Friday, August 14, 2009

Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo 2009 Rehearsals

This is still part of the month long ‘One Cebu’ celebrations. I actually did not go to see these rehearsals. I just accidentally plunged into it!

Okay, I visited the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) to see if there’s anything interesting at the exhibits and fairs. Fairly the regular mart that you see held in big places like the Mega Mall or at SMX. Regular meaning I roamed it with such gusto! The booths of each municipality actually ate most of my visit, as they were interesting in terms of design, products, attractions and information. You know… like the travel marts, furniture shows, product showcases and agri-fairs all rolled into one. Hey, all halls had so many exhibits and even at the lobbies of the CICC. After almost the whole day roaming the many booths at three levels of the CICC, I called it a day and started my way out to catch an early dinner at The Park Mall.

But that early dinner did not happen! As I went out of the CICC, I saw some activity at the parking area where a grand stage was undergoing finishing touches. Oh hey, tomorrow’s competing groups were practicing! So I told myself, why not sit in for a while and see how it goes. And OMG it is dead serious!

Groups were doing their blocking sessions and full rehearsals, thus, the place teemed with a lot of people. The bleachers were full with participants waiting for their turn and even a whole lot more of the general public – onlookers like me, some even already armed with their cameras. It is a big big stage since Cebuanos know how huge the stage should be at festivals like these. The audience area is not that big though – but I am sure Cebuanos also know how huge a crowd can get at festivals like these. Then again, there is too little available space here than at say, the sports complex!

Heard a gay voice shrieking on the microphone and it reverberated all throughout the place! So I squeezed myself into the bleachers to see what was happening. Hmm, “Toslob Festival” was in the midst of their blocking session. Looking at them, the first thing that came to mind was “it must be quite a feat to be in the shoes of that shrieking gay”. Imagine, making everything move in the correct order and sequence?! That “everything” usually means hundreds of teenagers and even little children as dancers and crews with usually a lot of heavy props to push, pull, toss or lug around the stage while dancing and running. Yep, in 99.9% of the best festivals in this country, the choreographers, directors and assistants are gay guys. And am sure you’ll agree with me that festivals will be boringly dull without them! They’re just too good in this field.

Anyway, back to the Toslob blocking session. They were trying to mark their positions as the principal director (or is it choreographer?) was far in the middle of the bleachers where the judges will sit. “Okay, block it now aaaand next position, MOVE”! That was the usual bark of the dear sisterette sometimes croaking at the microphone as obviously his throat has had enough of shouting! “You boy in blue, move to the right! More, more aaaand stop! Okay stay there! Arms-length everyone daliii!”; “Riser, wala ka sa centro… ang balwarte wala sa centro… dai dai tarunga daw nang linya diha”; “lee-dancers abante pa gamay”; “kamo diha sa right-side move pa sa tomoy”; and so on! By the way… that phrase “lee-dancers” that I kept hearing actually meant “lead dancers” as I came to understand while I sat there watching and listening.

“Ang mga okir sa left, sikit kaayo mo diha, di na mo katoyok ana, ay suus angat pinoy”! Then everyone laughed! I liked that expression but had to do some extra analysis what all those meant. Ah, the “okir” probably meant “ochre” or "ocre" – those huge lace-like props about 12 to 15 feet high! “angat pinoy” is their way of making the vindictive “tanga” a bit more mild and fun to hear!

“okay, next formation… move”! and everyone rushes to their new positions “one arm, one arm” there he goes barking again, and the kids try to adjust their positions according to what the shrieking boss was saying. Oh there were three or four more gays (probably called assistant choreographers) right on stage also barking commands at the performers. Most of the time these gays were the ones addressed by the boss gay on the microphone.

“okay… exit, exit, EXIIIIIT! Faster, we only have 10 minutes ug naa na ang hinulawan naghulat” came one more shriek! Silence… then in his high gayness he exclaims… “laydish and gentlemeeen, the Toslob sa Oslob” then goes the “Pasigarbo sa Sugbo” theme song and the real dancing starts. Gosh, audience were applauding as if this was their final performance! And yes, I too was silently applauding with goose bumps all over me!

