Thursday, September 3, 2009

Daanbantayan Haladaya Festival 2009

If you had been to many of the Philippine Festivals, you would find the Haladaya as one of the “lesser” festivals in terms of spectacle. But it is (for me) a festival worth watching as it produces champions on the much heralded Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo, reason why headed for it.

The Parade
When I went out of Vince Anthony, I could hear the drums and it meant the parade already started. I knew from asking around that it was to emanate from the grandstand… run around town in a counter-clockwise route… and back to the grandstand for the final showdown. Emerging from the gate of the inn, I headed right in the direction of the grandstand.

Oops, when I got to the corner from Vince Anthony, I could see that on the highway intersection, the front of the parade was already past on its way to the church. No sweat, I did not want to watch over there anyway. So I headed left towards the street by the edge of the sea. I thought that would be a wonderfully cool vantage.

Every house I passed was in a grand fiesta mode where people were feasting over food and drinks. And of course, the blaring karaoke sounds from almost every other house filled the air with a dizzying decibel level of croaking drunks hehe! Well, oh yes, some of the folks I heard dishing songs had good voices and a good grasp of the notes. Others could not even pronounce the lyrics they were reading. Thanks to Tanduay and Red Horse for that!

Chose to perch on a good corner near the sea. Good vantage, less people… and there was a sari-sari store nearby. So, while waiting for the parade, I too (not to be left out) started on SanMigLight! Then it came… first the police car sirens, preceded by some motorcycle-riding officers. Then a big banner pronouncing it was the Haladaya Festival 2009. Finally the various contingents and their floats.

Oh, bad… most of the groups did not seem to like dancing as they passed where I was. Either they were tired or the street was too narrow or because there was less people watching them. I still stood there watching or taking pics. Some of them would even run and break away from their parade positions to buy water or sodas at the sari-sari store. Hmm, at least I saw other groups were well-provided by their organizers. Not sure but I think I counted something like 6 groups in the elementary (school) category and 8 in high school.

Since not all of them were dancing as they passed by me, I could not decide on which one was good or best. I just know (and was fascinated) that they all wore colorful and intricately made costumes and props. Some floats have something like “queens” while almost all had the Datu Daya impersonation. Some were riding the floats, others atop some carts or platforms carried by their co-performers on the shoulders and yet others more were dancing together with their respective groups.

Here are random pictures and some of my comments:

Okay, at least this next group was dancing when they passed by my perch!

Now here is a group of kids where some were dancing and some were not hehe!

=== more pics to follow ===

The Showdown
When all of the parade was gone, I dilly-dallied in my corner watching some sceneries on “life-of-the-day” in the area. Perhaps I should even call it “life-of-the-hour” hehe. Fun watching the “fiesta life” happen at where I was. Then I took a tricycle to the sports complex where the showdown was to happen. I arrived there as the last two contingents were entering.

Fine afternoon and it looked like the town’s younger populace was all at the sports complex. Well, weren’t they? What else was there to see at such an afternoon of the festival anyway?! Entrance was P20 and am sure the town must have collected great sums on that – unless the non-performing school children were free since it looked like majority of the crowd was just them. Hey for a bit there, it felt like I was entering the final showdown of Baguio’s Panagbenga!. It probably is due to the similarity in size of Baguio’s ‘athletic field’ and this sports complex. Listen Iloilo, Bacolod, Kalibo, Dumaguete, Davao, GenSan, etc., you better do it this way! A sports complex is usually more spacious to contain the big crowds.

All groups were in but the program was not starting. Some folks in the audience were getting impatient. As for me, I took my grand time circling the area, watching the performers rest and/or prepare for their final show or watching the general public/spectators. Btw, if you happen to watch next year’s Haladaya… avoid feeling the urge to respond to any call of nature in this sports complex. You will not like it – and am not even going to start describing it! Yuck!

