By Joseph B.A. Marzan
We are sure to see more of the champion tribes Tribu Parianon and Tribu Jalaud after their respective victories in the Dagyang sa Barangay and Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan competitions of the Dinagyang Festival 2023 over the past weekend.
Tribu Parianon walked away with a P1 million cash prize and the champion title in the Dagyang sa Barangay competition, their first since their establishment in 2001, with their last highest placement being 1st runner-up in the barangay-based category in 2004.
Their concept was based on an Ati village that lived every day on fruits which were picked by the main character who happens to be a mother.
Parianon’s tribe manager and founder Oscar Vijuan described the win as one of his happiest moments and noted the distinction between being champion and finishing as runner-up.
Vijuan said that he was confident about their tribe’s performance after seeing the responses from the public during the Opening Salvo on Jan 13.
“I couldn’t hide my emotions because this is the first time that we were champions. There’s a different feel to it despite having already won as runner-up in the past years,” Vijuan said.
“While I was sitting during the program at the Freedom Grandstand, I was falling asleep, and my eyes were drooping due to the lack of sleep. But we saw a little glimmer [of hope] that we would win because we have a chance. We recognized that people were seeing a momentum with us, that’s why I was praying that we would be champion,” he added.
As a barangay-based tribe, their 140-member team was composed not only of pupils and students, but also people who were working in construction, sikad and tricycle drivers, and stay-at-home husbands.
They started preparing for the competition last November 2022, with practices done nightly initially at the Baluarte Elementary School, and later at the Iloilo City National High School prior to the competition.
“When we were at Baluarte, while we haven’t planned on our props yet, we already saw that we couldn’t fit, so [choreographer] Ramil Huyatid asked if we could practice at [City High] one week before Dinagyang,” Vijuan narrated.
As to their training, he said that he relied on Huyatid’s experience, having choreographed winning performances with Tribu Paghidaet of La Paz National High School under the school-based tribes’ competitions in the past editions of the festival.
He said that finances were their main challenge, saying that their P1 million budget was not enough, and he thanked their sponsors for sustaining them from preparation to competition proper.
They were still set to meet on how they would use the P1 million cash, considering that they will pay their debts first, and use a significant amount to maintain the tribe for future editions of the festival.
Calinog town’s Tribu Jalaud, a neophyte entrant to the returning Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan tilt, bested seven other Western Visayas festival-based tribes to bag the top honors along with the P400,000 cash prize.
Their tribe represents the town’s Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival, which was a merger of two festivals. The concept was based on the Sinagnayan epic, or the 7th of the 14 epics of the Panay Bukidnon tribe as compiled by anthropologist Alicia Magos of the University of the Philippines Visayas.
For Jalaud tribe manager Chester Larroder, they did not expect much, admitting that the competition was tough.
“The other [competing tribes] did have an edge, as seen in their blocking, and of course, we weren’t that confident enough because the audience and the judges have different tastes as us. The judges were of high caliber, so we [weren’t expecting at all],” Larroder shared.
“We were really happy, and the whole of Calinog was cheering because they were watching the live Dinagyang [awards ceremony] coverage. It was overwhelming, and the hard work of each and everyone paid off,” he added.
Like that of Parianon, their tribe started training and rehearsals in November with a pause in the last week of that month, and then again in the month of December.
Larroder shared that they stumbled upon roadblocks, specifically restrictions from the Department of Education (DepEd) in helping them as well as allowing kids to join the tribe.
“We really announced that this was voluntary, and we gave out waivers to parents to allow their children to join the tribe. I also asked [Calinog Mayor Francisco Calvo] if it was okay to have the kids join, and he was okay with it. He even suggested to have the school that always wins, so we also tapped the Calinog National Comprehensive High School,” he said.
“Since we were following DepEd memos, and we didn’t want to face legal trouble, we [practiced] after office hours, because we had young dancers who were also working in the local government, and after school, at least after 5 p.m.,” he added.
But the biggest challenge, according to Larroder, was funding their participation, describing it as something that “was not easy”, despite the town government’s P500,000 initial support.
“The town gave us an initial P500,000 as financial support, but you cannot lean on that budget, because as time went by, expenses kept adding and were like giving birth to newer expenses. We reached around P2 million in our budget,” the tribe manager narrated.
He said that they were able to overcome the financial burden through the support of people, particularly from sponsors who were living within and outside of the country, in addition to the existing support by the town government and residents and non-residents alike.
“We augmented with the barangays for financial help for food during the practice, and we also solicited financial support from Calinognons across the country and worldwide. We were able to overcome [financial burden] through that support,” Larroder narrated.
“Because it was always raining, we had to use any vehicles available to ferry the children, especially those who were living in the town and in the more rural areas. There were even typhoons, but we overcame them because of the support in our efforts. Everything became easier because we all helped each other,” he shared.
Larroder, who is also the town’s tourism officer, said that their win might also help their town’s tourism, owing to the coverage by traditional and social media.
“I know that our promotion, not only to Ilonggos but also to the whole Philippines and the world, could help because [Dinagyang] had a lot of visitors from other countries. Social media was also of great help because of the vloggers who witnessed [the competition],” he stated.
Larroder said that Calvo was already mulling to join the coveted Aliwan Fiesta in Manila, with the entry inspired by their recent winning one.
“[Calvo] was already preparing for next year, and if Aliwan would be resumed this year, we would join that. We already have the mayor’s blessing,” he said.