I arrived in San Carlos City on Kalag-Kalag (November 1), a ritual of remembering those who’ve passed, between the veil of the living and the dead.
Similar to Dias de Los Muertos celebrated in Mexico, Kalag-Kalag in Philippines is a day for the living to visit the cemeteries and honor those who’ve passed to the other side. Meanwhile, in a town in Victoria, Tigkalalag Festival took place, in a merry-making dance of aswang spirits.
Instead of going there, I go to San Carlos to process my first festival experience, MassKara, and prepare for my next festival, Pintaflores. Only the second festival & I’m already steeped in massive FOMO <fear of missing out> – seems to be an ongoing sentiment for my research field, because Visayan festivals and fiestas happen somewhere, everywhere, all the time (“should I go there or here? omg, that’s happening this weekend too?? which one should I go to??” -soundtrack of my mindscape)
I should have gone to see my family cemeteries all in Bantayan island (where both my parents derive their origins), but I knew that the travel time there and back would be tiresome for my body, brain, soul. When I texted my mother that I made it safely to San Carlos, she blessed my presence and told me that, actually, I had arrived in the city where my Lolo (grandfather) was born. Before WWI, his family moved there for business, before returning to Bantayan island. I felt relieved that even though I did not go to the cemetery where my Lolo is buried (and where the rest of my family went to ‘celebrate’ Kalag-Kalag), I at least visited him in his place of birth. (I also began to ask questions on ancestral activities, why my great-grandparents were in San Carlos, Negros for business, while raising my Lolo (grandpa) back in Bantayan, where he went on to build a fishing boat enterprise from his inherited trade networks.)
<Let’s get real: It’s hard to describe the kind of loneliness I started to feel on this trip. On one hand, I am getting an incredibly opportunity to study Visayan festivals; on the other hand, surrounded by crowds of strangers celebrating their community’s history that is not my own, is a naturally alienating situation. So I am touched by my mother’s news and such surprises of interconnection.
“The Pintaflores Festival was born out of the city’s search for a cultural identity and tradition. In 1992 after successfully holding two activities with the Nabingkalan Tattoo Festival and the Dances of Flowers as highlights of the city fiesta, the idea of blending the two concepts to come up with a presentation that could be considered the city’s very own started what today is one of the most popular street dancing festivals in the region, the present-day Pintaflores Festival.” –Wikipedia
Similarly, I am amused to learn that Pintaflores Festival is based on a myth of an ancient princess who is healed from getting a flower tattoo. I myself have 2 flower tattoos, one of which I got to heal a hurtful experience of a 3rd-degree burn which left permanent scars on my skin; it also became a marker for my search for cultural identity. OK so I am not a princess PER SE, but I vibe with this myth, as part of my spiritual pilgrimage to experience Visayan festivals and reconnect with my roots through movement-based research. SO, w/ FOMO & all, I’m excited for the journey between worlds.