On a clear night when everything seems still, I could hear the beating of the drums. Perhaps it was the pounding of my heart but I swear it does sound like the rhythmic drum beats. There is no escape to the calling of the Islands. It runs to every part of my veins. It is who I am. Today, a give you glimpse of the place that I’m passionate about. With pride, honor and joy I share with you the amazing talents of my countrymen in the Philippines.
One Rhythm, One Nation, One People
What defines a nation? Is it our culture and heritage? Is it our people? Is it our geographical uniqueness separated by several thousand Islands in South East Asia? Is it our ability to survive the harsh trials of time from national disasters to the bondage of colonialism, dictatorship, political greed and poverty? Is it our heart that never gives up no matter how again and again we have fallen? Is it the rhythm of the spirit that draws us together as one nation both in times of celebrations and grief? Is it faith and religion? Perhaps, it’s all these.
No matter what they are, we will continue to dance to the rhythm of the drum beat as one nation and one unified people. We proudly echo throughout the world that we are “Filipinos” born to survive and inspire. We will continue to fight the challenges ahead with one passionate heart beating, hoping and praying for peace, love, happiness, equality, for a better life for ourselves and our families.
Today, I will share with you the yearly celebration of life, faith and gratitude of my hometown Iloilo called “Dinagyang.” It will show you why despite of the pain we go through as a nation, we continue to smile, love, remain optimistic, even forgive those who caused us misery.
The celebration started as a festivity to honor the child Jesus whom everyone called “Santo Nino.” It is the local’s way of celebrating thanksgiving not just for a year of abundance, good health and life itself but also of a faith that held them together for centuries.
There is a “Dinagyang” song during this festivity that tells the story of how the first settlers of the land called “Aetas,” the country’s local aborigines sold Iloilo to the Borneans headed by Datu Paiburong. It further describes the proud and vibrant heritage of the Ilonggos including their hope for prosperity and peace.
To this day, the Aetas kept their way of life. They are the most simple, peace-loving group of people in my Islands. The new generation seems to have forgotten who they are and what they stand for. That saddens me. They are still very much a part of every Filipino. We should always look back on the past, learn from it and never forget who we are. If we don’t, we will loose the very identity that we take pride of. We will loose our distinctive culture and heritage that keeps us unified as one nation.
Dinagyang As An Expression Of Hope
There are a lot of things that keeps us hopeful. One of which is our religious faith. Another is our love for our families. A love that would fuel us to overcome the odds, obstacles, struggles, isolation and heartaches. A love that would keep us smiling generously despite the pain.
Presently, a lot of emphasis is given on tourism and commerce but past the noise of commercialism, it is still about the people, their stories, their quest for a brighter future, their love and passion and of a religious faith that keeps their spirit high during times of hardship . It is a symbol of their hope and with each beating of the drum, a new dream is born, a dream that they will pursue with determination and perseverance.
The Tribes And Their Dance For Victory
Every year, about 20 tribes from various towns gather on the 3rd Sunday of January to compete for the highly anticipated “Ati-atihan” contest. Covered in black soot, the warriors prepare themselves for the ultimate dance battle. A battle they prepared for several months with sweat and tears. In the end, only one will be declared the champion among the tribes.
The deafening drums fills the air, the synchronized bodies move as one with grace and striking movements with each beat. As the beat gets louder and goes into a crescendo, the body’s pulsating rhythm moves faster and more intense, almost like in a trance. Then an explosive booming sound fills the air, as the group shouts at the top of their lungs, “Hala-bira!” Then comes total silence as everyone gasp, breathless to the spectacle before them.
It’s so easy to be carried away, to let loose, to surrender, just to be free…
Faces And Expressions
A myriad of emotion and expressions moves the audience from the excitement of a successful performance, to the absolute happiness of winning, to the sadness of defeat, to the cry of frustration, to the almost crazy expression of disbelief and the glitter of hope that can only be seen when you truly look into a person’s eyes.
And the champion among the best tribes is…
Winners don’t get to walk on a red carpet or ride a luxurious limousine. They ride on top of trucks and vans as they parade around town beaming with happiness as they show their hard-earned trophy. This is reality. This is life. This is how it is in my country. We are genuinely festive despite of the little things we have. We often smile generously even through the toughest times. It’s in the beating heart of every Filipino. It’s part of the rhythm of our soul. This is who we are. This is who I am.
- Getting down to the beat for Ati-Atihan – Panay, Philippines (travelpod.com)
- I AM FIL – FilipinoFestival… (filipinofestival.wordpress.com)
- Mano Po (socyberty.com)
- One Rhythm, One Nation, One People (thismansjourney.net)