Tan-ok Festival of Festivals: Why Laoag was biggest loser

Laoag City's Pamulinawen slash Panagpanday Festival presentation

I have always believed that Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival is confused. And that same confusion was brought to the First Tan-ok Festival of Festivals held last night, Nov. 12.

The result was sad but not puzzling. Of 23 local government units, Laoag did not figure in the Top 10, based on the eminent judges’ scorecards. I’m sure the overflowing audience at the Ferdinand E. Marcos Stadium felt the same.

Some observers—including my friend and former colleague at the university, Randy Leaño, who is now based in Hawaii—believe that Laoag lost because it did not get a good choreographer. As the city’s big names in culture and the arts opted to train contingents of other municipalities, Laoagueño-trained contingents won while Laoag wallowed at the bottom.

I agree that choreographers are a vital element in performances, and more so in competitions. However it is my humble opinion that Laoag lost because of something more basic: the story it shared was, well, confused.

Listening to the dubbed introduction before the performance, I had no idea at first that it was the Pamulinawen Festival being referred to, and when it was made explicit that it was Laoag’s turn, I was in a state of disbelief. It spoke of Panagpanday (Blacksmithing). Maybe there are some blacksmiths in Laoag, but I didn’t know (and even Google doesn’t) that Laoag is known for that industry in the same manner San Nicolas is known for their pottery or Piddig for wine making.

And pray tell, what is the connection between the popular Ilocano love song Pamulinawen and blacksmiths? That Panagpanday is alien to the Laoagueños’ psyche was apparent in the way the dancers performed. It became even more obvious with the audience’s silence.

Take, for example, first-placer Batac, which presented the Empanada Festival. Their performers showed deep joy and pride in their every move. The crowd was chanting, “Empanada! Empanada!” The stage, lighted with orange, looked like one big Empanada indeed. I and some of my media colleagues actually felt hungry after watching the performance. And not just for food. Hungry for that kind of intensity.  Hungry for that kind of local pride. Truly, the delicacy is something we own, something we should be festive about.

When the dubbed intro proclaimed, “Siwawer Power!,” there was mad excitement in the crowd, and I am sure not just among Vintar folks and bird lovers like me, because it is something we own. Same was true with the other winners in Badoc’s La Virgen Milagrosa and in Paoay’s Guling-guling. My Sociology 1 students know that there is no culture without a group in the same manner that there can be no culture without a group. Certainly, in Laoag’s presentation last Saturday, there was an appalling disconnect.

I agree that some municipalities did not make it due to poor production value (lack of appropriate props and costumes) and maybe less-than-excellent choreography, but no contingent dismayed the audience more than Laoag City, with its vast human and financial resources, did. (Kids, please don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault that your elders did not think better. I know you did your best. I wanted to shout “Panday! Panday!” but none of you looked like Fernando Poe.)

So what happened to Laoag? What did we miss? What could we have portrayed instead? What exactly do we rightfully own?

Why not the Belltower? Why not the La Paz Sand Dunes? Or why not the Laoag Gymnastics Group which has successfully etched the city’s name in the national pop culture consciousness? (Christian Espiritu, the Showtime champions’ fabulous choreographer, worked for Badoc which landed in Tan-ok’s Top Three.) And why not sunshine? Or why not just about the song itself?

I was born in Laoag and, if I could have my way, would like to die (I hope not too soon) in Laoag. I love my city over and above any other place on earth. But I dislike the Pamulinawen because it is a festival we launched not because we wished to highlight something meaningful to us. It was, dear karikna, an event city officials thoughtlessly invented simply because they wanted to hold a festival, envious, I suspect, of other cities and provinces which hold legitimate fests.

Roughly two months from now, Laoag will again be holding the Pamulinawen Festival. Part of me wishes, though I know it’s not possible, that we hold it off and in the meantime reflect on what it really means to us, if any at all. The second option, of course, is for all of us in Sunshine City to become blacksmiths asap.

