Saturday, February 7, 2009
(Sagada street dancing during the 2008 Fiesta. Above photo is a screenshot from one of Paul Villegas' Sagada Fiesta galleries.)
The Sagada Fiesta, an annual celebration held every last week of January / first week of February is an event I always looked forward to as a child. I can't confirm it but I'm guessing that the fiesta is actually an Anglican celebration falling either on February 2, or on the Sunday between January 28 and February 3. This religious celebration is marked as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or more traditionally, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. After all, Sagada's patron saint is Saint Mary the Virgin. (Just a disclaimer - I've learned about these occassions from research as an adult, I never knew about this as a child.) February 2 is a special date in our family. It is the birthday of my Grandma Andrea, my paternal grandmother. It also is the birthday of my oldest son.
On the days before the fiesta, the sidewalk from the townhall to the hospital would be marked with red paint spaced a few meters apart. These spaces would be rented by Batanguenos, a misnomer for merchants from the lowlands who are in town to showcase their wares for the Sagada folk to buy. (Nope, not all of them come from the province of Batangas - that's just how we, i-Sagada call them.) Anticipation would be building high the afternoon before the first day of the fiesta. Majority of these Batanguenos would have set-up their booths, and people would already be looking for good bargains.
The first fiesta I remembered was during my second grade. The first day of the fiesta was a parade from Dao-angan to the church. I marched with my classmates proudly to town. After the church service, I was given my very first allowance by my grandparents. My allowance that day didn't amount to P1. And, I wasn't even allowed to hold it. My older sister, then a 4th grader handled it for me. We were told to keep out from children who would snatch whatever we bought. I remember getting my first taste of cotton candy from that allowance.
My entrepeneuring sister used her allowance and I believe some of mine too, to buy a pabunot. Imagine a calendar sized paper that had around 100 tiny squares - each of these squares were covered. The idea is to let other children pay a small amount like 5 centavos or so, to get the chance to uncover a square, and see if that square has a prize attached to it. The prizes are also small amounts of money, like 25 centavos, or 50 centavos - some pabunot also had squares amounting to a peso or even 2 pesos. To us children, if you spend 5 centavos and get lucky enough to win 50 centavos, that would be like winning the jackpot. (Somehow, those were my naive days.)
I vividly remember that when my sister bought this pabunot, and after she was paid a few centavos to open just a few squares, a boy also with a pabunot approached her. He paid to open one square. I saw him count rows and columns before picking a particular square. The prize attached to that square was the whole pabunot itself. Waaah! There we were, our allowance was gone, and the boy left us and went about peddling his pabunot and ours too.
Not all my fiesta experiences were as bad as that one though. I remember cheering for Sagada Central School (or Bomabanga) and St. Mary's School teams and seeing them win. Years later, I would be tasked to lead the drum and bugle corp from our school when I was in 5th and 6th grade. My cousin has hinted to me that I should be the band leader since a lot of band leaders came from our neighborhood. Imagine that pressure on my young shoulders - what if I wasn't picked to lead the band? During a fifth grade drum practice, I think our teacher saw how clumsy I was at the drums and made a very smart move. He gave me the baton and whistle and told me to lead the band. I don't believe I deserved that one but heck, who was I to argue? I took to the baton and the whistle as if they were the brothers I never had. That made me really proud.
The parade normally kicked off the fiesta. My sisters and I would put on our freshly ironed school uniforms and make the 15minute hike to where the parade would start. During our time, the parade started from Dao-angan, went up to the municipal hall, followed the road to the main gate near the hospital, and ended at church. Compared to the bigger parades I've witnessed as an older person, the ones we had were simpler. But that didn't mean it was less fun. There were normally 2 marching bands. (1 from the our school, and the other from Saint Mary's School.) Majority of elementary and high school students from the different barangays would be present in the parade. Teachers and government officials would join as well.
The parade has evolved through the years. I left Sagada to attend high school in Manila. Pictures of the parade where my younger sisters participated in are very different from the parades during my time. My younger sisters were actually band majorettes, something not present when I was part of the parade. Nowadays, they're trying to spice up the Sagada Fiesta parade by showcasing the culture of the Igorots. Streetdancing and gong-playing as shown in the above photograph looks to be a common feature. And that's a good thing. The only bad thing about it is - I haven't attended a Sagada Fiesta in almost 20-gasp-years!
Next Post: Sagada Fiesta - Sports, Cheering and School Rivalries