Katagman Festival: A Magnificent Historic Gem of Oton

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

OTON, Iloilo transforms to a unique festive atmosphere starting April 28 – May 3, 2017 with the celebration of Katagman Festival.

The entire history of the town is brought alive by the festival highlight – the inter tribe dance-theater competition on May 3 at 4 p.m.

This festival is celebrated in the very heart of the town. A walk through this historic pueblo, the oldest in Panay, is an unforgettable encounter with series of daily special events starting  April 28 (Friday) Opening of Agri Fair, Garden Fair and Plant Sale at 9 a.m., Mass at 2 p.m., Parade at 4 p.m., Program at 6 p.m., Hiyas Sang Katagman: Coronation Night at 6:30 p.m.;

April 29 (Saturday) Katagman Fun Run/ Walk at 5:30 a.m., Take-Off of Fishing Tournament –Fishport at 7 a.m., Lampirong Diving Contest – Fishport at 7 a.m., Laro ng Lahi – Plaza at 8 a.m., Dog Show – Heritage Lagoon at 2 p.m., Search for Ginoong Erpat and Ginang Ermat – Plaza at 6:30 p.m.;

April 30 (Sunday) Porma Balas/ Sinadya sa Baybay –Fishport at 7 a.m., Motorboat Race/ Baroto Race – Fishport at 7 a.m., Awarding of Fishing Tournament – Fishport at 7:30 a.m., Lampirong Shelling and Eating Contest – Fishport at 7:30 a.m., Hablon Fashion Show – Multi-Purpose Gym at 6:30 p.m.,

May 1 (Monday) On-the-Spot Painting Contest – Heritage Lagoon at 7:30 a.m., 1st Oton Betta Competition (Fish Exhibit) – Plaza at 9 a.m., Bugal Sang Ogtonganon/ Induction of PCCI Oton Chapter – Sheridan Boutique Resort at 6 p.m.;

May 2 (Tuesday) Borador sang Katagman/ Fly -your- kite – OCES Grounds, FITS Day at 8 a.m., Pabalhas sa Katagman at 5 p.m.;

May 3 (Wednesday) 445th Foundation Day Mass at 2 p.m., Street Dancing Competition at 4 p.m., Music, Dance and Theater Competition at 6 p.m.

The Chinese gold burial mask of Oton is the icon of the annual Katagman Festival celebration. The role it plays is a “mediatory” object connected to Oton’s history and culture.

Chinese trade with the locals existed long before the coming of the Spaniards. The products that we traded were yellow wax, cotton, pearls, shells, betel nuts, and yuta cloth made of abaca.

It is said that the Chinese on their arrival made their presence felt by beating gongs and the Filipinos, in light boats would come out to trade.

Oton is believed to be one popular site of remarkable Chinese artefacts and many of these artefacts are displayed in local and national museums. The most popular and iconic is the Chinese gold death mask believed to be in the late 14th and 15th century A.D. and found in a grave site somewhere in San Antonio, a barangay of Oton.

Made of finely created gold sheets, the mask covers both eye and a disc that covers the entire nose. The golden mask is part of a burial tradition from a limited group of Filipinos who have had early contacts with Chinese merchants. The southern Chinese is the culture that produced this artefact.

Burial customs are important and masks have often been used in ceremonies associated with the dead and departing spirits. Funerary masks were frequently used to cover the face of the deceased. Generally their purpose was to force the spirit of the newly dead to depart for the spirit world.

Oton’s history remains as the cornerstone upon which Katagman Festival’s reputation is established. But there is plenty more to this town than meets the eye. Katagman Festival is a magnificent gem of a festival that has built a significant reputation, earning it a place as one of Iloilo’s best cultural celebrations each summer.

Approximately 10.2 kilometers south from the city is the municipality of Oton. A First Class town that is bordered in the east by the district of Arevalo in Iloilo City; west by the municipality of Tigbauan; north by San Miguel; and the southern portion by a stretch of shoreline of the Sulu Sea. It has a land area of 8, 456 hectares politically subdivided into 37 barangays.

For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Irene Otero at 09479954730 or at (033) 3351014.

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