Sunggod Te Kamanga Festival | Quezon, Bukidnon
Just when most festivals in the Philippines have become copycats of Sinulog, Sunggod Te Kamanga is doing it differently truthful, wonderful & inspiring. It expresses real cultural attractiveness & teaches how to handle its exchange value to tourism. Above all, it keeps the integrity of the culture that it celebrates.
I have been to many festivals in the Philippines, from Vakul-Kanayi in Batanes to Kamahardikaan in Tawi-Tawi. But nothing of its kind ever moved me so deep than this one. It’s the only cultural festival that gave me so much insightful take-aways.
Set every mid-February, the Manobos of Quezon in Bukidnon gather together for a grand thanksgiving celebration. Particularly, it unites all the Manobo-Pulangihon, the Matigsalug & a few other smaller Manobo communities in a 2-day fiesta.
In the Manobo language, Sunggod Te Kamanga means to prepare the tools for the new farming season. But it also means a whole lot more with the full line-up of activities that showcases their arts, culture & traditions.
Sunggod Te Kamanga Festival: Raw. Unique. Exotic
I admit, I haven’t heard of it in the past not until the Department of Tourism-Region 10 tagged me along to Quezon.
Far from other buffed-out high-brow festivals, Sunggod Te Kamanga remains unrefined despite being on its 10thyear. The execution is simple & evidently organized like other small town fiestas. But it is in its rawness that makes it adorable. It is in its rough-hewn feel that you get that natural high.
While many festivals strive to steal the limelight for obvious economic reasons, this one keeps its intent clear. It is a merrymaking for the Manobos above all. It’s about them & not the tourists.
Keeping it Real
It was still dark the next day when the heart-thumping beats of Bukidnon music awoke the town. As soon as the incantations of the “patukaw”, a ritual asking for permission from Magbabaya filled the thin mountain air, all the rarity of feelings began to send chills to my spine.
After breakfast, we trooped to the highway for the street dancing. There, I got my first big thud on the heart.
Imagine this: hundreds of real indigenous people dancing barefooted on the streets in their traditional movements. No stylized choreography & tricky blockings. No fancy costumes too. They came as they are — solid, natural & happy.
Everyone just weaved in & out of the parade route. Stomping, jumping, teasing & running on stilts — all unrehearsed! At the showdown, everything was a riot, but of the beautiful kind! It was a battle of dance & music!
And in a seemingly trance-like progression, everyone lost it in a community dancing. It was a spectacle hardly any lowlander like me had ever seen.
The festival formally opened with a ritual called “wekis” led by a group of “manubad” or ritual leaders. They invoked the guidance of Magbabaya & their ancestors to grant them blessings of their intentions.
Soon, the succession of different rituals poked my curiosity. I began to lose it too witnessing how these age-old traditions survived in the digital age.
Panalagbuta is a ritual that blesses their farming tools with orated drops of blood from sacrificial chicken.
Panampulot is communal eating of traditional Manobo food. It usually consists of native chicken & its entrails, wild boars & other exotic tribal dishes.
Paratuan & En-Anaken Ritual
Each year, the council of Manobo elders elects a new honorary leader or datu in a ritual called “paratuan”. On the other hand, “en-anaken” is the adoption of non-Manobos as honorary members.
Katutuanan Sayaw is the community dancing led by the town officials, tribal leaders & guests. It was an unimaginable frenzy seeing how the high & low, the indigenous & modern, broke the barriers of anonymity.
At this time, I had it. Amidst the chaos, I left the scene to sort the things I just witnessed. Feeling the rarity of communal experience & the joy of the generally marginalized people sent me to tears.
Kilahan: Manobo Traditional Games
As if the motley of cultural extravaganza wasn’t enough, Kilahan or traditional games totally floored me. By this moment, my heart was racing with my camera’s shutter button as actions happened here & there.
Check out these games that showed their tribal skills.
I was a performing artist in my younger years. But nothing prepared me for the dances that I saw in Sunggod Te Kamanga. Truly, nothing beats seeing Dugso, Binanog, Kalusisi, Saot, Papuhag, Binaki & Inamo danced by the people who owns it.
Then there was the dance with the kudlong & saluray performed by some of the elders in the community.
Laga Ta Kiokong
Just when you think that beauty pageants are reserved for the modern world, think again. The search for the prettiest lass is also present among ethnic communities. In fact, this existed even in the olden times, traditionally to attract partners. Laga Ta Kiokong is just one of those.
Culture & the Sphere of Value
I have to be honest that somehow it felt good not seeing tarpaulins of corporate sponsors. While we need them to assist in the huge cost of mounting a festival, surprisingly the LGU was able to stage it with little help from others.
Again, it goes back to their goal, Sunggod Te Kamanga is for the indigenous Manobos & not for the entertainment-driven tourists. This selfless effort goes to Mayor Gregorio Lloren Gue who is much loved by the Manobos. Truly, it is one amazing legacy he will leave to Quezon as he bids farewell to politics.
Sunggod Te Kamanga Festival is truly what one describes as an epic cultural experience. It revalues higher the exquisiteness of its indigenous traditions & opens your mind to cultures other than your own.
Most importantly, Sunggod Te Kamanga Festival teaches us that when we celebrate a people’s culture, we put them first. And if we value them first, it comes with doing it right & keeping it real.