By Cooper Resabal
Two heritage-based creative hubs soft-launched recently in Cortes and Loon took visitors to a set of unique cultural experiences.
This came after the City Government of Tagbilaran had also launched the “BaliksaKagahapon” heritage tour on July 22, or a day before the launching of the culture-packed creative hubs in Cortes and Loon towns.
The first one brought some to tears after a passionate performance of a dance drama on woman leader Wadji by the Cortes youth; the second one drove some into a vigorous dancing of Kuradang that flowed from the community spirit in Napo, Loon.
The first hub called “KabilinniWadji” (Heritage of Wadji) test run for the day by the Bol-anongKabilinAtongBahandi (BOKAG) at the Bakong Bridge in Cortes aimed to enhance the tabo (market day) tradition of the area by infusing it with milieu-based cultural practices related to local livelihoods and incorporating the symbol of Wadji as a local woman leader in the 16th century whose heroic deeds predated feminism.
The hub created an Asian-inspired semi-floating market where traditional barter of goods and products were indicated. Visitors bought some products along the way. The site could become a future venue for fisherfolks to sell their produce, and could enhance the promotion of local goods, like baskets, mats, fruits and marine and riverine products.
The visitors, who were in sampans, saw and talked with a nipa leaf gatherer, a crab-catcher, a fisherman and a shellfish and clam gatherer, while moving to the Abatan River Center.
The second part of the Loon heritage tour showed the struggle between the pre-Hispanic Cortes woman leader Wadji’s army and the invading raiders/pirates, as well as the community tradition of economic and cultural exchange in the context of community life in harmony with nature.
At one time the visitors “witnessed” Wadji and some warriors releasing arrows on their bows pursuing raiders on another boat along the river. Upon arrival at the port, a group of women welcomed the visitors with a shower of flower petals.
A magic-realism narration of Wadji’s story then followed in the form of dance and martial arts movements accompanied by indigenous music/sound showing her as a symbol of leadership, particularly of women power, that moved the audience because of the passionate and committed performance of the Cortes youth.
In the audience were 22nd generation descendants of Wadji, Dutch nationals, some tour guides, bloggers and some government officials. The audience and cultural workers then partook of seafoods, fruits and other natural food in the time of Wadji, like coconuts, camote, ricecakes, bananas, etc. More local products were displayed around the performance area.
Late afternoon on Sunday, the second hub called “Ang-ang saPagmugna” (Stairway to Creativity) started at the Loon plaza. With ReighMonreal as guide/narrator, the tour started at a fountain that has two women figures atop a disk, one carrying an urn, and the other, drinking water from her scooped hand. This structure is believed “to depict the origin of the name Loon, which is ‘tubignganagka-loon,’ the mixing of the salty sea with fresh spring water.”
This creative hub aims to provide visitors with an experience of the lively performance traditions of Loon (balak, kuradang, eskrima and drama) and the town’s high regard for creativity, artistry and resilience (intangible heritage), as well as its artistic architectural heritage, like the plaza, Spanish staircase (inang-angan), the harbor, and the ruins of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Light.
Then visitors were brought to the Rizal Monument completed in 1929 (Commonwealth era) with ornate balustrades, and featuring a miniature Statue of Liberty atop a dome supported by four columns over the life-size statue of the hero.
They then proceeded to the ruins of the majestic Loon church of Our Lady of Light where they were shown where the morada or mortuary kiosk used to be, the circular graveyard and the church presbytery which was transformed into a private high school. Monreal showed the three huge bells dated 1867 that he used to ring together by tying the ropes around his waste and “dancing like a macho dancer” when he was the sacristan as a teenager.
Next came the Inang-angan, a coral-stone stairway of 5 flights and 212 steps (1847-1849) which was constructed to improve contact between downtown Napo and uptown Moto.
While descending the Inang-angan, the visitors witnessed a young man, grandson of traditional theater actor J. H. dos Pueblos reciting “IyasaPanahon.” After this, there was a reenactment of how the Loonanon from Ibabaw traded their goods with those of the Loonanons from the Pantalan or Napo. Some goods, like banig and bags, were displayed on the side. Young men and women danced on the middle flight.
The Barangay Napo chairperson, together with residents of the community, welcomed the group at the end of the promenade, the fish port where visitors get a majestic view of the sea, the mangrove areas, and the mountains of Loon, and on a clear day, across the sea, the island of Cebu.
Upon arrival at the Napo Quadrangle, rehearsals of various art forms were in progress: dance, theater, painting, and poetry.There was a demonstration of the various steps involved in the dancing of kuradang. Loon became champion of this dance last year 2016, and the elderly dancers led a very enthusiastic youth in showing the steps. On the side was the rondalla and tables where guests had their Loonanon snacks.
After joining the Kuradang dancers, the visitors went to the “uplifted shores” of Napo, Loon, and were met there by the local fisherfolks who demonstrated how they fix their nets, while someone showed her basket of shellfish. The 7.2 intensity earthquake in October, 2013, uplifted the shores of Napo by 1.5 m which dried up a large portion of the coastal area where corals and shellfish used to be, lessening the area for shellfish gathering, a supplemental income source.
The guitarists then led in singing fisherfolks’ ditties, such as “Si Felimon, Si Felimon,” “Tong-tong-tong-tong Pakitong-kitong,” “PahalokaKo Day,” etc.
Then back to the quadrangle where a sumptuous dinner of seafoods and other delicacies, like the famous Loon torta, were served.
Overall, in the dancing, singing, and sharing–visitors sensed a spirit of community and enthusiasm, particularly among the youth.