DANCES WITH PRIDE
Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbors into a dialog, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live. David Binder
Began in 2003, the Aliwan Festival literally means “to entertain” is a gathering of different cultural festivals across the country. Held during the month of April in Pasay City, Manila Philippines each participating town is represented by their delegates to compete in a float parade, beauty pageant, and highlighting the event is the street dance competition. Most of the municipalities predominantly catholic community is participating the said annual festivity. The Aliwan Festival also known as the Mother of all Fiesta aims to showcase the Filipino culture and heritage. The grandest gathering of festivals advocates in promoting regional economic and tourism industry. All contingents are aiming for the pot prize of USD70,000.00.
My backpacking journey has led me to several places in the country. I met and get along with the variety of people in different tribes. There are times that I myself has experienced to celebrate a town fiesta. Their way of offering a thanksgiving to the town’s parochial saint for a year of bountiful harvest and productivity. The community observes a usual weeklong celebration. Their district government unit has lined up a schedule of events including social and civic activities for the people. There is sports fest for the inter-barangay tournament, cultural competition for schools, and an outreach program to cater free medical services.
The fiesta celebration all over the country is a showcase of our very own heritage pride. A Filipino patriotism that is practice back in time during the Spanish regime. The Spaniard colonization has influences most Filipinos with catholicism. These widespread teachings hover in most places and even the remote area of the country. It implies an approximate 83% Catholics devotees and has made the Philippines as the only catholic country in Asia.
This is why Filipinos is always patronizing parochial fiesta. A once in a year gathering to celebrate thanksgiving that most devotee would not want to compromise. It is been a Filipino household practice that is evolving over generations. Either a simple gathering as long as it pays tribute in honoring and commemorates their patron.
The night before the grand parade I visited the PICC backyard the common area that houses all competing floats. I actually do it even a previous couple of years it spares me an opportunity of taking good photographs. It is been passed 2 in the morning and everyone is wide awake doing some final touches six hours before the showdown. Unlike with the previous years of Aliwan Festival, many has said that the current celebration seem dull. It might because that only a few towns have participated in the annual event. I have spoken to Mr. Quimboy, a professional trainer for street dancing competition in Mindanao. He has been practicing the profession for the past 30 years. He is a physical education instructor and dancing is his passion. He said that the pot prize may seem enticing for other few opponents especially the new entry delegates. But for them who have been an avid participant of the yearly event may not be. In their own perspective, the prize is mere sum up against their costs. The preparation that took months is much an expense. The local government units are responsible in dispensing financial assistance costs from talent fees, costumes, fare, and accommodation are only a few as listed.The hard work in conceptualizing, planning and organizing are in pursuit of their aim of winning.
I also met, Mr. Dela Cerna who is a florist from Baguio City. He owns a flower shop business in the city and was hired by their local government as the head of technical committee designate to conceptualize the district float in the said event. According to him, his local government were not in particular of the prize at stake. They are partisan to grab the grand title to endeavor the town’s advocacy in promoting the local tourism industry. Baguio City is very known as one of the sought after tourist destination in the country. The city has beautiful attractions and historical landmarks such as the Burnham Park, Baguio Cathedral, The Mansion and more. The district is also known as the country’s flower capital. They produce the best home grown flowers due to its good climate condition and best soil components. The signature that gave birth to Panagbenga Festival held every February. The annual flower festival which drawn huge spectators nationwide and foreign visitors.
On the final day of the Aliwan Festival, thousands of people have gathered along the high street of Roxas Boulevard cheering for their very own delegates. The three days competition is down to the grand finale, the street dancing contest. Each of the participating municipalities is showcasing their own tribal pride. The inexhaustible performances start from the PICC Ground to Quirino Grandstand, approximately 13 kilometers apart. Not later few minutes, the crowds go loud when each participating contingents began dancing in rhythm with spectacular and colorful costumes. Awesome concepts and amazing dance choreography. The Aliwan Festival is a great opportunity for all Filipinos to unite in celebrating the country’s pride. Indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines.
The T’nalak Festival Float Design of Koronadal, South Cotabato has marveled the crowd with genuine concept revealing innovative and craftsmanship of Southern Cotabatenos. Float Design includes decorative mats, and basketry in vibrant colors bearing distinct regional imprints of master weavers are common showcases for local artisans.
The Manaragat Festival from Catbalogan Samar is hailed as the grand champion of the street dancing competition.
Ms. Stephanie Joy Abellanida of Halad Festival, Midsayap North Cotabato is crown as the Reyna Ng Aliwan 2015.