Bantayan Festival: A unique journey to the Past

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

THE people of Guimbal, Iloilo, will gather for the annual Bantayan Festival, a five-day celebration on April 3-7, 2018 marked by historical re-enactments, parades, food festival, pageantry, music, film showing and magnificent firework shows.

The series of sponsored events will entertain the community and visitors starting from April 3 (Tuesday) with the Opening and Foundation Day through a Mass at 2 p.m., Grand Parade with Float and Street Dancing Competitions at 3 p.m., Opening Program with the Drumbeat Competition at 7 p.m., and Opening of Food Festival; April 4 (Wednesday) Search for Anyag Kang Bantayan at 8 p.m.;

April 5 (Thursday) Boat Racing and Canvass Painting Competitions in Bantayan Beach Resort at 8 a.m., Pinta Lawas at 12 pm in Bantayan Beach Resort, Re-enactment of the Moro Raid at 2:30 p.m. at Bantayan Beach Resort, 14th Bantayan Film Festival at 8 p.m.; April 6 (Friday) Motorcross at 8 a.m., Car Show at 4 p.m., Bantayan Artists Night with Zeus Collins at 8 p.m.; April 7 (Saturday) Tribal Dance Drama Competition at 2 p.m., Merry-Making at 5 p.m., Awards Night and Fireworks Competition at 9:30 p.m.

As Muslims were establishing political influence in many of the islands, the arrival of the Spaniards became an intrusion into commercial activities and at the same time a threat to their expanding political sphere.

Because of that, Muslims conducted raids on Spanish-held settlements to project their power. Moreover, possession of slaves among the communities also brought the marauders power and influence. The motive of the piratical attacks was a simple act of vengeance against the Christian missionaries in propagating their faith among the inhabitants of the islands.

For many years, Christian communities in the coastal areas of Panay, Negros, and Cebu in the Visayas were fractured and chaotic due to frequent Moro invasion. Men were captured as slaves and sold not for money but for arms and ammunition. Moros would use them for housework, fieldwork, and craftwork and used extensively in the incursions as oarsmen of the pirates’ vessels.

The relatively weak resistance by the inhabitants during the frequent raids was due to the Spanish policy of prohibiting them from carrying any form of arms, which they might have used for self-protection against the raiders. Thus, the community was rendered helpless against the Moro raiders.

The most common method of the raid was the surprise attack in force. Christian communities were caught unaware and unable to mount or organize resistance.

Stone churches were used as refugee centers during the attacks. However, the pirates would either set afire and ringed the church with trenches and breastworks. Churches became a subject of heavy cannon fire and flaming darts.

Later, the town of Guimbal ensconced in fortresses along the shoreline to protect itself from a beleaguering Moro pirate menace. Watchtowers were erected to forewarn townspeople, giving them ample time to organize an orderly defense of their community. Warning devices in the form of smoke chains or sounds from the constant beating of a drum would signal everyone in the community of an incoming Moro raid. With several failures in tearing down defenses and churches, the pirates decided to give up the siege and sailed away.

The festivity will make visitors feel like time travel is possible when they visit the town during the Bantayan. Its centerpiece, the Tribal Dance Drama Competition and the Re-enactment, is a time warp of dramatized performances in which spectators are transported back to 18th century.

Both performances will showcase the victorious battle of the natives against the Moros on April 7 (Saturday) at 2 p.m., while the colorful and fierce battle will be re-enacted by last year’s winning tribe on April 5 (Thursday) at the Bantayan Beach Resort at 2:30 p.m.

The town of Guimbal is 29 kilometers south of Iloilo City. It has a land area of 4, 448 hectares and is politically subdivided into 33 barangays. The town shares borders with Tigbauan on the east; on the northeast by Tubungan; Igbaras on the northwest; and west by Miag-ao. It annually celebrates its religious fiesta in honor of San Nicolas de Tolentino every September 10. Markey day is every Tuesday.

To get to the resort, one can take a Guimbal jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary in Barangay Mohon, Oton or when in the city, at the market situated at the back of Robinsons Place Iloilo. For more information, please contact Miss Karen Gayanilo-Felicio at 09082865480.

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