MIDSAYAP, Cotabato — Pit Senor! Hala Bira! — the famous words uttered by devotees of Santo Niño all over the country, once again reverberated in the thoroughfare of Midsayap as it celebrated its patronal fiesta on the third Sunday of January.
Upon the invitation of Tourism Region XII director Sohura Dimaampao, we covered the Halad 2002 Festival, for a change, instead of the Sinulog in Cebu.
But something uncomfortable happened. In going to Cotabato, instead of the usual Manila-Cotabato-Manila ticket of PAL, we were given an Air Philippines ticket with a Manila-Cebu-Gen. Santos itinerary. We were fetched by Jose Cabulanan, DOT-Region XII tourism officer and from Gen. Santos started the four-hour drive to Cotabato.
We learned then that there was a “little squabble’’ in the office because one of the officials did not approve the request. So what they did was to look for a sponsor and they got Air Philippines because the fare was cheaper. Our question is - what about our sufferings, the long flight? I hope they could understand that we, journalists have so many things to do.
Now going back to the festival, Halad 2002, which is a counterpart of Sinulog of Cebu, is staged annually by church leaders led by Father Vicente P. Qiogue, Mario Cacabelos, OMI civic clubs and municipal officials.
The Midsayap town fiesta is famous for its sumptuous food, carnival shows, civic parade and visits to the church to pay homage to Santo Niño. Out of town Midsayapenos make a commitment to come home and join the yearly celebration.
As early as Friday, colorful streamers along the thoroughfare of Midsayap are already waving gaily. Kaleidoscope buntings crisscross along the streets and psychedelic poles with narrow strips of multi-colored cloth adorn the highway.
At least 16 participating groups (10 for the Mardi Gras Competition and six for the Karosa) came from far and near towns to compete in the Festival.
The participants include the M’lang National High School, Libungan National High School, Alamnada National High School, ND Midsayap High School, St. Mary’s Academy, ND Tulungan High School, Cotabato City, Tulunan National High School, Sibsib, Tulunan Sibsib, Tulunan Barangay San Jose, and Koronadal City.
The karosa participants include Karosa de Manobo, Karosa de Mindanaoan, Karosa Masagana, Karosa de Mt. Apo, Tribong Gango at Karosa Masagana.
Participants showed off their unique-style presentations at the main streets of the municipality. They swayed to the rhythmic sound of endemic music and cavorted to the rhythm of roaring gongs.
Sohura, in her opening message said “it is the mandate of DOT to promote and develop tourism in the countryside. The present administration is geared on developing domestic tourism for foreign markets and marketing strategy is focused on massive advertising of tourism product which is Halad here in Midsayap.’’
She added, “Over these years, the DOT has been with Halad and we have witnessed how this festival developed. The quality has improved each year making it globally competitive.’’
The streetdancing plus the entry of the karosa competition ended at the NDHS where the 16 participants showed their best performance. The board of judges is composed of Jose Cabulanan, representing Director Dimaampao, as chairman; Mikee Ismael Arumpac, DOT, Region 12; Benjamin Mallorca, Jr., Kidapawan City Tourism Officer; Benjamin Abarca, Cotabato City Tourism officer; Sammy Calawigan, CAP manager; Rudy Montejo, manager, DXMS Radio Station; Henry de Leon and P/Supt. Odelon Ramoneda, Cotabato Province.
The winners which were announced by Cabulanan included, for the first prize of the Mardi Gras competition, the trophy plus R50,000 went to Tribung Bag-ong Sidlak of the Notre Dame of Midsayap College-HS department.
Second prize went to Tribu Mauswagan with a trophy and R30,000 while the third prize went to Tribung Masagana who were given R20,000 plus a trophy.
Majority of the minor prizes (costume, most inspiring, exuberant, powerful group) went to Tribung Bag-Ong Sidlak while the most disciplined group award was given to Tribung Bagobo.
For the karosa winners, first prize went to Karosa de Mindanao with a trophy and romping away with R5,000; second place, Tribung Masagana, a trophy and R3,000. The third prize went to Tribung Gango with R2,000 and a trophy.
To make the patronal town fiesta celebration more lively and meaningful, the Midland React Group, an affiliate of React Philippines, Inc. thought of organizing a festive mood celebration as one of its community involvements.
Halad sa Santo Niño made its biggest turn around when it won in the well-known Festival of Santo Niño in Manila which was held in 1997.
The Eranies Group, who represented Region XII, won the most-coveted first prize during the Sto. Niño Festival over the Sinulog of Cebu, Ati-Atihan of Kalibo and Dinagyang of Iloilo. Of course, there were protests, but eventually, everything went smoothly and they got the coveted first prize trophy.
The Halad of Midsayap was hatched in 1989 with an initial of 12 participating tribes. The Halad was such a big success for it was well-attended not only by the Midsayapenos but also people from neighboring barrios, town and cities.
It was in 1992 that Halad took the recognition of the DOT. They (DOT) offered to support it and to develop Midsayap as a tourist destination because of Halad festivity. Furthermore, they made documentary footage of the occasion and offered streamers and trophies.
Faced with the increasing expenditure of Halad Festivities, React decided to relinquish the management of Halad to Sto. Niño Parish Pastoral Council (SNPPC). The SNPPC accepted the challenge in spite of the various limitations specifically funds to finance the festival. (PNA)