Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zarraga’s PANTAT Festival Turns 9

A little music, a mess of fish in the fryer, some shade trees, a cool breeze --- that is a great way to spend an afternoon and that is what Ilonggos will enjoy in Zarraga, Iloilo.

Make tracks for Zarraga this week and get your appetites ready. The 9th annual PANTAT Festival takes place from December 16-23, 2012. Come out, join the festivities and have yourself a great time.  Food vendors at the festivity do their best to pay tribute. Fest-goers sample from a variety of catfish dishes. Enjoy the games and activities; there is something for everyone. 

Events get underway with the Opening Program on December 16; all the catfish recipes you can handle and of course, eat some of your favorite catfish recipes on December 17 with their Pantat Cooking Contest; December 18 is for the Search for Lin-ay Sang Pantat: the Pasundayag highlights December 19; Daycare Family Day on December 20; Band Performances on December 21; Disco Derby for December 22; and the much-anticipated Tribal Dance Competition on December 23.

The municipality of Zarraga’s PANTAT Festival had its beginnings in early 2003 when a small group of individuals discussed the possibility of establishing a local event to promote their local produce, pantat (catfish). Many in the town depend on fishing for their livelihood, and catfish is king of their local fishing industry.

The town was long-time experiencing a thriving industry in the field of aquaculture — specifically, farm raised catfish centered in the area. This growing industry presented itself as an excellent theme around which to build a festival. The festival would publicize the industry, but more than that it could be a great instrument to promote Zarraga The potential of such an event had been realized.

The festival promotes the small businesses and local trade within the municipality. The municipal government also works within the local communities to promote this local event and its activities in an effort to drive customers to their peaceful town.

In 2011, the municipality’s Pantat Festival joined the Aliwan Fiesta in Manila and took home the first runner-up spot. The festival is one of the two Ilonggo festivals that competed in Aliwan Fiesta, a competition among the best festivals in the Philippines. It was Iloilo city’s Dinagyang Festival that brought home the grand prize. Pantat Festival is now considered as one of the best of all the country’s festival.

Zarraga’s PANTAT Festival has come a long way since its beginnings. Yet, as the event continues with its 9th annual run, it remains true to its roots — family‐friendly fun, entertainment and delicious, hot, farm‐raised catfish.

Whether you are a proud catfish fisherman, a terrific cook or just love to eat the delectable favorite, Pantat Festival in Zarraga is the place to be.

The municipality of Zarraga is located in the northeastern portion of Iloilo and is composed of 24 barangays. To get to Zarraga, one can take a jeepney at the Northern Central Iloilo Terminal, Inc. popularly known as Tagbak Terminal in Jaro.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BAYLUHAY in San Joaquin: A Re-enactment in the Tradition of Those before Us

Some people are content to learning about their local history in books. While others are naturally drawn back to simpler times and the way life was lived centuries ago with a desire to relive important eras in their local history.

As the historic town of San Joaquin celebrates its local history and the Ilonggos rediscovers its heritage of that era, the re-enactment of Bayluhay continues to move forward.

San Joaquin, known to be one of the oldest municipalities of Iloilo Province, with a very significant historical background is dedicated to keeping our local history alive and in the public eye and to honor our ancestors.

The municipal government of San Joaquin has brought history to life as an educational hobby, providing its community and the public with an authentic, safe time machine to the historic landing of the 10 Bornean Datus, using authentic costumes, and props. Many of the performers create a "persona," or historical character, and develop a backstory for their persona to share with visitors.

The Barter of Panay became the point of origin of San Joaquin’s history and its first common culture. Researches on the Barter of Panay’s history would reveal that it started sometime in 1212 when the 10 Bornean datus, led by Datu Puti, along with their loyal subjects, boarded several baeangays to escaped the tyranny of their Bornean King, Sultan Makatunaw. They landed in the mouth of the Siwaragan River in San Joaquin.

