Bugkosan Fest: A Love for Culture and History

Around the country, new resorts and tourist facilities are the main focus in attracting visitors. Dinagat however may be the only one to lay claim as the newest proclaimed province. Located as a group of islands north of Surigao del Norte, even the most hardened adventure traveler has yet to brag that they’ve been there. The pure white sand of La Isla Aga against a backdrop of a pristine blue sea is just one of the many attractions that you can find there. A short flight to Surigao City from Manila is less than a couple of hours and is reasonably affordable. From the airport, it’s a comfortable boat ride to the provincial capitol of San Jose.

The name of the province itself is from the local love story between “Prinsesa Dina” and “Prinsipe Gat.” On the approach to San Jose port, the mountain peaks in the island of Libjo shows the contour of a woman sleeping. On the other side from the Basilisa municipality is the mountain range of “Lalaking bukid". The outline of that mountain range shows the silhouette of a man. The romance between the two legendary figures is just one of the reasons for the description “Mystical Island Province of Love.”

Early December, Dinagat celebrated the “Bugkosan” Festival where their history and unique cultural dances are in display. It commemorates the declaration of Dinagat as a province, a move initiated by Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo in 2006. Since then the towns and inhabitants have experienced an improved way of life. They have been able to initiate more infrastructure projects that are badly needed such as roads and improved piers.

The name Bugkosan is both an acronym and derived from the word “Pagbugkos” or to bind. In the local dialect the word is “Pagbug-os” or coming together for one cause. The meaning is perfect because seven different municipalities participate for the success of the festival. The acronym however forms a catchy phrase in English: Best Unique Gathering for Kudos Organized for Sustainable Advocacies and Networking development.

The most awaited part of the fest is a street dancing competition between representatives from the seven participating towns. The colorful costumes and dances are based on the culture of the Manobo, who are the original inhabitants of the islands. For most of the towns red, yellow and black are the predominant colors. Feathers, beads shake violently to the rhythmic swaying of the dances. But for Tubajon, sea shells adorn brown colored dresses and bat costumes. The town of Candiangao won the street dancing competition which has a P60,000 grand prize.

The choreography usually tells a story from the island’s creation or from battles of warring tribes. The dances have a frenetic pace and movement with lots of drums and face painting. The energy of the performances is very infectious. Dancers are recruited from the elementary and high school students of their towns. Preparation is almost a year-long, creating the costumes and props involve nearly the whole community. (Jude L. Bautista, MB)

photo credit: Manila Bulletin

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