Notes on the 2014 Tan-ok: Spotlight on stories

story conference b
Tan-ok choreographers and tourism officers from around Ilocos Norte
Aian Raquel, Tan-ok Creative Director
Aian Raquel, Tan-ok Creative Director

It’s November and all 23 cities and municipalities of Ilocos Norte are in full swing with their respective preparations for this year’s edition of the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals happening on the 29th.

I highly anticipate this year’s Tan-ok as organizers have given premium on what I, together with well-meaning Ilocano culture advocates, have been wishing for in previous editions: faithfulness to the Ilocano story. Indeed, any self-respecting festival should have at its core the true story of its people who are celebrating greatness, be it of an object, food, event, or any phenomenon.

Last October 24, your karikna was invited by Aian Raquel, the event’s creative director, to serve as resource speaker in a story workshop participated in by choreographers from the various towns and cities. With the exception of a few who failed to attend, I was glad with the receptiveness of the participants.

I delivered a brief lecture on the history and culture of Ilocanos but not after making a clear caveat that everything that I was to say in the workshop was my own insights as a fan who happens to have some knowledge of Ilocano culture and history, and not of the Tan-ok management. I also said that they are not obliged to heed my humble recommendations.

At the onset, I stressed to the participants that artists like them are powerful personas. They, in fact, could even be more influential than politicians, for they shape their people’s consciousness, help them define their identity, and empower them to preserve their heritage while embracing evolution and change. Any artist who sees his value only by the trophies he has won is underestimating, even insulting, himself.

In the course of making the presentation entertaining and winnable, overeager choreographers either in the guise of claiming artistic license or sheer arrogance and plain ignorance, twist and alter the story to the extent that it is rendered unrecognizable by the people who supposedly own it.

Most notorious, of course, in fictionalizing stories is Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival. Ironically, it has, over the past four years, brought home 3 championship trophys, lording over the competition since 2012.  Over the years, Pamulinawen has been portrayed as blacksmith trade (2011), courtship (2012), and songwriting (2013). In the Mini Tan-ok Dance Competition last February, Pamulinawen was interpreted as cockfighting.

In terms of wealth, both in terms of financial and human resources, Laoag, the city I live in and love over and above any place on earth, arguably has the upper hand. I wish that choreographers will finally zero in on a proper story which will properly shape and define the Pamulinawen Festival which still badly pales in comparison, mainly on account of lack of consistency and character, to more established festivals across the nation. Unfortunately, Laoag was the only group which decided not to talk about their storyline during the workshop.

But why has Laoag consistently won? Continue reading “Notes on the 2014 Tan-ok: Spotlight on stories”

“Taga-Laoag ba si San Pedro?”

 

Pamulinawen Festival at Aliwan Fiesta 2014  (photo from Aliwan Facebook Page)
Pamulinawen Festival at Aliwan Fiesta 2014 (photo from Aliwan Facebook Page)

“Sa Laoag ba nagsimula ang sabong? Taga-Laoag ba si San Pedro?” These questions were raised by one of the official commentators at the 2014 Aliwan Fiesta, the country’s biggest festival of festivals staged last Saturday at the CCP Complex in Pasay City. The commentator, who said he is also Ilocano, was bewildered when the Laoag City contingent interpreted the Pamulinawen Festival as cockfighting. Such bewilderment, dear karikna, was shared by a whole nation, or at least those who saw the event in person, through television broadcast or on the Internet.

But before I proceed with my humble observations, let me express my admiration for the 300-plus strong Laoag City contingent who gave their all in their performance. I am personally aware of how hard they labored, how much they sacrificed, and how they put their heart every step of the way to make their city proud. Kudos to their stellar production team headed by Christian Espiritu, an exceptionally talented performance artist; to all the support staff, dancers, propsmen, instrumentalists, singers, designers, sewers, cooks, architects, engineers, and other volunteers—all of whom were passionate in carrying out their respective roles. Credit also goes, of course, to the City Government of Laoag led by Mayor Chevylle Fariñas who supported the group.

