Surviving Bagatao Festival Beyond Challenges (Part 1)

Things have been taken out of context after the Regatta Bagatao Festival street presentation controversy has become a favorite “talk-of-the-town” topic. I had conversations with the personalities whose names have been dragged in the issue and had cordially sought their clarifications.

As expected involved parties have opposing views of the issues, each claiming to have the most reasonable versions of statements [which include excuses] of how things transpired and gone awry.

Regatta Festival: A Quick Glance

Initially, allow me to give a backgrounder of what Regatta Festival sa Bagatao [its original festival name before it is finally changed this year] is… Established in summer 2008 as a brainchild of PB Realito F. Bose, Behia’s barangay chairman, it was launched on May 2008. The festival culminated on May 24, an important religious and cultural event in the barangay. Beginning 2009, it was moved in time with the celebration of the barangay patronal fiesta in honor of Behia’s patron saint – Saint Rafael. The festivities which usually lasted to three days featured water activities (thus, the name Regatta) and games and contests participated by the locals along with the usual fiesta ceremonies like the benefit dance, coronation rites, civic parades, novenary and maritime processions and holy mass.

As a budding festival which began to draw attention not only locally, several events were added in the festivities come the following years.

The street presentation has become officially part in 2009. It features street performers showcasing radiant and festive costumes highlighting the creativity of Behianos as they pay tribute to the bounty of the sea. Young Behianos dressed in fisherfolks’ attire adorned with colorful native ornaments dancing jovially under the scorching sun have become one of the festival’s major attractions.

Of course there were several other events that made the festival uniquely Behiano… uniquely Bagatao. Among the major events were the annual Daralaganan sa Bagatao (a fun run that first kicked off in 2011), the Purok Olympics (2011) which promotes strong spirit of camaraderie among the Behianos as they engage in various games and contests like Laro ng Lahi and talent contests, the Search for Bb. Regatta (2012), which was renamed Bb. Bagatao this year, and the Turaok. Turaok is a cultural competition primarily aimed on reviving Bicol oral traditions such as tigsik, rawitdawit and cansion. Turaok has become an official part of the festival in 2010 to rekindle Dr. Francisco H. Datar’s effort to give tribute to the grandeur and significance of the local oral traditions.

See the list of events for this year’s Regatta Bagatao Festival by clicking this link.

Festival turned controversial; Getting the two sides of the coin…

While recuperating from severe influenza at the community hospital, one staff asked me to confirm whether it was true that the “mayor has not allowed the Bagatao Festival street performers to participate” in the Pintakasi at the Kasanggayahan Festival in Sorsogon City. It was Saturday, Oct 18, my third day in the hospital, when I first learned the issue. I tried seeking for confirmation from the volunteer staff through text but didn’t receive any reply.

Oct 21, Monday afternoon before going to Sorsogon City to fetch the pageant jurors in Bb. Bagatao, the choreographer [of the street presentation] and I had a short talk on the issue. I’ve learned from him three salient information… “the municipal tourism office secures the entry form” of the Bagatao street performers to “prohibit the same from joining Pintakasi” and that “the mayor did not approve of endorsing the group as the town’s representative” in the Oct 23 event.

The choreographer’s statements were reinforced when the barangay chair delivered an emotional talk before the audience of Bb. Bagatao pageant on Monday evening. The barangay chairman who also heads the Festival Committee of 6th Regatta Bagatao Festival points out that “the disapproval of the mayor of sending Bagatao street performers in Kasanggayahan deprives the latter of their opportunity to showcase their talents and experience the festivities.” Allegedly, he mentions, the incident is politically motivated. His speech draws applause from the audience, mostly Behianos.

After the pageant, I asked the barangay chair these questions:
“Was the mayor informed of our participation in the Pintakasi prior Oct 21?”
“Did you seek for financial backing from the LGU for our Kasanggayahan stint?”
“Were you informed of the prerequisites (such as the need to secure entry forms and endorsement) in joining the Pintakasi?”
“Is there other means to push through our participation in the Pintakasi even without the mayor’s endorsement?”

I got a “yes” and a “no” to the first two questions, respectively. Yes, he has met with the mayor in a meeting and relayed the intention of Bagatao Festival to represent the municipality. He said the mayor okays the proposal. He adds that the Festival Committe sought no financial assistance in our Kasanggayahan stint. All expenses shall be defrayed by the barangay council and the festival committee.

Regarding his knowledge of the requirements in joining Pintakasi, he explained that he has only learned the need to secure an entry form and the lgu chief’s endorsement a few days ago. [We talked on Oct. 21.]

Recalling my previous conversations with him, even during the planning meeting with barangay council in June, he emphasized that “he had a connection with a personnel in the provincial tourism office who INVITED Bagatao Festival to perform in the Pintakasi.” The said contact happened to be an administrative official in one private tertiary school in Sorsogon City. This official and the choreographer are acquaintances and had professional relationship.

I have to intentionally write the word “invited” in all caps because I believe this is where it has all started. The barangay chair assumes with confidence that Bagatao Festival is indeed “invited” to perform. The festival commitee assumes [even without seeing a formal invitation in black and white] that there was really an invitation to perform. This “invitation”, therefore, overshadows the commitee’s initiative to (1) send a communication to the LGU informing the said office of the group’s participation at the Pintakasi and (2) the need to secure relevant document such as the endorsement forms, etc. I have to admit the group committed a lapse in observing protocol here.

Regarding his response to the last question, I have learned (as he mentioned in his speech and) upon questioning that the parish priest called Msgr. Monje, the president of the Kasangayahan Foundation, Inc. and channeled the same issue for possible consideration. Apparently, no positive yield relative to the Bagatao Festival’s participation was made after the call. The street performers remained out of Pintakasi.

On the eve of Oct 23 in time with the Coronation Rites of the reigning beauties in the popularity contest, I had the chance of having an online chat via Facebook with the mayor. Eager to know the real score of the events, I sought his clarification of the incident and got the following statements:

“there was no coordination, no information, no seeking of endorsement nor “pasintabi” sa LGU na may plano”

“what will i ban if there was nothing to ban? the LGU was never never informed that Behia pala will participate. How will we endorse when there was nobody to endorse? how will we permit when nobody was seeking permission?”

Obviously, there are clashing point of views here.

[Blog continued on this link.]

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