Tuesday, April 3, 2012

10th BANTAYAN Festival in Guimbal

Philippines history would tell us that series of wars between Spanish authorities and the Moros lasted over several centuries starting 1500s till the 1800s. And that Spain initiated the conflict by conquering the Philippines and invading Moro territory in an effort to subjugate the region to their rule. And because of this, Moros raided and pillaged Spanish towns in some islands in the Philippine in retaliation for Spanish attacks, and terrorized the Spanish invaders with their constant piracy. It was said that Moro attacks were so persistent and successful that in many of the Visayan towns, almost half of the inhabitants were killed or enslaved. What motivated the Moros to wage war with Spanish authorities was to weaken Spanish capabilities in attacking Mindanao and Sulu.

Many fortifications and watch towers were made around Panay to protect island from rampant Moro attacks. In Iloilo, the construction of numerous coastal watchtowers locally known as Bantayan in the northern and southern areas form part of a system of communication where each tower, placed at intervals along borders, was in sight of the next in the line, and a simple system of signaling was used between them.

A Bantayan is a type of fortification used primarily for military purposes. It is commonly a freestanding structure with the purpose of providing a high and safe place from which a sentinel or guard may observe the surrounding area.

Forced labor was employed in the construction of these watchtowers. In Iloilo, most of the stones used were quarried in the mountains of Leon and Alimodian. Churches were even constructed to serve as fortresses like the ones in Miag-ao, Pavia and Dumangas where bells were rung to warn the natives to flee and hide into safety places.

Guimbal is known as one of Iloilo’s most important cultural and historical areas. Spanish authorities built beautiful structures such as the church, stone bridge and watchtowers.

A town 29 kilometers away south from the city, Guimbal got its name from a musical instrument called guimba. The Spaniards discovered the settlers using the instrument to warn the people of the coming of the raiding Moro pirates who used to loot the town and capture the natives to be sold as slaves in Mindanao. To show gratitude to the instrument, the inhabitants named their settlement Guimbal.

Originally, the town has four Bantayans located in different sites along the shoreline area in the poblacion. They have lasted the centuries with remarkable strength. The town has three such towers that remain to this day. The significant cultural and historic value of these structures is something Gumbalanons will always be proud of.

Adding color to the town's colorful history is the annual celebration of Bantayan Festival. The festival presentation depicts the battle between the natives of this town against the Moros. Prominent in every showcase is the use of prop such as the guimba, the instrument used to warn the natives of an incoming Moro raid, and the bantayan. Seeking to give their dance presentations more communicative power, tribes perform theatrical dances characterized by large casts of great variety with momentum and impulses of the dance movement typically parallel the rhythms of the music.

On its 10th year, the annual celebration of Bantayan Festival is celebrated this year on April 10 with its Opening of Food Festival and Agro Fair, Opening Parade, Drum and Float Competition, Street Dancing Competition and Search for Miss Bantayan Festival; April 11 welcomes everyone with its Disco Derby; April 12 is for Boat Racing, Porma Balas, Pinta Lawas, Fluvial Parade, Re-enactment of the Moro Raids and the 7th Bantayan Video Festival; April 13 opens with a Musical Concert with Artists featuring Khalil Ramos, Buildex and Krissel with comedian guests; April 14 commence with the Tribal Dance-Drama Competition and Fireworks Competition.

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