April 13, 2013 – was a good day to be a true blue Ilonggo. Tribu Panayanon, the Dinagyang festival champion, bagged the coveted Aliwan Festival Crown, vied for annually by several amazing performances from all over the Philippine archipelago.
And so, I think its the perfect day to take you back to the Dinagyang festival last January- where I was lucky enough to take some pictures of scenes that depicted the other side of the Panayanon glory.
At around 9pm, on the eve of the festival, I headed to Iloilo City National High School, where I met up with award-winning artists Arel Zambarrano and Joemel Mirabuena of Tatsulok ( a group of artists in Iloilo City). They are both close acquaintances of my (stage) boyfriend Jude and were kind enough to show me around. At this late hour, people were still working in an organized frenzy, with costumes being fitted, backdrops being painted and the dancing practiced down to the last perfect step.
A happy noise filled the air, with drums, chants and the occasional hum of the welding machine blending with the Tribe choreographer, Rommel Flogen, barking out orders. For a bunch of high school kids, the tribe was surprisingly hard-working and disciplined.
It was like witnessing their winning performance hours ahead of everyone else. The opportunistic voyeur in me was on cloud nine.
All over the school, evidence of the performance theme was being pieced together, from the giant bakunawa, to the various faces of the moon. The theme is based on a local Ilonggo folklore that has been passed on from generation to generation in incantations, afternoon lullabies and yes, bedtime stories.
It is said that the bakunawa, a giant sea serpent in Philippine mythology, is the cause of eclipses. Filipinos believed that Bathala (the equivalent of a supreme being in ancient Filipino culture) created seven moons to light the night sky. The moons were so beautiful that the bakunawa, upon seeing them, would rise from the ocean and swallow them whole.
At around 5 in the morning, the finishing touches of paint and beads and feathers were being made. I said my goodbyes to the tribe and their stories of the bakunawa and the moon.
I set out to find the perfect spot downtown. After a proper breakfast, I waited to witness the tribe’s success, this time, under the light of the morning sun. 🙂