Ati chieftain Marikudo and Bornean leader Datu Puti made a peace pact after several cordial gifts from the Borneans, a golden salakot and manangyad (a golden necklace believed to have reached the ground when worn in the neck) for the ati chieftain’s wife, Maniwangtiwang, and other valuables. In exchange, Pinangpangan, wife of Datu Puti with the nine other datus, namely Sumakwel, Dumangsil, Lubay, Balkasua, Bangkaya, Paiburong, Dumangsul, Dumalugdog and Paduhinog, and their respective wives and subordinates, were then allowed to settle in the lowlands. A glorious celebration followed.

The re-enactment of the Bayluhay has been happening annually. It will be celebrated this year on December 14 at 3 p.m. and will be hosted at the municipal grounds. This festival activity spans only for a day.

The re-enactment is a tool to generate interest in the Ilonggo community to spark the desire to learn more about its local history. It is a way for the people of Iloilo to connect, on a live and physical level, with the events of its past that have made us what we are today.  As a society, as a people, we cannot determine where we are going if we do not know where we have been.

If someone in Iloilo walks away from the re-enactment of Bayluhay with a desire to go to their libraries, or to get on the internet and learn more, then the re-enactment has served its purpose ... it educated the Ilonggo to learn more.

To get to San Joaquin, one can take a jeepney at Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo. For more information, please contact Mrs. Erlyn Alunan, Municipal Tourism Officer at 09179857804.

Monday, December 3, 2012

SICOGON Island: A Glorious Tropical Experience in Iloilo

Buaya Beach, Barangay Buaya, Sicogon Island, Carles, Iloilo
Many towns in north of Iloilo boast an enviable location on the sea. Some visitors head to southern part for the ancient culture and striking architecture. But after exploring it, there is still plenty of relaxing, island-hopping, snorkeling and scuba-diving to be experienced at the northern area’s exotic beaches. It is essential to check out Iloilo's delights along the northern coast.

The best beaches in Iloilo are scattered in the northernmost part from Ajuy, Concepcion to Carles. Their common denominator is its crystal clear waters and white powdery sands. For family vacations and outing with friends, any of the beaches in the area is ideal. But you would not find anything better than in Carles.

seaweed gatherer at Buaya Beach, Sicogon, Carles, Iloilo

The scenic town of Carles is among the most beautiful in the province. There are many stunningly sandy-white shores in its island barangays, the right place to unwind and spend a relaxing vacation full of sea and sand pleasures. And who can argue with the fact that the exotic island barangays of Carles had remained the best place to find the most idyllic beaches in Iloilo that offers a great assortment of activities to please the most demanding travelers.

The municipality of Carles is 146 kilometers away from the city. It is the last town north of the province with a land area of 11, 204.68 hectares. It is made up of 33 barangays where 18 barangays are scattered in its islands. The most popular is the beautiful and serene island of Sicogon. The island brings together classic charm and modern touches for a unique seaside experience. One will surely enjoy this hideaway with dazzling white sands and clear turquoise sea.

Molopolo Island overlooking Sicogon,Carles, Iloilo

Overlooking Tomaguin Island and Molopolo, the Island of Sicogon measures 489.0514 hectares and is composed of the barangays of San Fernando, Alipata and Buaya. It has a population of 2,154 residents comprising 417 households. The beach of barangay Buaya is reason enough to go to the island. There is enough space and so few visitors that you will probably find a spot just for yourself. The sugary sands of Buaya extend into deep waters far offshore. It is a heaven for snorkelers.

Sicogon has long been a popular spot with foreigners on holiday and had made its mark as a hot spot for travelers from around the globe. The island was once famous among celebrities and royalties all over the world. It was known as one of Asia’s as a top tourist destination prior to its closure in the 1980s. It has tourist-friendly facilities such as its famous cottages and resort clubhouse, swimming pools, sports facilities, a wharf and an airstrip.

powdery white sand beach of Buaya, Sicogon Island, Carles, Iloilo

The beach of barangay Buaya in Sicogon Island remains among the most beautiful even up now. It is for those who are dreaming of a quiet vacation under a warm sun and a constant breeze. The island is still a big potential to welcome many of tourists looking for the best beach in Iloilo. Presently, Sicogon is undergoing rehabilitation and construction for its future 5-star resort and hotel.

