Festival to the max

    “A FESTIVAL among great festivals of the province as it will immortalize the lifestyle of the Aetas through dance and other cultural presentations. The Aetas are well known for their dances as part of their celebration of their struggles and triumphs.”

    Thus defined June Magbalot, execom co-chair of the Caragan Festival, which on its second year has already become the signature festival of the soon-to-be City of Mabalacat.

    Thirty one “tribes” from schools and organizations in various native accoutrements of indigenous materials are slated to participate in the street revelry today. No, it’s not all faux natives – charcoaled faces and bodies to look like the real deal – that are joining. The festival would have been totally devoid of meaning there. Three ethnic tribus – Paglabuhan from Haduan-Calapi, Rosario from Dapdap, and Tabakunaw  from Calumpang – provide  authenticity to the festival.

    “This festival is not only about having fun with street dances but also about honoring the rich cultural heritage of the people of Mabalacat. The Aetas, being one of the original inhabitants, are also given due recognition,” Magbalot explained during the pre-festival prescon last Monday.

    Recognition of the Aetas for being the original inhabitants of this land.

    That instantly struck a chord in Philippine Star’s Dinggoy Cervantes who was seated beside me during that prescon at Max’s Dau.

    “Perhaps we can go beyond the revelry of the Caragan Festival to really give recognition to our Aeta brothers,” mused Dinggoy.

    Yeah, like the proceeds from the festival – what with its many sponsors – placed in some trust fund for the education of young Aeta tribesmen or for some livelihood programs in the uplands.

    Dinggoy’s thoughts soared even higher with suggestions of a recognition day for Aetas who have distinguished themselves in various fields. “They could very well serve as role models, not only to the young kulots but even to the unats.”

    I remember two really outstanding Aeta brethren: one whom I heard once discussing the Mining Act in fluent and mellifluous Tagalog, the other being the lady lawyer at the Clark Development Corp.

    I fully agreed with Dinggoy. By their example the line of discrimination between us brothers will be narrowed further; the social divide between us bridged. The Caragan Festival will thus be raised to a level higher than the promotion and preservation of a cultural heritage. It shall evolve into a catalyst for the socio-cultural and economic liberation of the Aetas.

    On hindsight now, the night of recognition for the Honored Sons and Daughters of Mabalacat within the festival period would have assumed a deeper meaning, a loftier value had Aetas been included among the honorees. Perhaps Magbalot and company could consider this for next year’s edition. It will go a long way in the efforts to fully integrate our tribesmen into mainstream society. 

    “The festival can go all the way up the spiritual milieu even,” Dinggoy could not be contained.

    So what did he mean by that? Mabalacat to proclaim a local holiday in honor of the Aeta deity Apo Namalyari, and for us all to trek Mount Pinatubo in pilgrimage on that day?

    “No, the Caragan Festival can launch the search for the first Aeta saint,” Dinggoy said so unaffectedly. In my excitement I forgot Dinggoy’s being a Marian devotee.

    From cultural preservation to socio-economic liberation to canonization. The Aetas deserve every recognition they get every step in that process.  

    The brains behind the Caragan Festival – Magbalot, his co-chair the doubly-visionary Deng Pangilinan, and Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales – have started something great going. They may as well raise it to the max.


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