Because Laoag is the capital city, the Pamulinawen was envisioned to be THE Festival of Festivals here in Ilocos, but it had microscopic success. Tan-ok just did what Pamulinawen failed to do all these years: unite us Ilocanos while showcasing the best (and true) about us.

Now that we have the highly acclaimed Tan-ok, what do we need the Pamulinawen Festival for except to remind us that pretense and confusion neither win the experts’ nod nor the people’s affection?

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

63 thoughts on “Tan-ok Festival of Festivals: Why Laoag was biggest loser”

    1. this article is so true….couldn’t be any happier that someone so brave like you would criticize laoag’s very horrible concept.hihihi. i totaly agree what you said about the panagpanday theme which is really really very alien. indeed, laoag was the worst disappointment.

      1. leave it to herdy he have the spunk .may he be an inspiration to you young folks .do not be afraid or be intimidated .to voice your opinions .

      2. Sir Erwin Suguitan? are you the same Erwin Suguitan who underwent the four day ALAB training at CSCRO1? anong email add mo? hehehe, iadd ka na namin sa ating fb group account hehe.

    2. sobrang tama ka, sir! been in ilocos for almost 20 years now. it was only in Tan-ok where i have learned that Laoag City is known (as they claim) to be “agpanpanday”..when the emcee was introducing the next performer, it naver croosed my mind that it was Laoag City’s turn..i was expecting a depiction of “pamulinawen” (though i can’t figure out how they would do so..hehe)
      anyway, the dancers just did good…=)

  1. I was in the sea of people last night but I failed to finish the show. My comments is not on Laoag’s performance last night but on the Pamulinawen Festival (I do not have anything against it). The song Pamulinawen was composed by Bacarreneos and was made a main piece of a military band (I can’t remember the name of the band) and that makes me wonder how it became Laoag’s festival. And if it is Pamulinawen, the stone lady, diba the festival should celebrate her? Why not Hermit’s Festival? Just my thoughts Herdy.

      1. Thank you Sir Hadji for the name of the band. Another detail for the song, the Phil Constabulary Band was competing in the US (probably Hawaii) against other military [brass] bands. On that competition, the organizers would put off the lights at the middle of a band’s performance. Well, when the light is off (as in all band members will be shocked!), nobody could play well. But since the band was able to master the Pamulinawen well from the beginning notes until the end, they played the song when their lights were put off. Since then, the song became popular.

  2. “Less than three months from now, Laoag will again be holding the Pamulinawen Festival. Part of me wishes, though I know it’s not possible, that we hold it off in the meantime and reflect on what it really means to us, if any at all. The second option, of course, is for all of us from Sunshine City to become blacksmiths asap.”

    oh you are so clever sir! i hurled with laughter.well, still am.hahaha

  3. Sad to say I wasnt there to watch TAN-OK FESTIVAL, I missed it. Anyway, did SAN NICOLAS DAMILI FESTIVAL joined?

    I was susprised to read that Laoag portrayed blacksmith, it’s not usual to hear or see that Laoagenos are into it, although maybe they want to introduce it to the people but I think it didnt worked out. Maybe they could have explored more on the history of pamulinawen, like how did it became pamulinawen, what was into it, sort of like those things.

    Well, there is still second chance, and beware to the other contenders, they will strike back. Hehehehehe

    Congratulations anyway to all of the people behind TAN-OK, hoping next year I can watch it.


  4. Very true, I guess Knowing your culture means knowing yourself. If the culture in itself is very confused so do the people comprising the society. Its just sad because Laoag is the capital of Ilocos. 😐

    1. In fact, most Filipinos are really culturally confused. And a major cause of it is want of real appreciation and serious study of what we have, now and in the past, and what we could have if we develop our present and our past. During so-called showcases, we seem to be so proud of our cultures and languages, but during ordinary days, we regard them as inferior to other cultures and languages. Such is our sad reality.

  5. i congratulate all who participated .whether they won or not everybody seem like they were having a good time.better luck next time.there are rooms for improvements..you only just begun.

