Photographed by Lito Derit
Sorsogon literally went big for this year’s Kasanggayahan Festival (October 17-23). After an hour of waiting out the phenomenal Sorsogon rain, down the streets they came: 14 higantes (papier-mache giants) that played out scenes from the 16th century. There were soldiers and priests, natives and colonizers. There, too, was a galleon.
The parade of the giants was a first in the festival’s 20-year history. For the longest time, the Kasanggayahan was synonymous with the Pantomina, a graceful, if genteel, dance that mimics the courtship of the doves. By working in Sorsogon’s role in the Christianization of the rest of the archipelago as the site of the first mass in Luzon, the Provincial Government hoped to inject more color and pageantry to the festivities.
And it did! Street dancers from the Community-Based Theater Group ushered in the higantes, making for an exuberant display that is both contemporary and historically relevant. The progressive street dance brought the huge crowd back to the early days of the Spanish colonization, when the first missionaries cast anchor in Luzon.
Historical accounts point to the tiny fishing village of Gibalon in the town of Magallanes as the first Christian settlement in Luzon. It was here where, according to Fr. Francisco Mallari, S.J., Fray Alonso Jimenez proclaimed the gospel and started the journey inward. The Spanish expedition led by Capitan Luis Enriquez de Guzman was dispatched by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi from Panay in 1565 and landed on the shore of the Ginangra River near Gibalon in 1569.
First staged in 1974 and revived in 1994, Kasanggayahan commemorates the foundation of Sorsogon as a province separate from Albay on October 17, 1894. The term was coined by the late historian Fr. Jose Ofracio, who wrote: “When the fields are green and the grains are golden; when machines work well and all business prosper; When the birds in the sky chirp freely, and men on earth are peacefully happy; in Bicol it is Kasanggayahan, meaning a life of peace, progress and prosperity.”
There were a host of other activities showcasing the province’s rich heritage and resources. The baluko–pen shell that abounds in Sorsogon Bay and whose meat resembles that of scallops and mussels–took centerstage at the Culinaria. Colorfully costumed contestants acted out scenes/characters culled from Bikolano folklore at the Street Art Competition. It was a visual–and vibrant–spectacle as street dancers from Sorsogon’s other towns performed at the Pintakasi nin mga Pintakasi (Festival of Festivals). And there was, of course, the inimitable Pantomina sa Tinampo, which transformed Magsaysay and Rizal Streets into a veritable lovers’ lane. Such was the lure of the pantomina that guests gamely joined in the dance.
Other scenes from Sorsogon’s Feast of Plenty: