Let me begin by saying ‘Congratulations’ to everyone behind the festival. I know they put in a lot of hard work in the fiesta preparations. By now, I hope they have managed to catch up on sleep, and that their eye bags have disappeared.
I acknowledge that writing a review like this one is a breeze, nothing compared to all the organizers’ sacrifices. They were actors, I was just a spectator. They labored while I savored the moments. I will therefore cushion the blows.
Let me begin by saying that the organizers might have been too busy preparing for individual events that they failed to look at the total picture. In the past years, the schedule of activities was posted in conspicuous places for the public’s perusal. We missed those announcements this year, and so many people did not know about all of the activities, when they were happening, and where.
Even on the internet, many are searching for the schedule of activities for the Pamulinawen Festivval, but they could not find any. Because I have previously published my thoughts about the fiesta, searchers are led to my blog (but no schedule there, too).
Conspicuously present though in public spaces were greetings from politicians, especially those who are bent on running for president. Particularly noticeable were the posters of Bayani Fernando of MMDA. Yes, that guy who drives away sidewalk vendors like they were hardened criminals was the city’s special guest during the festival’s kick-off parade on Feb. 1.
Bayani’s campaign materials would have been a little more bearable if they were just fiesta greetings. But no, the pink-loving megalomaniac brought here the posters that have always been lambasted by Metro Manila folks.
Bayani, who looked constipated in those tarpaulins that lecture about “Kaayusan” and “Urbanidad”, should not insult us Ilocanos. Our city is clean, orderly, and peaceful (clap, clap to our city officials), and we do not need a presidentiable, who is sure to lose even before he has filed his candidacy, to nag us to shape up.
Speaking of shaping up, tourists from Manila who visited Laoag recently were complaining about the noise pollution in downtown Rizal St. where speakers are set up in every corner. Actually, the public address system has been there since 2007, and this is not the first time I have heard guests react in the negative.
Those speakers are meant to guide motorists and pedestrians on traffic rules, e.g. where and when to cross, where to park, etc. This is a good idea, as we have to maintain order in the streets, but I see two problems.
First, the traffic enforcers talk too much like they were radio broadcasters. When people are on the go, they don’t have time to listen to lengthy discourses. Quick instructions will do Instead.
Secondly, there are five to seven twitters (those speakers that produce annoyingly high-pitched sound) located in different intersections in Rizal St., the busiest in downtown Laoag. The “commentator” however is stationed in only one corner. So, when he preaches to particular individuals who did not use the pedestrian lanes, all the folks in other corners are left wondering who the traffic enforcer may be referring to.
And because the traffic-enforcer-cum-broadcaster speaks in Ilocano, tourists don’t understand his blabber. “Masisira ang beauty ko,” quipped one pedestrian.
This now leads us to our next segment: beauty. Despite my opposition to beauty pageants and everything they represent, which I wrote in this column last week, the production staff of the 2009 Search for Miss Laoag Pamulinawen—headed by Randy Leaño, Rowell Tagatac, Aian Raquel and Marc Fernandez—invited me to the pageant’s dry run the night before the February 10 event.
I was so impressed with what I saw that I invited all my family and friends to watch the show, not so much to see the beauty contestants wear oh-so-skimpy bikinis, but to have them witness a world-class event right here in Sunshine City.
The pageant was scheduled at 8 p.m., but two hours passed and the show was yet to start. My companions were beginning to feel uneasy but I assured them that it was worth the wait.
At time past ten, the lights on the stage lit up, and the audience were mesmerized at the Medieval-inspired set design. Everything (including the dancers) was gold, the lighting was excellent, and even the smallest details were intricate.
Shortly after, the faithful were asked to rise for the doxology. An interpretation of Ave Maria was performed to the dismay of my non-Catholic friends. Government-sponsored activities must extra effort to ensure that the prayer is sensitive to various creeds and spiritualities. While we respect Mother Mary, we must concede that many do not acknowledge her role as mediator to God. This led one woman to quip, “So, is this where my taxes go?”, and I can’t blame her.
