Panaad Festival 2019

THIS year’s Panaad Festival opened last Monday. As usual the opening day of this annual event and the grounds were swelling with humanity, the parking areas were fully occupied, vehicles spilling out of the complex and into the Bacolod-Murcia highway. Parking, in fact is a discouraging factor in the festival. Still people take time out to get into the spirit.

These days the focus of the people of this province is on this celebration that is dubbed the Mother of Festivals as every component local governments take part, regardless of political affiliations or inclinations. Every town and city has a place of its own, a pavilion, where the best of the locality is showcased, local products and specialties are sold. Every pavilion undergoes renovation each year that they are now bigger, well-stocked and comfortable. In a way, the entire Panaad complex is a microcosmic exhibition of the province.

This festival that originated as a religious celebration has become a very secular affair. The name suggests its origin, a religious vow, but now its religious roots are forgotten. But that is the way it had to go because this is a government affair financed by public funds although many of the activities are sponsored by private enterprises.

The thirty-two towns and cities of the Occidental Negros performed before thousands of people at the Panaad Sports Complex for the dance competition. Thanks to Governor Alfredo Marañon’s invitation through his sister, Sonia Sarrosa, we were able to sit right across the stage where the dance competition was held in the evening of the opening day.

Because of our strategic location, I was able to see the dances in greater detail and heard the background of each dance that I supposed the participants provided the announcers. There is no question about the color and gaiety of all dances. The choreography is remarkable and the dancers did exceedingly well. Because they did not wear masks, we could see the enthusiasm, the vibrancy and the sense of doing their best in the faces of the dancers. The choreographers and dance instructors deserve praise. They show that in this province we are not bereft of dance artists.

We were a bit late so I did not hear the criteria for the selection but one thing in common were the narratives of the origin and history of the town that became the historical bases of the dances. In a way the dances were interpretative of the place names.

However, it is either lack of research or a failure to understand what they were presenting, that the choreographers tried to stretch their imagination to the point of contradiction and ridiculousness. Because of lack of credible bases, the props and the dances followed the product of the imagination and thus they presented outlandish costumes and dances. It is sad that the choreography that could have been excellent teaching tools presented a wrong idea about the town and its origin.

As we say, one cannot squeeze lemon from turnips so the dances based on pure imagination and concoction sadly failed to present the town or city for what they really are. Hinoba-an, for instance, created the impression that their ancestors were deviants for demanding their captives to strip.

On the other hand La Castellana’s “Bailes de Luces” was original and historic setting and Kabankalan presented what it is today; both avoided trying to squeeze history from a preposterous idea presented as legend that carried a heavy load of self-contradiction.

Lack of historical sources cannot be excused because there are many literatures on the subject of place names. Even costumes, so beautifully and elaborately done suffered from lack of research, like Pontevedra’s Spanish conquistadores carrying scimitars rather than swords. Their Spanish dancing, however, was superb.

Native Filipinos were dressed and painted like Incans, Mayans, Aztecs and African tribesmen. They were not our ancestors. The influence of mardi gras imitated by the MassKara Festival is very obvious. The MassKara dance has no historical or cultural foundation but a creation that caught popular acceptance.

By relying on fantasy and imitation, the designers and choreographers produced other absurdities like a fairy liberating Silay. By trying to fill gaps, La Carlota included the irrelevant labor strike in its sugar mill and diluted its vibrant music and sensational dancing.

Perhaps the Panaad dances will still evolve into something uniquely their own.

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