Witness the waves break out in the ocean from two of Barangay Buaya’s cottages. For the budget-conscious traveler, the cottage, maximum of four persons would cost as low as P150.00 overnight per person. Experience an authentic island atmosphere and a genuinely gracious staff, Barangay Captain Winifred Gonzales and Merlinda Andrade (09109243074) are dedicated to helping you have a great time in Sicogon.

So, if you are looking for the ultimate tropical paradise, set your sights on Sicogon in Carles. With lesser-known neighboring islands interspersed with picturesque fishing villages where the people live a simple way of life, virtually unchanged in centuries, Sicogon boasts all the white sand beaches without all the crowds, the perfect spot to relax, slow down and get into the groove of the real tropical paradise.

Sicogon Island can be reached through a 25-30 minuter motorized boat ride from Estanca Feeder Port. To get to Estancia, one must take an air-conditioned bus at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. Public passenger motorized boats ply from and to the island only once a day, normally at around 1 p.m. Motorized boat good for 54 and 80 persons can be privately arranged. For more information, please contact Joel Decano – Municipal Tourism Officer of Carles at 09184685006 or Joseph Decano – tourguide at 09081796579.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Grand Watermelon Display for the 7th SANDIYA Festival in Oton

photo by April Gail Valencia
Oton, Iloilo- The “Very Friendly” municipality of Oton offers travelers and residents alike an opportunity to experience their fairs and festivals each year. With the watermelon harvest season running from summer to December at its best, the Sandiya Festival rolls out the welcome mat for visitors and residents alike. The event gives an excellent reason to look forward to as the first smell of December hits the air.

The festival aims at providing the farmers a platform to discuss issues like marketing and promote watermelon cultivation. Though the farmers had a good harvest, marketing the produce was a problem. Oton is the largest producer of watermelon among all the municipalities of Iloilo. Growing watermelons is a big means of income for the people and its surrounding areas. Encouraging the horticulturists and facilitating market for their products is another objective of the festival.

The purpose for establishing the Sandiya Festival was to honor the many watermelon farmers for their outstanding contributions to the community. Secondly, to bring together farmers and visitors from all walks of life to enjoy and participate in watermelon events.

Since 2006, the local government unit of Oton, the Municipal Agriculture and Cooperative Office Oton Watermelon Grower’s Association (OWGA) and East-West Seed Company has hosted the Sandiya Festival, a day dedicated to promoting local watermelon farms that dot the rural town.

photo by April Gail Valencia
This year marks the 7th annual festival to be celebrated on December 6 at 1 p.m.. While only held a day in December, for the people of Oton, the festival is a nearly year round adventure. It is always a lively day of the festival full of watermelons, music, friends and fun will take place on the grounds of Oton Amphitheater Green. Games are provided by the organizers.

The highlight of the festival, the watermelon, play prominently into the festival; for weeks watermelon growers and farmers have been collecting and preparing their best produce known to be the best around.

photo by April Gail Valencia
The roots of the festival have not changed much. Activities were held on the grounds of the municipal plaza, featuring watermelon pie eating contests, watermelon relays, fruit carving and the “Pinaka” or judging watermelon entries for best and heaviest watermelon. In addition to displays of all types of yellow and red watermelons, there are educational displays of watermelon pest management, variety development, and everything you want to know about watermelon. There will also be watermelons for sale.

photo by April Gail Valencia
The celebration put together a festival with local growers and farmers, since they play a large part in the town. The festival was started promote the watermelon growers of Oton. The festival continues to blossom to this year. It is a celebration of the role the agricultural industry plays in their community, which includes watermelon. With a lot of improvements along the way, it has always managed to keep its hometown atmosphere.

The municipality of Oton offers travelers and residents alike an opportunity to experience their fairs and festivals each year. While some Oton fairs and festivals celebrate the culture of the town and help promote local agriculture, such as watermelon, others provide visitors with a look at the unique beauty Oton has to offer.

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