Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fierce, Fun and Fabulous Performances for Anilao’s 9th BANAAG Festival

photo by JV Perez (PALI)

Known as the “Festival of Fire,” Anilao’s Banaag Festival is the only one of its kind in the region. Banaag is a Hiligaynon term that refers to the light emitted usually from a torch. It is a modernized theatrical presentation competition among tribes that is highlighted by a spectacular exhibition fire dancing commonly using torches.

With this year’s theme,” Nagabanaag nga Handum: Palibot kag Dunang Manggad Atipanon, “ the 9th Banaag Festival coincides with the 73rd Foundation Anniversary celebration of Anilao as an independent town and series of activities are set for everyone starting on October 28, Sunday with the Opening of  Street and Food Fair or “Timo-Timo sa Kalye 2012;” October  29, Monday with the Unveiling of Exhibits and Official Costume of the 8 Competing tribes for Banaag Festival 2012; October 31, Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. for the Opening Program for the  Street Dance Competition and Banaag sa Langit, a Fireworks Festival Display; November  1, Thursday at  9:00 a.m. with a Mass and at 6:00 p.m. with a  Masquerade Ball; and November 2, Friday at 6:00 p.m. with the Dance Drama Competition, Awarding Ceremony and  Merry Making.      

Banaag revisits Anilao's history as it acknowledge the significance of light from the torch that once saved their people’s lives as they fought for freedom against the Muslim pirates.

Muslim pirates explored the Visayas by its seas and rivers through warfare. Although, it has been said that the Moros had raided the Visayan barangays long before the Spanish era. Piratical raids in the area began dramatically in the 16th till the 18th century when Muslim pirates destroyed Christian pueblos. Taking their caracoas or outriggered vessels with thirty to forty rowers on each side, the islands in the area, mostly coastal or river-mouth were ravaged by raids.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)
old barangays did not hold much wealth, but the captives taken and were sold in the slave markets in the islands to the south of the archipelago were enough prize. Barangays that were Christianized were said to be a more tempting target. More people are in its pueblos; with churches adorned with gold and silver ornaments and fine altar pieces. It is for the reason that these new pueblos were larger than the old barangays, and therefore offered a richer prize. Churches were burned along with the church treasures such as chalices and images abused, and captives carried away as slaves.  Many were killed.

Due to its coastal location, Iloilo was also constant threat from Moro marauders looking for slaves. It is said that watchtowers were built to protect Christian villages. It was said that piratical attacks were so persistent and were successful that in many of our towns, including Anilao, many inhabitants were killed or enslaved.

And because of this, construction of numerous coastal fortifications or watchtowers in the northern and southern areas were made and form part of a system of communication where every fortifications, placed at intervals along each town’s borders, was in sight of the next in the line. A system of signaling was used between them. For Anilao, they used fire to warn the natives of an incoming raid.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)
The celebration is dedicated to the brave Anilaonons who lost their lives struggling for peace and freedom. Thus, dancing with fire, that often includes visual and stylistic elements, has been a traditional part of culture of Anilao when presenting their festival. During the festival performance night torches were often twirled and swung about by dancers. Performances always involve a flashy demonstration of artful twirling while dancing on fire. Fire dancing is performed to music played on drums that heat up the performers’ hearts, move their bodies, quicken their minds, and lift their spirits.

To get to Anilao, one can take a van or bus at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro. Anilao is located 40 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City. Comprised of 21 barangays It is bounded in the north by the town of San Enrique; the highest mountain of the town in the west; in the south by Barotac Nuevo; and the Guimaras Strait in the east.





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