Bayluhay: A beautiful expression the Ilonggos’ unique character

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

SAN JOAQUIN, Iloilo, is renowned for its strong cultural ties, vivacious colors, and lively music.

Its annual cultural event, Bayluhay, pulls all stops when it comes to festivals.

From the days of traditional bullfighting and special events, the town immerses its visitors in its rich local culture which is a beautiful expression of the town’s unique character.

Bayluhay, which happens today, Jan 18, 2018 at 2 p.m., draws from diverse cultural traditions. It showcases a mixture of indigenous rituals and local traditions and customs. These include the native culture of Borneans who inhabited the area prior to the arrival of the Spanish.

Bayluhay, coined from the Hiligaynon word baylo (to barter or to exchange) is an annual tribal dance competition that highlights the folk history of the re-enactment of the historic barter based on the Maragtas Legend.

It is said that sometime between the 13th and 15th century, 10 Shri-Vijayan Datus led by the Sultanate Minister Datu Puti, together with Datus Bangkaya, Dumalugdog,  Sumakwel, Lubay, Paiburong, Dumangsil, Balensusa, Paduhinog and Dumangsol and their families and followers, boarded their balangays or boats and sailed across the Sulu Sea on their quest for the Promised Land.

The group skirted to the southern tip of Panay Island and landed in Siruanga (Siwaragan River in San Joaquin) where they met the Ati chieftain Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwang. They had peaceful intentions with the natives, and later entered into a trade alliance and negotiated the purchase of Panay Island.

The Borneans bartered the lowlands, plains and valleys for a golden Salakot and a Manangyad or golden necklace which is said to have touched the ground. After the transaction was sealed, the Atis were believed to have retired to the mountains and the Malay took complete control of the lowlands.

The performance also explores the rich ancient rituals practiced by our early ancestors who believe that spirits dwell in many natural features such as trees, rivers, and mountains.

Dwellings of malignant spirits are avoided. The preservation of these traditions was observed spiritually and as a communal way of life.

Bayluhay is San Joaquin’s annual appreciation and recognition of its historic past. Every Ilonggo must celebrate it to honor our rich culture and tradition. It is our way to connect to our past that had made us what we are today.

San Joaquin is a Second Class municipality, the last town south of the province. It is 85- kilometer away or an hour and 20-minute drive from the city. With a total land area of 23,135 hectares, the town is subdivided into 85 barangays.

To get to San Joaquin, visitors can take a jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo or at the market terminal along Mabini St. in Iloilo City. Metered taxis are also available.

For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Erlyn Alunan at 09085129189.

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