Then in the middle of the performance he shouts “CUT CUT CUT”… the music suddenly dies, everyone stops dancing and silent as if waiting for one more shriek at their mistake. “kamo diha sa left, ayaw mo pag palayo kay dili na balanse sa center stage! Diha ra diha! Tan-awa ang plywood!” Da! Nasuko na gyud hehe! “Okay, gawas, faster, let’s start from the top… “laydish and gentlemeeen, the Toslob sa Oslob”… then goes the full performance! My goodness that was great! I mean this group was/is not even touted as one of the best but for me they were already good!

After the performance, as the audience was applauding, there was one final shriek “dancers gather in that area, propsmen gather in that area, don’t disperse yet, we have a lot to discuss!”

That is how it goes during blocking sessions! After Toslob, I saw that Toledo City’s Hinulawan immediately assumed the stage. And oh my badness, the next shrieking gay even had a more teeny voice that pierced my ears. She (oops… He) started with “standby dancers, we will start with a full performance and then see what needs to be adjusted”. The theme song thundered, the dancing and running started… and of course, the shrieking kept competing with the music! This time, the boss choreographer of Hinulawan was shrieking mad at how off-center the riser was! Yup, I saw that, they were too far to their right! And I said to myself, that’s why they have these blocking sessions. Whew!

By the way, for those not in the know… a “riser” is that stair-like thing that they use so dancers can climb and dance at, to give more depth or drama to the performace. These are most common in Visayas festivals. Risers are heavy and sturdy – have to be since the performers climb, stomp and jump on those.

As I started off to catch dinner, I chanced upon the Toslob choreographer discussing with a festival official. He was saying something like “okay, we will take 1 o’clock”. He was jokingly scolding the official for giving his troop only one practice session in the entire schedule. My inquisitive mind itched again, so I looked at what the official kept referring and pointing at. My golly! At the front of the middle bleacher just behind the ground-level chairs was a big and wide tarpaulin about my height and about 20 or more feet wide. It had nothing but the blocking schedules printed! Whoa! That serious!

If I thought that was very serious for the festival to even have the blocking schedules printed on a tarpaulin, the contents was even more serious it made me swallow a lump in my throat! The schedules can be as early as 5AM and as late (or is it “as early”) as 1AM. OMG! Imagine your children or imagine yourselves being a performer or a crew of these various contingents! All for the show! Wow! All the more that I salute these festival performances, not only at how grand their shows are but also at the patience and hard work they have to endure just to give us a free show! Yeah, I checked it out hehe, Toslob just had the past hour as their “authorized” practice session on stage!

As I walked onwards, I saw that the Oslob troop was busy in some discussions while their big and heavy props were neatly arranged on a part of the parking lot. Many of them were obviously tired at that last practice and I saw that some were even still panting while others were taking deep breaths. Nevertheless, these are mostly kids, so the giggling and joking around is always there. They don’t mind the physical stress they have to muster just to give a good performance. Oh hey, as I overheard earlier, this group is to practice once more later at 1AM.

While the Toledo contingent was busy mastering their moves on stage at the shrieking of their lead choreographer, I saw some props from other contingents all waiting and ready on the sides and performers waiting for their turn to practice on that big stage. There were a lot of buses too. Most of the shirts and props that I could read had “Tabuelan”. I did not see anything that said “Sogod” or “Panagsogod” though I know their blocking schedule was at exactly midnight. And the parade starts at 1 PM tomorrow over near the Mandaue City Hall – which means all of these troops must be there at noon.

My solitary dinner was consumed thinking in admiration at the sacrifices of all these festival performers and crews. Especially for this Pasigarbo sa Sugbo event, the contingents are all towns and cities of the province. Thus, except for the Mandaue group, none of them comes from just around the corner. They come from as far as the northern or southern tips of the island and are usually housed just at elementary or high school classrooms. Only for us to watch them free… and only for them to have that bragging rights for being the “top performer”!

This time, I realized with more sense and compassion that the things they do at these festivals are grueling – and that is if only to ensure that we the audience will enjoy their performances. Who are we anyway?! But that is the way of the festivals in the Philippines… big/heavy props, big groups, big crowds, big applause, less funds!

I now have a different perspective and respect to all who join such festivals, winner or not. My hat off to all of you!


  1. naa ko sa cebu kahapon to shoot the pasigarbo.

    its my second time mag pasigarbo and as always im amzed at their performances.

    the OKIR that you're referring to are those cruves and the like which is normally common in muslim. :)


  2. Thanks for the info Eric. I learned something new! Thanks indeed :)