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Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

OTON, ILOILO will burst into life in a four-day party for its 447th Foundation Day and annual Katagman Festival on April 30 to May 3, 2019.

It is a lively and unrivalled tribute to the town’s history, culture and traditions with music, dancing and lots of food and drink.

April 30 (Tuesday) Opening of Agri-Fair, Garden Show and Plant Sale and FITS Day at 9 a.m., Mass at 2p.m., Parade at 4 p.m., Opening Program at 6 p.m. and Hiyas Sang Katagman at 7 p.m.; May 1 (Wednesday) Katagman Fun Run and Walk at 5:30 a.m., On-the-Spot Painting Contest at 7:30 a.m., FITS Day at 8 a.m. and Bugal Sang Ogtonganon: Awarding of Outstanding Ogtonganons and Young Achievers, Awarding of Clean and Green ModelongGulayan, Awarding of Top/ Prompt Business Tax Payers at 5:00 p.m.

May 2 (Thursday) Laro Ng Lahi and SinadyasaBaybay at 7:30 a.m., Motorboat race and Baroto Race at 7 a.m., HatawsaKatagman at 4 p.m.; May 3 (Friday) 447th Foundation Day Mass at 2 p.m., Katagman Festival Street Dancing Competition at 4 p.m., Katagman Festival Music, Dance and Theater Competition at 6 p.m.

Katagman Festival happens every year in the last 17 years to the satisfaction of locals. Visitors learn how beautiful and rich is the towns historical value highlighted during the Dance and Theater Competition.

The contest re-enacts important historical segments such as the trade between the locals and Chinese merchants, the significance of the Chinese porcelains and the gold death mask, and how Christianity flourished in the area.

The recovery of Chinese porcelain wares in some parts of Oton, being one of the early settlements in the country, shows that the Chinese traded with the locals. The abundance of porcelain wares used as grave goods by our ancestors may indicate that they had been in the area for a long time.

Chinese goods abound the Visayas as they exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the locals.

A rare Chinese burial gold leaf mask, one of the oldest objects found in Barangay San Antonio, was excavated in the 1960s by Alfredo Evangelista and F. Landa Jocano. Made of finely created gold sheets, the mask covers both eye and a disc that covers the entire nose.

The golden mask is part of a burial tradition from a limited group of Filipinos who have had early contacts with Chinese merchants. It was dated sometime in late 14th to the early 15th century A.D.

The gold death mask was declared a National Cultural Treasures and is known to be one of the 15 Most Intense Archaeological Discoveries of the Philippines.

Oton was established in 1572 by the Augustinian Friars and became the center of Spanish administration in Iloilo. Once known as Ogtong, it was a missionary base for the conversion of the entire region.

The Dance-Drama is an impressive ending to the annual celebration that will surely leave fond memories to many attendees. Attending and witnessing Katagman festival is a perfect way of gaining a better understanding of Otons local culture.

Oton is approximately 10.2 kilometers or a 30-minute drive south from the city. This First-Class municipality has a land area of 8, 456 hectares and is politically subdivided into 37 barangays. The town is bordered in the east by the district of Arevalo in Iloilo City; west by the municipality of Tigbauan: north by San Miguel; and the southern portion by a stretch of shoreline of the Sulu Sea.

To get there one can take a jeepney fronting Molo Supermart. For more information about any of the events above, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Cheche S. Demo-os at 09778500954.