The song interpretation was also confused. Five women who looked possessed by the devil (actually, they looked halfway between the main actress in Exorcist and Nora Aunor in Himala) did acrobatics on stage, not the type of performance that would lead people into prayer. Then again, actors may invoke artistic license, but not to the point of alienating the crowd. I am now unsure which I prefer, this horrific dance or the MVF-Chevylle-Jesus doxology-cum-political-ad during the Search for Miss ABC on February 4.
As usual, the national anthem followed the prayer. Experts on protocol and history assert that homage to the nation must come first in secular gatherings, especially those that are funded by the state, but I will write about this on another day.
Then came Mrs. Chevylle Fariñas, the mayor’s wife and also the president of the Association of Barangay Councils, for her welcome remarks. Madamme Chevylle spent 11 minutes acknowledging the VIPs and guests, and then consumed another 15 minutes talking about beauty in an attempt to make sense of the event. She gave a lengthy lecture that discussed beauty in the context of, and ironically so, men, i.e. Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newtown, Henry Sy, Barack Obama, and Chevylle’s “next president of the Philippines”, Chiz Escudero.
The crowd, who had waited two hours for the program to start, grew increasingly uneasy and started making polite noises of disapproval, but I think Chevylle took this as a positive reaction from the listeners, so she went on with her preachy speech anyway.
You see, karikna, it’s always discouraged to deliver lengthy talks unless you are a priest who has that reputation, like Fr. Poly Albano (which is acceptable inside the church because suffering purifies the soul). Indeed, one must not confuse length with substance, as Senator Chiz Escudero (introduced with a twelve-minute spiel by Mayor Michael V. Fariñas) would prove. Escudero’s six-minute pannakitungtong (the Ilocano word for ‘chat’ which the gentleman from Sorsogon uses to connect with voters here in the Saluyot Republic) was well-applauded not only because it was rich, but more because it was sensitive. It was already midnight, and the show still had many parts.
On further reflection, I think the Fariñases need more help in constructing their speeches. MVF, for example, delivered the “I hope that they may see the light” speech during the Ms. ABC tilt. Referring to those who are against his controversial projects, i.e. the mall construction in downtown Laoag and the upgrading of the Laoag City General Hospital, he prayed that “they may see the light”.
But, of course, nobody has a monopoly of enlightened reason. Only sinister leaders like George W. Bush, who patently employs the “it’s either you are with us or against us” argument on US’ shameful warmongering in recent years, reason that way. In Logic, we call this the Black-or-White fallacy. This happens when you ignore the gray areas between the two extremely opposite shades.
Moreso, one may claim to see the light, but end up believing in a mirage.
My other random thoughts on the pageant:
- Two male celebrities shared their glitter to the event—pop singer Josh Santana and young actor Josef Elizalde of Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition. Josh Santana was already poised to sing and had been escorted to the side of the stage when it was Josef, gifted with a cute face but with very little vocal talent, who was called on by the emcee to perform. Josef’s song was lipsynched, but even if it was lipsynched, it was still terribly terrible.
- The excellent technical support provided by the MMSU Department of Computer Science made the results quick, transparent, and credible. They have set a benchmark on how contest tabs should be done.
- Kaycee Buted, the main host of the event, has a bright future in hosting. The young lady exuded grace under pressure, charm, cheerfulness, and elegance. If I had my way, I’d crown her Miss Laoag.
- Wowing the crowd with their sterling performances, the MMSU Nasudi Cultural Troupe have proven, yet again, that they are a gem of the Ilocandia. My wish list for 2009 includes watching the multi-awarded cultural group, formed in 1984, stage a silver anniversary concert. Should they hold such concert, they can do that Exorcist-Himala routine again, and I promise not to complain.
Let me reassure city officials, especially MVF and Madam Chevylle, that I appreciate all their efforts to improve the quality of life of our people. As a Laoagueño, I know how passionate and compassionate the couple are in public service. I am giving all these observations in good faith, in the hope that good becomes better, and better becomes best. (With apologies to those who hate clichés)