Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exploring Oton’s Rich History through KATAGMAN Festival

The municipality of Oton will celebrate its 439th Foundation Day Celebration and the 10th KATAGMAN Festival on April 28-May 3, 2011.

History and archaeology combined dramatizes the richness of Oton’s culture. The town takes pride of being the gateway of Christianity, along with Cebu and Manila, since it was also the focus of Spanish colonial domination. These beliefs gave meaning to the celebration of Katagman Festival. Katagman was the old name of Oton under the leadership of Datu Paiburong long before the Spaniards came.

the old Oton Church, photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

It was recorded that Miguel Lopez de Legaspi brought knowledge of Spain to Ogtong (now Oton) in 1566. They settled in the area where it became the center of administration of Iloilo. It was an era of great artistic endeavor and a place as an area of power at the heart of the region.

The town also expresses their pride as a once flourishing Malay Port (somewhere near the Batiano River) where regular trade and cultural contacts already existed even before the coming of Spanish authorities in the country. Written records reveal that Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics found in the Oton tell the story of how the town forged social and commercial ties with China and its neighbors. Trade between China and the Philippines was firmly instituted with the discovery of Chinese porcelain trade items from our coastal towns. In the 1960s anthropologists Alfredo Evangelista and F. Landa Jocano excavated in Barangay San Antonio in Oton and found a death mask made of very thin gold with one piece used to cover the eye and the other piece placed on the nose. Pre-Spanish ceramic trade wares had also been retrieved. Golden necklaces and other semi-precious stones were also recovered. It was the practice of early people especially in the Visayan areas to put a death mask on the chieftain. Being the one who is the most powerful, when he dies he would be buried with ceramics because, according accounts, there is a possibility of being accepted in heaven. The skeletal remains and burial items could help determine the people's level of wealth or power in society.

Katagman Festival is designed to be an educational learning experience, in which the people of Oton learn methods that improve their leadership skills, while enjoying the entertainment through the annual street dancing and music, dance and theater competitions with fellow performers. It also provides spectators with an opportunity to explore area’s rich history. The performance displays the dancer’s succulent athleticism and an ethereal movement range based on theater.

The previous celebrations proved a success, and with the help of the local government of Oton, headed by their municipal mayor, Hon. Vicente B. Flores Jr. and the generous support of many concerned groups in the community, Katagman came into being as an annual event.

Held annually since 2002, festival attendance has grown. The Katagman Festival celebration kicks off on April 28 with the Opening Salvo Mass and Parade along with the Opening of the festival with a Pasundayag of the seven participating tribus, Opening of the Agri-Fair, Garden Show and OBOP (One-Barangay-One-Product Sale and Exhibit, and the Opening Exhibit of Memorabilias de Alcaldes; April 29 is set for Laro ng Lahi, Search for Ginoong Erpat and Ginang Ermat; April 30 will delight sports enthusiast with their Fun Run, Airsoft Competition, Fishing Tournament, Exhibition of Remote-Control Flyers, Borador sa Katagman and the Awarding of Outstanding Ogtonganons and Young Achevers; May 1 welcomes everyone with Porma Balas, Motorboat Race, Awarding of Winners for the Fishing Tournament and Live Band; May 2 is for the On-the-Spot Painting and Drawing Contests and FITS Day; May 3 highlights the 439th Foundation Day Mass, Street Dancing and the Music, Dance and Theater Competition.

Oton is a first class municipality in the province of Iloilo. It is politically subdivided into 37 barangays. It is 11 kilometers south from the city.

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