Finally, a fiesta for the people. It may be on the highway, but it’s not performed for tourists.
I’ve already gotten weary of cultural festivals as oriented towards outsiders as spectators, consumers, judges of local arts. In contrary, Sambat Mascara Y Regatta (‘informal masked event’) of Loay, Bohol is aimed for the people as a mode of embodied identification in community celebration: a fiesta to honor the town’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier. While the roadside is filled with passerby tourists waiting to ride the Loboc River, it appeared as if Frog & I were the only non-locals peering into church festivities.
From the costumes to the choreography, the festival feels homemade & hand-sewn – in comparison to the garish outfits of MassKara & Pintaflores.
And yet, what are also the limitations of this format? Is this the art that wants to be made? Is this the art that wants to express itself? Or is this the art that the community knows how to perform?
I don’t manage to record it, but I hear (and this is hearsay now, not recorded evidence), but a group of people discussing inside the Angel’s Burger joint about how useless fiestas are, how they take up the time of students, when students can’t even read, don’t know how to read Bisaya, the hours they spend under the hot sun, preparing for a ‘stupid street dance.’
I also saw how the children responded to Frog taking out a puppet of Lihangin and Lidagat, diwatas we made with paper and wire. “I wished I knew how to make that” – they said, and started to make up a story of its origins. It is in these brief encounters, them dressed as fisherfolk in blue shirts, painted blue hands, that I wonder how they too are “puppeted” inside the machinery of fiesta & field day culture. It’s ingenuity: burlap sacks, nipa costumes, mesh & blue hands- but as low budget as you can get.
While I think the festivals are incredible displays of artistic creativity, I am weary of how they accommodate the creative imaginary and retell the same stories of catholicization. Histories of a town, histories of place, thousands of years collapsed in 8 minutes, only to end in the resounding replaying of centuries of christian colonization. Still, as the video shows below, the queers get the most claps upon their arrival.
The desire for expression & experience of arts in community cannot be undervalued…