Having said these, there was no question, dear karikna, about the Laoag contingent’s dedication and talent. The bewilderment comes from what is really the most important element of any authentic festival: the story. An event or ritual significant to the history and culture of a people, a particular agricultural product, means of livelihood, food, animal, or plant endemic to the place—these are highlighted in festivals. In short, they are about something a place and its people are truly proud of and thankful for.

Pamulinawen as sabong? While it is true that some Ilocanos may be involved in pallot (Ilocano for cockfighting), there is no proof either that such gambling activity started here or that we are doing it here more than anywhere else. It is questionable, too, whether among many things we can choose to celebrate, this gruesome hobby is really what we take pride in.

So why the choice of story? Inside sources say the pallot narrative was picked because it is a “winning piece.” This is because scenes inside the cockpit are really exciting and colourful. Given the lively character of more popular festivals like Cebu’s Sinulog, Iloilo’s Dinagyang, Bacolod’s MassKara, or Kalibo’s Ati-atihan, Pamulinawen organizers probably wanted something really flashy, although flashy is not really Ilocano. Continue reading ““Taga-Laoag ba si San Pedro?””

Sked! Sked! The 2012 Laoag City Fiesta

Hollywood has the stars. Laoag has the sun. Welcome to Hallaoag.

Wish to share with you, dear karikna, the line up of activities for this year’s Laoag City Fiesta. There are events of various shapes and textures slated throughout February, and I am sure you will get yourselves interested in a thing or two.

This is the first time I have this kind of information on my hand. Though I am with the media, there has always been, in previous years, a dearth of information on the fiesta activities, and even I would be kept in the dark as to the goings on. I am sure many others would have wanted to join past revelries but fell victims, too, of this failure in communication. The provincial government is definitely doing better in this regard, with its effective use of all forms of media in getting their constituents posted.

You have to know, dear karikna. This is because the fiesta of Laoag, the province’s capital city, is effectively the fiesta of the whole of Ilocos Norte. And also because it is your taxes being spent here. Such knowledge could also serve useful for practical purposes, such as knowing when and where traffic is going to be heavy. By the way, the theme of this year’s festivities is “Marching Valiantly to the Future” or, you guessed it, MVF, the mayor’s initials. Continue reading “Sked! Sked! The 2012 Laoag City Fiesta”

Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009

ms-laoag

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. Continue reading “Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009”

NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations

bb-pp2

Not once, but twice!

As with the past years, at least two beauty pageants are touted as highlights of the 2009 Pamulinawen Festival. The Search for Ms. ABC (Association of Barangay Councils) was held on February 4 at the Centennial Arena while the Search for Ms. Laoag is slated on February 10 at the same venue.

More mature societies have already shunned the idea of the traditional beauty pageant. Radical feminist groups, in particular, have lambasted beauty tilts as a form of exploitation of women and the perpetuation of a patriarchal concept of human aesthetics.

For what is a beautiful person? Organizers, of course, harp on the idea that beauty comes from within, blah, blah. But the competition criteria belie this. The minimum height requirement is 5’3”. Plus, you must look good in a swimming suit and, ergo, you must have a softdrink-bottle-shaped physique.

Such pageants, of course, would claim that they promote beauty with a purpose. This is why they are known for tokenism as well, which means doing something in a highly visible manner, though with almost-zero impact. Continue reading “NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations”

Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off

St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas
St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas.

The revelry leading to the February 10 Feast Day of St. William, patron of the city, begins today.

The Laoag City Fiesta I have grown up to know was simple, dry, and forgettable.  There were strings of parades, yes, but with very little  fanfare.  Then until now, the main attraction is a karnibal, which is not even 1/1000 as good as Enchanted Kingdom, located under the Gilbert Bridge.  There, I remember going to freak shows of sirena (mermaid), babaeng ahas (lady snake), babaeng pusit (lady squid), and other human beings whose physical deformities have been exploited in cash ‘s name. Continue reading “Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off”