Sunday, April 24, 2016

Expressing the Unique Character of Oton through Katagman Festival



Scheduled on April 28 – May 3, 2016 with the theme, “Kasaysayan sang Maskara nga Bulawan Aton Balikan, Masanag nga Buasdamlag aton Maaguman,” visitors to the annual Katagman Festival in Oton, Iloilo can enjoy the many special activities that form part of this towns' heritage. They can shop, eat local foods, listen to music and make friends, all in the same place and at the same time. And while you can do that just about anywhere, Katagman has special events that offer their own flair.


April 28 (Thursday) Opening of Agri Fair and Garden Show at 9 a.m., Mass at 3 p.m., Parade at 4 p.m. and the Search for Hiyas Sang Katagman at 6:30 p.m.; April 29 (Friday) FITS Day and Laro ng Lahi at 8 a.m., Search for Ginoong Erpat and Ginang Ermat at 6:30 p.m.; April 30 (Saturday) Fun Run at 6 a.m., Synchronized Clean-up Day at 6 a.m., Fishing Tournament and Lampirong Diving Contest at 7 a.m. in Fishport; Awarding of Outstanding Ogtonganons and Youth Achievers 2016 and Composo Duet Contest at 7 p.m. May 1 (Sunday) On-the-spot Painting Contest at 7:30 a.m., Porma Baras/ Sinadya sa Baybay at 7 a.m., Motorboat Race at 7 a.m., Awarding of Fishing Tournament at 7:30 a.m., Lampirong Shelling and Eating Contest at 7:30 p.m.; May 2 (Monday) Fun Ride at 6 a.m., Borador sa Katagman at 7 a.m. in Barangay Trapiche; Awarding of Top Business Tax Payers a.m., Sandiya Growers Day at  1p.m., Hataw sa Katagman at 5 p.m.; May 3 (Wednesday) 444th Foundation Day Mass at 2 p.m., Street Dancing Competition at 4 p.m. and Music, Dance and Theater Competition at 6 p.m.


Oton, Iloilo has many historical and cultural sites, such as Barangay San Antonio, the Batiano River, ruins of the old church. But the major cultural attraction of the town is the annual celebration of Katagman Festival.

The cultural icon is the golden mask had been an important part of traditional animist beliefs in many ancient cultures for thousands of years. They play an important role during commemorations of rites.


The gold death mask is one of the many evidences that ancient Ilonggos already had a very rich culture including interesting burial practices before the Spaniards arrived.  In fact, the first gold death mask ever discovered in the Philippines was in Barangay Sa Antonio in Oton discovered in an excavation activity by Landa F. Jocano in 1973.

According to Jesuit Pedro Chirino in his Relaciones de las Islas Filipinas, published in Rome in 1600, the wealthy locals in the Visayas honor their departed loved ones with a golden masks where gold are pounded gold into thin sheets that would make up pieces to cover the eyes, nose, and the mouth. It is believed that when the face of the dead is covered with a gold mask, evil spirits cannot enter the body.

The custom of burying their dead with a golden mask was believed to have originated from southern China when some settled in the area when the town of Oton was once a center for trade route. The Batiano River was considered to be one of the most important Malay Ports in the Viasayas.

The gold death mask discovered was dated sometime late 14th to the early 15th century A.D The gold death mask was declared as a National Cultural Treasures and is known to be one of the 15 Most Intense Archaeological Discoveries of the Philippines.


These masks were an important part of the ancient local culture. They were used during ceremonies and each one was hand crafted. They have a special charm that comes from the significance behind the art; the significance of their way of life.

Almost all presentations in the dance-theater competition for Katagman Festival is accompanied by music, songs and masked dancers. The gold burial mask worn by performers during the dance-drama presentations is seen as part of their ceremonial costume. It is used to represent the spirits of ancestors or to control the good and evil forces in the community. Characters come to life, possessed by their spirit in the performance of the dance, and are enhanced by both the music and atmosphere of the occasion.



The festival of Katagman is one of the more established cultural celebrations in our local festival calendar. Already renowned for its strong cultural ties, Oton tends to pull out all the stops when it comes to its annual celebration. Visitors are immersed in their rich local culture. A simple -day affair is a beautiful expression of its unique character.

Katagman is the old name of Oton under the leadership of Datu Paiburong long before the Spaniards came. Oton is a first class municipality in the province of Iloilo. It is politically subdivided into 37 barangays distributed to its 8, 456 hectare land area. It is 10.2 kilometers or a 20 minute drive south from the city. The town fiesta in honor of the Immaculate Conception is annually celebrated every December 8. Market days are every Mondays and Saturdays. For more information, please contact Miss Irere Otero – Municipal Tourism Officer at 09479954730.





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