Aliwan Fiesta harnesses the power of Philippine festivals to showcase how religion, culture, and tradition are woven into the fiber of our existence. Traditional fiestas, which are held annually to commemorate the foundation of a town or province, or honoring its patron saint, are brought together en masse to highlight the Pinoy’s indomitable and ebullient spirit, together with his mien for creativity and innovation. With most major fiestas rooted in the pre-colonial period, there is understandably a festival sector that celebrates Nature’s bounty. Our Filipino forebears worshipped pagan gods who, to them, were responsible for bountiful harvests on land and sea.
The agricultural basins in the lowlands of Luzon as well as the highlands of the Cordilleras are rife with stories handed down through generations about Nature’s mystical denizens who are then honored in quaint shamanic rituals and festivities by the townsfolk.
The coming of the Spaniards, led by soldiers who brought forth the sword and the Cross, left large imprints on our national psyche. Catholicism as defined by the friars brought with it religious fervor not much different from pagan practices, and which is seen today in the near-fanatic worship of iconic imagery highlighted during festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Infant Jesus as well as the individual patron saints. Folks in the Visayan region, cradle of Christianity in the Philippines, are among the most avid religious fiesta-goers, particularly those venerating the Sto. Nino.
Mindanao, in turn, with its majestic interplay of influences from Muslim and tribal cultures, displays the opulence of its festivals through visual narratives commemorating the coming of Islam and the staunch determination of the people to stem foreign invaders. Being the richest in terms of natural resources, the largest island in the archipelago also celebrates the fruits of the land as well as the endless gifts of the seas.
Aliwan Fiesta is both celebratory and commemorative. It is grassroots theatre at its best. But in the myriad faces of its participants, we see our very selves. Regale in these festivals. . .join in the merriment. . .and be prepared to be awed. ...Makiisa, makisaya, pista'y narito na!