SANGYAW FESTIVAL's Parade of Lights

Photo: Danica Canas
My daughter and I was all pumped up to watch the Parade of Lights yesterday. Who wouldn't? There was so much hype about it on TV plus Youtube video teasers of the floats were posted everywhere on FB. This is supposedly a first in Tacloban City-the city governments bid to outshine the Pintados Festival and create an identity of their own.

Photo: Danica Canas
On an interview with the local press, Councilor Kristina Romualdez said that there is no festival like the Sangyaw Festival's Parade of Lights. Brazilian music will also be played on every street corner so that all Taclobanons and Leytenos can dance to the parades beat. The float designer also bragged about the materials being shipped from abroad.(Support local please!) With all these expectations set, the Parade of Lights was the talk of the town.

There is little entertainment in Tacloban City. June is the only month of the year wherein this other wise sleepy town breathes to life. There are concerts to see every night. Tiangges to go to and buy random gewgaw. Amidst these are the colorful mylar balloons bobbing through the crowd and the occasional glow in the dark pulsating from a distance. June is truely a fun month in Tacloban.

Photo: Danica Canas
Yesterday was one such occasion. It was the most awaited Sangyaw Festival, second to the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival which is also celebrated on the same month. At three pm, the streets were slowly filling up with an eager crowd. Some brought their own chairs with them while others climbed the highest elevation they can reach. You can see families picnicking on top of their cars. With the heat and humidity, everyone was still excited and expectant.

Photo: Danica Canas
The councilor said that it will be like Disneyland. So I imagined humongous lighted floats with the Cirque du Soleil doing acrobats. I imagined dancers gyrating their hips to Latin beats like there is no tomorrow.
The parade was a hodgepodge of everything. Twenty floats was included. I saw a pagoda, a ship and a tank. Some fishes, an ugly duckling, a bee, caterpillar and a lost pawikan was included. The San Juanico Bridge looked beautiful. I wish they will deck the real San Juanico Bridge with Christmas Lights too one of these days.Now that would be a great sight to behold!

Photo: Danica Canas
There were lion dancers and women in cheogsam with glowing breasts. (Yes you read that right! Whoever have thought to place those lights in between mammary glands was genius!) The costumes varies. One common theme though was the hastily placed lights added to their outfit. It's as if they bought whatever light is available on the side walk and wore it just to have lights on their costumes.

There was the much heated debate on whether to let the Sto.Nino join the parade and where to put it. Originally, it was to be placed with the angel float. I was surprised to see it placed on the boats hull instead.

Photo: Danica Canas
A day after the parade, FB is teeming with rants and raves about the parade. Mostly rants anyways.This is what makes Tacloban and Leyte's political and social scene colorful. Some say the Petilla's Pintados Kasadyaan, had it been allowed to ply the streets of Tacloban would have been way much better. There is no doubt about this claim. Pintados-Kasadyaan has already made its mark on the countries tourism. Although, gone are the good old days where we would wear ratty clothes to watch the parade, armed with paint and always on guard for merry makers. It was fun being chased down a crowded street with a spray paint or riding a jeepney with a steady fear of a pint of paint being thrown at you.

Let's start our post mortem!

Photo: Danica Canas
Understandably, the Sangyaw Festival Parade of Lights is on its 4th year and like a preschooler, is still trying to find and establish its own identity. I guess, Pintados-Kasadyaan has first started out this way-unorganized. It didn't need a theme because the name of the festival already screams it. Pintados, the painted people of the Las Islas Pintados depicted and glorified in the Boxer Codex.

Photo: Danica Canas
The parade has lots of gaps sometimes lasting more than fifteen minutes or more;ergo, some of the crowd left thinking the parade was already over. The organizer should know better. 

I was part of the Leyte National High School's street dancing for the Pintados before. (Modesty aside, we won.) Sir Manog has always emphasized smiling and enthusiasm even if we were dancing for a mile under the heat of the sun. No complaints. Clearly, in this parade there was lack of gusto on the part of the dancers. Their performance lacks luster. What is their excuse? It was night time. They can't complain that they were already dehydrated and sunburned.

I would like to blame the music for their lack of energy. Had they used real instruments for their music like percussion's and drums, their performance might have been livelier and bouncier but the government chose to play the music from speakers blasted from every corner which the crowd ignored.

On previous parades, local students would be sent out to the streets to cordon off the people. There was no sight of them this time around. The crowd control was left only to a skinny number of police and TOMECO officers was outnumbered. Like all any parade, there was lots of pushing and shoving. The throng only parted a few centimeters to let the floats and dancers pass. I had many scares that Yumi might be pushed under a float or poked by the bamboo sticks used in the dancers costumes. This was the only source of adrenaline rush I had from this show.

It was an early Christmas for all of us indeed. The floats were as bland as a house bedecked with Christmas lights. Palo, Leyte in its full glory at Christmas is much more enchanting. Some say it was a procession and when someone says its a procession it is spelled as B-O-R-I-N-G.

Photo: Danica Canas
A friend,Don Poldo, asked me my opinion on the parade. It sent off warning bells. Here is a dissatisfied customer who traveled 2 hrs by bus from the community he worked in just to see the parade. I then proceeded to tell him the gist of this blog. Then, I asked him, "How about you?". He answered me with only one word, "Chaka!". Maybe because he was left unimpressed. I too was expecting more.

Next year I wish to see more rotary floats with not just Christmas lights on it. There are many alternatives. Why not try to use LED lights in synced to a certain music. They could have used fountains or slides. The Rose Bowl Parade and Bailes de Luces has lots of idea to teach the Parade of Lights.

EL wires, glow in the dark body paint and glow sticks could have been employed to jazz up their dreary garbs. Why hasn't anyone thought of donning up a costume like the ones used in Step Up or Bailes de Luces? They could have had fire poi dancing!

It is already cliche to say bigger and better. I wouldn't wish for next years parade to be bigger but I would surely want it to be better. The number of floats doesn't matter. What matters most is how you wowed the audience. Innovate and bank on your creativity.

Will they be going home raving about the Parade of Lights or will they be ranting about the Parade of Sighs?

Kudos to the City government for making the parade still possible. Street parades has always been a tradition in June. It must have taken lots of money, time and planning.

What do you think about the parade?




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