Sunday, February 12, 2012

5th BURIHAN Festival in Barangay Bitas, Tigbauan

photo by Jose de Luna

Situated in the historic town of Tigbauan and about 10 minutes by tricycle from the oldest Catholic Church in Iloilo, the Parish of St. John of Sahagun or popularly known as Tigbauan church is Bitas, one of the more popular barangays in the province of Iloilo. This rural barangay is known for its unique and promising festival inspired by the buri that has played a significant role in the economy of the community.

To show off the Ilonggo creativity and rouse awareness on the uses of buri, the Bitas Burihan Festival Association has given importance to buri by way of Burihan Festival every 11th of February. The event is not only celebrated to conserve and publicize the local tradition of buri handicraft making in the area but also to celebrate the bounty, talent, and beauty of the people of barangay Bitas and give honor and celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the barangay’s patron saint. The festivity is headed by their barangay captain, Hon. Rizaldo F. Ferasol and the festival’s very dynamic chairman, Mrs. Nora Rose T. Tubiano.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the inter-zone tribal dance competition that usually contains scenes with dressed characters as buri reapers clearly showcasing the process on how fiber is extracted from the palm as well as the many useful products made out of the fiber taken from the buri.

Next to the coconut, the buri is widely spread out in the area. It is known as a century plant and is the most majestic, largest and versatile of the Philippine palms.

The buri is of direct importance to people of Barangay Bitas. It is used for everything from its trunk that grows straight and erect from a meter in diameter and 20 meters in height, it yields a large quantity of starch. The leaves are large and fan-shaped and when mature is used for covering tobacco bales or as thatch for houses, while the ribs used for making brooms. The leaf also produces a fiber quite similar to raffia and used in making cloth or strings, and other decorative items. The fiber from the ribs of the palm’s unopened leaves is used in making hats, mats, and baskets.

Many of Tigbauanon villagers, including balikbayans witnessed the festivity in an open field in barangay Bitas. Out of the five tribes joining every year, four groups, namely: Tribu Likyad,Tribu Sasa, Tribu Luknit and Tribu Karatel made it to the tribal dance competition this year with the theme, “Patigayonon ang Madinuagon kag Mainabyanon nga Festival Naton.”

Burihan as a festival is rich in cultural history and tradition. Though it varies in style, but one thing remains the same, the celebration involved music, dance, and a great deal of lively spirit by its people.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ugyon, Miagaowanon! for the 14th Salakayan Festival

Entering its 14th year, Salakayan Festival is celebrated along Miag-ao’s 296th foundation anniversary. This unique community event, highlighted by daily celebratory night of fun kicks off on February 4 with a Fun Run for a Cause and the opening day of the Food Fair; February 5 is the Balikbanwa Day with a Diana, Foundation Anniversary Mass Business Forum and the Balikbanwa Night; February 6 is the Opening of Agro-Trade Fair, Opening Salvo and Vendor’s Night ; February 7 is the Blind Massage Therapy Mission and Barangay Night; February 8 is for the Blind Basketball Showdown; February 9 is for the M.V.S. Class 62’ Golden Jubilee; February 10 opens with the Salakayan Commemoration Day with a Traditional Foot Procession, Salakayan Commemoration Mass, Blessing of Boats and the Fluvial Procession, Larong Pinoy and Sea Games, Sugba-Sugba Festival, Salakayan Re-enactment Cultural Show, an the M.C.E.S General Alumni Homecoming; February 11 is the festival’s centerpiece, the tribal dance competition in the morning followed by the Grand Civic an Float Parade an Tribes’ Night; February 12 caps with the Coronation of Queen of Miag-ao 2012.

This memorable celebration is Miag-ao’s way of appreciating every step of its historical journey and from its modest beginnings way back in 1999.

Miag-ao’s culture and tradition is deeply felt and seen through the high esteem in which its people hold their festivity. The festivity has helped the town foster its own identity in a province where festivals are celebrated almost every month all year round.

The annual dance-drama presentation Salakayan is derived from the local dialect “salakay” that means “to attack.” It depicts the victorious battle waged by the local defenders against the piratical activities and slave-hunting expeditions of the Muslims pirates or Moros---name-calling of Spanish authorities of the Islamic people of Mindanao Muslims with a negative connotation of being pirates, juramentados, repulsive, sinister, and the like.

The Visayan coast had long been harvested by Muslim pirates for slaves. And at the time when most of the Philippines were under Spanish rule, the Muslims of Sulu, while maintaining their independence, regularly challenged Spanish domination of the Philippines by conducting raids on Spanish coastal towns and repulsing repeated Spanish incursions in their territory.

Spanish chroniclers have recorded major slave raids by Muslim pirates or Moros engulfing coastal communities in the Visayas as early as 1590. From a book entitled “Fortresses of Empire,” Jesuit Rene Javellana, a historian recounted that a Muslim warship or the garay is made up of sixty oars that hit the waters at the same time. Averaging from 2,500-3,000, armed raiders enslaved the natives from these Spanish-held territories employing their unique raiding talents using their garays. The garays were manned by Visayan slaves that were bound by ropes to projecting platforms that were built on either side of the vessel that is heading in a bee line for the coasts in the Visayas. Behind these garays were the salisipan or the smaller and lighter crafts that were used to snatch on unsuspecting fishing communities along its rugged shores.

Moros take the able bodied and were brought to the slavers' lairs to join the other captives from other settlements awaiting the long journey south. Those who attempt to flee were either clubbed or killed if they resisted vigorously. Among the able-bodied captives, women and children were preferred because they commanded a higher price in the market in Sulu, Makassar and Java. Once taken into custody, the slaves were then stripped naked and are fastened by a rattan collar around their necks. The captives were then forced to row the vessels. Slaves were sold to work heavily in the fields or negotiated to merchants for other Asian markets. Others were used as household retainers or as rowers of pirate vessels. Slaves who proved their loyalty and converted themselves to Islam were raised in status and often becoming raiders themselves.

The peaceful community of Miag-ao was not spared from the violent incursion that resulted to the burning of their 1st church situated in Barangay Ubos in 1741.

Salakayan Festival is a cultural presentation that highlights the victorious battle waged by local defenders of Miag-ao against Muslim pirates in May 7, 1754. Performers showcase a mock combat dance involving leaping, turning, jumping, kicking and the rolling movements of the natives of Miag-ao brandishing head bolos and spears together with the clashing of shields of fierce Muslim pirates. The festival honors and commemorates the bravery of its ancestors.

Another feature of the Salakayan Festival tradition is the Gigantes parade where huge papier mache figures towering 10-15 feet in height and with bodies framed out from large bamboo or wired cages entertain spectators. Draped in yards of colorful cloth, a man slips under each giant and sees his way through an eyehole somewhere in the giant’s clothes, holding up its torso with a metal or bamboo pole to make it walk. Gigantes commonly depict archetypes of the town. Most popular are historical figures of local relevance. The parade is accompanied by small groups that beat out a rhythm on drums or to the tune of a small marching band. Annually, the Gigantes continues to delight the festival crowd in Miag-ao.

Based on folk history, livelihood and culture, Salakayan Festival is a true reflection of the life of its people. With the annual celebration of the festival, Miag-ao’s culture and history are preserved for subsequent generations. Though a variety of special events are available, generally the festival will leave much to be desired.

Salakayan Festival salutes the town’s significant efforts in fostering goodwill among its people, enhancing and promoting the image of Miagaowanons as hardworking, responsible and dignified workers, and for the greatly contributing to the socio-economic development of the province of Iloilo as a whole.

Empowering Bitas Through Burihan Festival

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