As early as 10 o’clock Friday evening, Fortich Street was already closed to traffic starting from the corner of Sta. Cruz Street in Barangay Sumpong as dancers and choreographers rehearsed for the last time along the route of the annual street dance competition. Meanwhile, elaborately decorated floats started to inch their way to the starting point also in Sumpong.
Even at the Agora Bus Terminal in Cagayan de Oro City, Kaamulan festivities were already in the air Friday. Groups of teenagers bound for weekend “bonding-bonding,” families and professionals from Bukidnon working in the regional center eagerly waited for buses and vans to ferry them to Bukidnon’s capital city. Buses were filled as soon as they parked. Public vans also had a windfall as the usual P100 fare to Malaybalay shot up to P150 Friday evening.
Around 5 o’clock in the morning, street dancers coming from the eight municipalities that competed this year came in buses and trucks. Clad in costumes dominated by red and accented by yellow, blue and green, they went to their positions like obedient soldiers with their props of spears, swords, shields, baskets and what-have-they.
At the strike of six, tribal leaders from Bukidnon’s seven tribes performed a ritual highlighted by the sacrifice of chickens, invoking the spirits to grant peace, unity and progress – central themes of the annual festival.
Firecrackers exploded after the ritual to signal the start of the street dance competition. Then the drums rolled and gongs banged, and the street dancers came to life with their distinct Bukidnon steps.
Phonetographers, point-and-shooters and the “pros” sporting DSLR cameras started shooting. In the sidewalks of Fortich Street a sea of local and foreign tourists enjoyed the sight and beat of the street dance competition which took about four hours to finish before the last group of dancers reached the Capitol ground.
A short drizzle around midmorning did not dampen the spirit of the thousands of spectators at the vast Capitol Ground where the eight competing municipalities had their final showdown, the ground demonstration.
By 1’clock in the afternoon, after the speeches, including that of Bukidnon’s Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the winners of the competition were announced.
This year’s big winner would be Lantapan, a municipality nestled in the foothills of Mt. Dulang-dulang, one of the peaks of the Mt. Kitanglad Range. It won the Best in Music and Best Choreography. Its float which was adorned with fresh vegetables, the town’s main produce, was adjudged the best.
Malaybalay City was not to be outdone, bagging the first place in the ground demonstration and the Best in Street Theatre award.
Valencia City was this year’s Customers’ Choice awardee.
Saturday’s street dance aimed to showcase the rich Bukidnon cultures and solidarity among the province’s seven tribes namely the Matiglasug, Higaonon, Bukidnon, Manobo, Talaandig, Umayamnon and the Tigwahanon.
It was participated by the municipalities of Baungon, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Lantapan and Kadingilan, and the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia. The street dancers were a mix of pure Bukidnon Lumads and non-Lumads.
In his speech, Sen. Zubiri said “Bukidnon today has gone a long way and has made a name for itself.”
The senator’s father, Vice Governor Jose Maria R. Zubiri Jr., is from Negros and his mother is from Bicol.
Bukidnon is located in the central plateau of Mindanao and shares boundaries with the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Sur and Cotabato and the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro.
It is a major producer of corn, rice, sugar, fresh vegetables, pineapple, banana and papaya. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)