Dagon sa Hoyohoy: A Review

Dagon sa Hoyohoy: A Review

When I watched the dance-drama “Dagon sa Hoyohoy”(Amulet of the Breeze) last Friday (December 16), I was convinced that Dagohoy—a Boholano hero—was indeed an icon to be emulated for his grit, strength, and nationalism. Retelling of Dagohoy’s story is important because he established an independent government for the island during the triumphant rebellion against Spanish colonizers which lasted from 1744 to 1829.  

The hero’s lineage was undocumented, probably because of the Spaniards’ disinterest in recording the exploits of a man who humiliated them. A centenarian grandson of the brother of Dagohoy’s brother and successor—Placido Sensano—explained that Francisco Dagohoy was born in 1724 in Cambitoon, a barrio of Inabangan (now Inabanga). The hero’s surname was unknown; “Dagohoy” was believed to be a “num de guerre” chosen for a good reason, coming from the Boholano words dagon (amulet) and hoyohoy (breeze).

And why such a name? According to accounts, Dagohoy had an amulet necklace which gave him an advantage in battle. His supernatural powers endowed by the amulet could make him appear and disappear at will and jump from one riverside to another or from hilltop to hilltop—thus the attribution for a breeze because it was the characteristic of his “birtud”. He was eventually called “Dagangan” by his followers playing up his ability to glide among the hills. Truly, a name has a meaning, so Dagohoy’s exploits could not just be brushed aside as a mere tale.

What sparked the hero’s rebellion against the Spaniards was Fr. Morales’ (a Spanish Friar) refusal to give a Christian burial for his brother Sagarino. Sagarino died because when he was sent to arrest a renegade Indio, the two had a duel which caused his death. He would not be given a proper burial because of the cause of death.  The priest refused to bury Sagarino on consecrated ground as the corpse laid rotten for three days—an injustice that angered the hero. He then convinced 3,000 followers to abandon their homes and go with him in an inaccessible fortified place in the mountains. The rebellion spread like forest wildfires as the liberator emerged triumphant in all fronts.

Dagohoy was a master military strategist. He put his headquarters where enemies could not access through the cliffs and he could see them approaching far off.

Behind the acclaimed Boholano musical-drama were Lutgardo Labad (production concept and direction), Marianito Luspo (playwright) and Elvis Somosot (composer). The performance toured in different schools in Tagbilaran and the U.S.

In terms of direction, choreography, lighting and costumes, the stage presentation was commendable. The cast did well in portraying their various roles. But one thing I expected as an audience: to see how the main character earned his name which means “dagon sa hoyohoy”. Although abridged, the musical dance-drama could have shown not just the tamban (folk healer) giving the amulet to the hero and some fighting forms choreographed by a Filipino martial artist.

I am sure the hero did not just earn the surname because of a piece of necklace bestowed and a passive belief that it possessed powers. How about showing Dagohoy riding with the wind as he jumps from cliff to cliff or hilltop to hilltop? One could be more persuaded by his supernatural abilities than agree with the modernist doubts because in history—as in any other social science field—we can establish reality based on constructivist intellectual tradition: an ontological position in research asserting that social phenomenon and their meanings are determined by the social actors and knowledge is not independent from the social actors whom researchers gather the data from. Let the modernist minds ask again: why did he earn that surname?

There was, anyway, no contradictory testimony that the hero, indeed, performed supernatural feats. The surname was rightly earned from the show of supernatural abilities. The hero has been popular not just because he led many followers, mastered guerilla warfare and was a military strategist. Leaving behind the superhuman element, the hero would just be a hoyohoy.

The arnis of the warriors on stage were obviously adroit in form—I can tell as an arnis practitioner. But without showing the hero appearing and disappearing like a breeze, how can we set apart Dagohoy from Tamblot, Lapu-lapu and the rest? If he is portrayed more as a necklace-bearing warrior-leader surrounded by arnis experts with bolos and sticks did it relegate the qualities of leadership and combat prowess to the natural realm?

I am just saying my views as an audience. I cannot miss the significance of being the amulet during times of oppression. I just want the hero to show the real meaning of being the dagon in times when everyone on the island and the entire country needed as savior. This is closer to our history free from the influences of colonial clutches that usually skip what is beyond the ordinary senses. 

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