    1. Pamulinawen, which is a lady’s name (kung tama ako) eh ung knakantahan sa theme song ng festival ng laoag.. now i wonder sa 3 things. bakit pagpapanday ang dinepict ng laoag? bakit HSAL ang napiling skul na sasayaw whereas may innhs, SPA in specific na nakatutok sa dances etc.., o incat na home ng LCGG… meron pang INRSF, na often na nananalo sa dance competition(after parade) tuwing pamulinawen festival? at bakit natalo pa ang isang SIYUDAD sa MUNISIPYO?? hmmmm…. tama lang na mtuloy ung pamulinawen fest sa susunod kaso dapat mas nakatutok na sa iisang tema ung festival.. (sa P.O.V. ko =))

  6. while the discussion is centered on the failure of laoag to have been more circumspect in its choice of pamulinawen as its main concept, allow todivert to some other concern which i think deserves to be given importance. i was able to watch some of the performances and indeed im very impressed on the efforts put into the endeavor. however, it is much more a dismay to endure the lack of sensitivity of whoever is in charge to the sound system used. we were in the east wing bleacher and we feel that we do not belong to the festivity. please ask anybody who was there and they will confirm this. im hoping that through you this will be conveyed so that next year we will have all a grand time not only to those facing the stage.

    1. Thank you, Mang Jun. Am doing a full review of the Tan-ok as an event and this experience of yours will definitely be included. We sure want the festival to be greater in the next years so all must be said. Again, thanks.

  7. this issue should have a resolution the soonest.i wouldn’t want my visitors to be confused later on. The other day I’m just so proud talking about PamulinAwen but after reading this I wanna get lost! Hats off for this critic Sir:)

  8. I honestly say, I wasn’t there to witness this Laoag’s latest vain. After reading the article, I knew how it the shame went by with the depiction of the Laoag’s festival. My head was just nodding on every sentence of the article and I began to wonder about things happened regarding the poor presentation.
    HSAL, a private school, the representing group for Laoag showed up in the Province Wide, nationally viewed program. Let us consider other schools. INNHS, specifically SPA, a school with students of talent. In this class, students focus themselves in sharpening their showcased skills in singing, DANCING, etc. INCAT, another great school for it is the home of the well known Laoag City Gymnastics Group. It provides great part of the city’s delegation for Gymnastics competition which can be developed in dancing. INRSF, a school based in La Paz. A public school I salute for they show great participation during dance parades in the city’s festival. I remember a great show of this school in one of the street dance showdowns 2 years ago (if I’m not mistaken) when they beg the trophy.
    Pamulinawen, a lady’s name serenaded by the theme song of Laoag city’s festival. Its lyrics showed the old practice of “panghaharana” which includes the exchange of dialogues between the suitor and the suited (haha), or the lady I should say. It is danced by kumintangs and steps (to the side). But viewing the article’s picture, It showed “pagpapanday” which makes the viewers of the city’s dance confused. I’m afraid that Laoageno’s dance next Tan-ok festival will associate “Pamulinawen, pusok indengam man…” to dancers carrying banga, or even with wings attached in their back. So sad we do not have a choreographer with enough wits in making the topic of the city’s dance. Is it rush? (in choosing the topic of dance, or picking the choreographer instead XD). I’m afraid my teacher would say “mapagmagaling tong taong to” to me…well, I’m just swimming in the pool of his thoughts 
    Another dumb thought running with this poor shell above my body is that my CITY was defeated by MUNICIPALITIES. (sigh). We have the schools, we have a great number of sponsors, the possibility of winning was great. But slipped in the hands of the choreographer. I really don’t know the place of laoag’s representative but as I read the comments, the city didn’t even placed in the top 10?? WTF. (where’s the fish?? hehe).
    I still favor the pursuance of the Pamulinawen celebration next year (ansaya kaya sa peryaan!). yet I agree that the city should focus more on a distinguishable theme.

  9. oh before i forget please do mention also that the stage should be in a distance that could be viewed by all. though there were white screens erected but more is desired. provision for parking space must also be considered or a traffic plan was prepared. or simply these politicians could have just parked outside the stadium. they made us feel how wide is the gap between us. a tent for the red cross at the back of the stage could have been more accessible than carrying the patient up to the basement of the bleacher.
    tan-ok is a fest i look forward. its a showcase of ilocos culture. one that we have to be proud of. lets spread the news.