The fireworks company was also setting up their things over at one corner of the field where some of the performers were resting. It was rather too dangerous a situation. People were milling around, many (including me) had lighted cigarettes, and the fireworks tubes, wires, firing mechanisms were strewn just all over the area being prepared. Nothing we wouldn’t like happened, at least!

Hey, this year’s Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo Street Dancing Champions were lined in an L-shaped formation from the sports center entrance towards the stage. I went near and many of them readily recognized me hehe. I chatted a bit, asking them why they were in such a formation, not dancing and what was taking so long. They all said everyone was waiting for the arrival of the governor. Oh Gwen… she is mostly late and its getting predictable. Not good for both PR and Security. This winning group I learned were just guest performers as they cannot anymore join the contest having won the provincial championship.

Then I saw that the Mayor’s group came down the stage and started walking to where I was having chit-chat and pictorials with the champions. We did not have to move as there was space enough for them to pass by. Fact is, these kids were lined so, such that their formation created a big regal path for the governor to enter. Saw that the mayor broke away from his “entourage” and headed towards me. Oh, I did not think he would recognize or remember me hehe. He said “how are you” I said “am enjoying the festival Shimura-Sun”. That’s how I call him – instead of Shimura-san! Some small talk and sirens started blaring. I told him, “naa na imong bisita” and he proceeded to meet those vehicles. Sus, it was just the equally handsome Adel Tamano, an older guy (a congressman?), some other big names I don’t know and a sexy starlet-looking girl I also don’t know. Sun, Inday Malou and the rest of the councilors accompanied all of them via the “VIP Walk” to their respective seats onstage.

And another wait… so I continued roaming around the crowds and ogling at just about anything that invited my curiosity like some performers resting, trying to sleep, retouching make-up and so on. Even saw a curiously interesting scene where a baby was crying and trying to cling back to his mom as he seemed frightened at the person holding him – his father, a performer with a lot of paint on the face hehe! Ahhh hehe, the poor little dear surely did not recognize it was his father!

Then the sirens again, the police and many more SUVs. I knew that must have been Gwen. The mayor and everyone else on that VIP stage trooped down the grounds again to meet their honored guest. I must say that was such a long walk. Tiring or maximum exposure – depending on which side you would like to believe in hehe. Imagine a regular athletic oval… your position/stage is at the side halfway between starting points of the 1500m run and 200m dash. Then your guest arrives at almost midpoint of the 200m dash. So you walk something like just almost half a kilometer just to fetch your honored guest hehe! I wonder why Gwen did not this time do her signature horse ride!

VIPs all settled, the “program” finally started. Speeches speeches and so on. I particularly liked the wicked pronouncements of the mayor that this was the most fantastic holding of the Haladaya specifically stressing that it was under his term as mayor. As the audience laughed and clapped, he was of course quick to follow it with thanking the vice-mayor, yep, his mom, chairman and in-charge of the celebrations – who in the first place started it all back in 2004!

Then each of the groups regaled the crowds with their excellent performances. I was awed really. They were dancing on bare soil and part grassy area which is not at all easy to be doing fast steps and complicated choreography with acrobatics and a lot of big props to be pushed and pulled around. Whoa!

I was on the side though with a not so good vantage. But I enjoyed it just the same even if I had to tiptoe and crane my neck most of the time hehe! The exhibition dance of the Pasigarbo winners was great and I can say really worthy of emulation by all the competing groups. But the final dance (as usual) where all the contingents danced as one group – even as it was already dark – was a real joy to watch. Hundreds of them dancers, their mentors, choreographers and coaches thumping and swaying in one choreographed routine to the tune of ‘One Cebu’. Great, and am sure to the delight of their honored guest – Gwen!

Alright, after winners were announced and the whole crowd awaited for the grand fireworks, I started to slither out of the sports complex. I knew, it would have been a sea of flowing humanity trying to get out of the area after that, so I avoided it by leaving ahead. Saw the fireworks still as I walked back towards center of town.

Overall, a good show!


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