Katagman: A Celebration of Oton’s Culture and Creativity

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

OTON, Iloilo, will celebrate its 446th Foundation Day Anniversary alongside the annual Katagman Festival on April 30 – May 3, 2018.

The festivity is all about Oton’s history. It is one of Iloilo’s successful community events which promotes the towns’ wonderful stories and places.

Celebrated at the heart of the charming old town, Katagman Festival began in 2004 and has grown each year. Every May, Ogtonganons explore their history through special events highlighted by the Music, Dance and Theater Competition at 6 p.m. on May 3 (Thursday) with Street Dancing Competition at 4 p.m.

After 15 very successful years, the event is firmly established as a major fixture on the local festival calendar attracting many.

Themed “Kasaysayan sang Mascara nga Bulawan Aton Balikan, Masanag nga Buas damlag Aton Maaguman,” the festival activities, exhibitions and programs unfold throughout the 4-day celebration.

April 30 (Monday) is the Opening of the Agri-Fair, Garden Show and Plant Sale at 9 a.m. in front of Annex B Municipal Building, Mass at 2:30 p.m., Parade at 4 p.m., Opening Program at 6 p.m. at the Plaza and Hiyas Sang Katagman at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza.

May 1 (Tuesday) Katagman Fun Run/ Walk at 5:30 a.m. at the Plaza, On-the-Spot-Painting Contest at 7:30 a.m. at the Heritage Lagoon, Bugal Sang Ogtonganon – Awarding of Outstanding Ogtonganons and Young Achievers, Clean and Green, ModelongGulayan and Top/ Prompt Business Tax Payers at 6 p.m. at the Sheridan Boutique Resort.

May 2 (Wednesday) SinadyasaBaybay and Motorboat and Baroto Race at 7 a.m. Fishport, LarongLahi at 8 a.m., Plaza and ZumbathonsaKatagman at 5 p.m., Plaza; May 3 (Thursday) 446th Foundation Day Mass at 2 p.m., Street Dancing Competition at 4 p.m., Oton Plaza and Music, Dance and Theater Competition at 6 p.m., Oton Plaza.

With 37 barangays of the town clustered into seven (7) tribes, the presentations highlight Oton’s rich history, starting from its pre-colonial settlement to the present. The icon of the celebration is the Chinese Golden Death Mask, now considered a National Treasure.

For the town of Oton, the major cultures that impacted their way of life are the Chinese and Spanish. History played a critical role in the evolution of Oton’s cultural life. A vast amount of Chinese pottery has come to light from archaeological sites, particularly burial sites in many areas of the town. This is the best evidence the flourishing trade between China and Oton for many centuries.

Chinese merchants carried on a rich trade with the local community and brought in imports such as silk cloth, gongs, porcelain, umbrellas, gold threads, etc. into the area.

Filipinos, on the other hand, would trade honey, rattan, cotton, pearls, wood, gold, etc. While some of the Chinese were engaged in various forms of retail trade, others worked as artisans, producing goods for the use of the Spaniards in the community. These various activities were dominated and almost monopolized by the Chinese.

The Spanish had not come to the Oton to engage in the kind of trade and artisanship initiated by the Chinese. The Spanish were in the area for religious and economic reasons. Conversion of the locals was a major objective of Spanish policy.

Katagman is not only a celebration of Oton’s culture and creativity, it is a celebration of art and design, fashion and food on the streets of Panay’s Oldest Pueblo. So, whether you are a long-time enthusiast or has never seen a historic festival in action before, you will find plenty to entertain you at Oton’sKatagman Festival.

The First Class town of Oton is approximately 10.2 kilometers or a 25-minute ride south of Iloilo City and 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 about any of the events above, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Cheche S. Demo-os at 09778500954.

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