  10. would like to show my deepest appreciation for the above critique. candid. no bias. balanced. writer,altho from laoag did not show any hometown-favored decision. no favoritism. fact is, you ere not looking at the issue from the point of view of a laoagueno, but from that of one from ilocos norte. and i like that! you were wishing everybody well, although deep within you were hoping laoag,being the capital city, would live up to its name. – Mrs. Pureza Ramiro Pacis Vintar, Ilocos Norte/ Bartlett,Illinois

      1. hello maam pureza.i’m erwin suguitan of brgy. 3 vintar ilocos norte. the son of tony and lita suguitan. i was wondering where mr. nick pacis is right now. we collaborated on the theme song of pamulinawen festival entitled “we shout laoag”. i did the lyrics and he did the music and arrangement. pls send my regards to him.

        1. Sir Erwin Suguitan, I wonder if you’re the brother of Rabbi Suguitan, my classmate, along with Romeo Camaquin, Titus Foronda, Clarito Leaño, etc of VA. Ma’am Pureza was our esteemed Teacher in English & Spanish while Engr Nick Pacis was our teacher in Geometry/ Trigonometry & the dreaded PHYSICS! Both graduated from UP.. Regards to all of them, incl your Sis.. Good job on Pamulinawen …

  11. Tan-ok was a success. It was a big leap for Ilocos Norte to prove its might when it comes to the arts and nonetheless to showcase the culture and heritage the province and its folks must be proud of. In such big event, LAOAG as a city and as a prime mover in nurturing the arts having been manifested in its annual dance parade competition, has been dominated by a city that is just 2 years old, other towns of Ilocos Norte and worst is that to be out-beaten by an indigenous group (CARASI). And I as one of the viewers and one of those who expected Laoag to be one of the best when it comes to events like this, was so DISAPPOINTED.

    Not only that I was disappointed with Laoag, but with the final tally of the top 3. Batac was good. Badoc was good. Vintar was good. BUT PAOAY was far better than them! From the storyline, to the dance steps, to the choreography, to their props and costume, they were far better. PAOAY should have won, or at least have landed on the top 3.

    1. wala kang paki alam kung natalot tiga paoay gabobohan nila. don’t try us na tiga badoc..i’ll hunt and kill u 🙂

  12. Much like everyone, I, too, am confused regarding Laoag’s performance. It was weird. Panagpanday is not Laoag’s industry. I don’t even know what my city’s industry is (unless one considers stores/shops an industry)!

    Anyways, I was disappointed in the dancers, too. There are many talented dancers in the city, why not pool them like what Batac did? Oh well.

  13. Badoc was the greatest of them all Peejong….if only the choice of the mammoth crowd at the stadium prevailed over the choice of the Board of Judges BADOC COULD HAVE BEEN THE RUNAWAY WINNER THAT NIGHT. Well, anyhow you are entitled to your own opinion and biases.

  14. Hi guys!!! Are you sure you know Laoag that much? I was not able to see the presentation of Laoag but as to effort, I think they have to be commended too like the others. They were there to show us something… they sweat for it for sure… too bad viewers were not able to see and understand what they wanted to share to all of us.

  15. based on the title of the article itself, im afraid i have to disagree..
    for me the biggest loser is Badoc with their La Milagrosa Festival..
    (i hear booooos around.. lol :D)
    each participant/ contingent was given Php 100,000.00 as their budget in their presentation..
    how come Badoc was able to get the expertise of Mr. Christian Espiritu..?
    i heard that the estimated cost of Badoc’s presentation was roughly 1M.. skeptical..? research for yourself.. lol ;D
    and their cash prize was less than half of what they spent..

  16. Keep coming those “straight from the heart- guided by the mind” views of yours Herdy. Your honest point of views has been a source of reliable news to us here away from home. I love reading your views. Keep the good work young man. Dr. Mac Corpuz, Worcester, Massachusetts.

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