of boatmen (some were young boys) just rowing about in little bancas that could fit only one person each! They were such a dear sight with their boats slowly moving in straight-line formation amidst the calm waters. And at such a time where sunlight was grappling it out with darkness. What a splendid view of the sea and the sky!

I won’t be good describing the food since I barely touched anything (asuuus… plastic hehe). I’m only human so I cannot have the intestines of an elephant okay?! There was kinilaw and every kind of fish cooking you can imagine. I tasted fried and some with coconut milk. Everything “skewerable” was there. The native chicken barbecue was a hit! Yes, I was full but had to sample at least one stick. It tastes better than the common chicken, I agree. There was every kind of rice cake and other delicacies of the city. My mouth was salivating for all those root crops in different kinds of cooking but my stomach was adamantly saying enough enough enough!!! There were different kinds of vegetables and there were even seaweeds (lato?). And yes there was a lot of lechon you’d think a whole piggery was roasted just for us! I know there was a lot more but at about this time, I was starting to feel like I did not want to see anything food no more! Oh okay, I could not help but touch the shrimps and the crabs but was too full for the squids. Argh! Coke, Sprite and all their cousins were generously represented at every table and some of the hosts roamed the place to serve some kind of a local wine. I stayed with Coke hehe! I thought I already had a mango overdose for the day, so I bit into some slices of pineapple and banana. Lastly, yes there was rice and puso… yet this was called a merienda! Ahhh!

I will not forget to tell you that ever since we arrived at that place until we were gone, there was some percussion group playing Jamaican/Caribbean rythms that all the more made this early evening experience unforgettable. Their kind of music made the dinner (ooops, okay merienda!) a really classy affair! And the rhythms went on to accompany the fireworks that happened when everyone was about done with the bounty of food – which was also timed to be part of the concert over at the plaza where fireworks was to be one of the highlights!

Okay, as the concert at the plaza went on, we headed out of the city to the next and final destination for the day… Balamban. Oops, we changes buses here from the provincial buses to the yellow Ceres Tours - guide was strict for us to take exactly the same positions hehe! So now all the four buses were yellow :) But the Toledo City sights were not over just yet! OMG! They knew and planned for the time we’d be passing by anywhere! It was already dark so every street or road we passed was lighted with torches on both sides and most of the townsfolk who did not go to see the concert were out waving at us! Yep, tour guide admits, all those were made just for us to enjoy our way even at night! Eat your hearts out you thousands of controversial lampposts over at the cities of Lapu-lapu, Mandaue and Cebu! Toledo’s was infinitely better! Wowowowow!!!

And then it rained :( But good we were already on the bus cruising towards Balamban. Mind you, Toledo’s local tour guide even had to apologize that it was raining so not all the torches were lighted. I wanted to say… Hello, no need to apologize ‘no, it’s not your fault the clouds were acting up tonight! That part pricked my heart a bit and it only showed that they were really bent on giving a great show even up until we exit the city! Some people even still popped at their windows and doors avoiding the rain but yes, waving at us! Kudos to whoever planned all those!

Oh well…

This Toledo visit was truly splendid I cannot help but take note of the finer details of the planning that went into it.

Great Orchestration
As I stayed mesmerized with every group performance, I happened to have deduced that every step from our arrival down to the fireworks and the torches were “choreographed” and very expertly organized. Here are some observations:

The trisikads ensured that the Suroy Sroy guests (that’s us) did not linger too much and were brought to where they (that’s us again hehe) should be where the reserved seats had better vantage.

Performers lined the streets to ensure that no guest went the wrong way and out into the crowds – as indeed the place was packed to the hilt!

Those kids did not just line the roads as they pleased! Their positions actually meant they would later enter the performance area in succession! So, those who were lined nearest the plaza were actually the first group to perform in the showdown. Conversely, those kids lined near the church were to be the last performers.

Here is more…

The participants have already regaled the city previously with their street dancing. It was clocked to finish at the time of our arrival from Pinamungahan. Their enthusiastic and sincere welcome as we passed the roads was actually a time they were awaiting their cue-in for the final showdown! That must have been a quirky feeling... you know, the jitters before a performance… Yet they looked like just having fun welcoming us! Great kids!

Someone in Toledo City must have spent some nights computing minutes and seconds! The final showdown was staged such that announcement of winners (meaning after everything in the event has happened) the Suroy group would move to the “snack area” at a precise time in sync with the Suroy schedule.

That computation of minutes and seconds must have extended well into guessing how long we the Suroy guests would take in terms of devouring food. On top of that, he/she must have counted all the expected talk-time and performances over at the plaza such that when the fireworks blew, it appeared to be part of two separate events – 1) our grand merienda buffet at the pier and 2) the concert itself at the plaza! Golly what a commendable work!

Still on the minutes and seconds… they must have worked back and matched everything that was to happen with the time the sun was to set. The timing was so astoundingly impressive! We the Suroy guests arrived at the pier area at a time where the views were grandest. And I never sensed anything like someone had to rush anyone or cut corners just to ensure the time element of all activities were observed!

Four Events
Lastly, here were the four events Toledo was celebrating:
1. The 111th celebration of Philippine Independence Day
2. The City’s thanksgiving Day
3. The 2nd Hinulawan Festival; and
4. The Toledo Segement of the Suroy Suroy Sugbo (that’s us ye ye yeah!)

Well, the local tour guide told us many things that I cannot help but promise I must be back in Toledo soon! Yes Toledo City, I will be back with my friends! PROMISE!


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

1 comment :

  1. I found this great review that lists the 10 best restaurants in the Philippines… I’ve been to many of them and the food was incredible! Check out the review here: http://www.petaasiapacific.com/action-alerts-item.asp?id=2307&c=pappvrpro