Saturday, December 6, 2008
Around this time of the year, and if I'm not mistaken, on the 8th of December, Sagada's St. Mary's School hold their annual torch parade. My 3 older sisters have been students of Santa Mal-ya (the Sagada way of pronouncing Saint Mary) and as a child, I always look forward to this time of the year.
We would have our dinner early, and make the 10-15 minute walk from Nangonogan to the municipal basketball court to watch the event. We would be fully dressed up, jackets and all to counter the chilly December evenings. We would wait with a sizeable crowd at the basketball court and while waiting, it is normal for the townfolks to sing a song or two.
I have very vivid memories of the torch parades I've watched as a child. From a distance, we would see a long line of torches seemingly floating in the wind. It could be pretty hypnotizing seeing the torches snake their way from Tangeb, down to Dao-angan, and up to the town center. By then, silhouettes of students carrying the torches would be discernible. As the torch parade comes closer and closer to the basketball court, the gong playing accompanying the parade becomes louder and louder. Pretty soon, the students in the parade would go down to the basketball court where a program would start with cultural presentations and singing. Despite the very chilly night, the students in the parade would be fully dressed in Igorot costumes. The boys wearing only the wanes (g-string) and the girls wearing the traditional skirt and belt with white blouses. I believe there were also competition between the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors of the school on who had the most creative torches and the best presentations.
One particular year I remember was when all my sisters were enrolled in St. Mary's. Our eldest was a senior, our 2nd was a junior, and our 3rd sister was a freshman. I fully remember the freshman class enthusiastically singing "KALAPATI, MISDA'Y KALAPATI" while the group joined them in the chorus. The seniors, who eventually won the presentation competition did the Balangbang, forming the letters of MERRY CHRISTMAS to the delight of a small but boisterous crowd from Manila. Somehow, the presentation of the juniors escape is not as clear for me, but I think they had some wonderful dancing from the Guina-ang students.
The last time I watched a torch parade was decades ago and I don't know if the Sagada Torch Parade is still being held in St. Mary's. I never participated in one because I spent my high school years in Manila. It would be a big loss if this practice stopped.These traditional events help link one's memories to their hometown, and for me, these are really fond memories to look back to and to share with my children.