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Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Epic Ibalong Festival of Albay

Filipinos are fond of festivities. For national holidays alone, a total of 21 is celebrated annually. On top of that, each region has localized festivities that last more than a week and some, even a month. These are celebrated with exuberance and with event-appropriate costumes and banquet. Each festivity appends the value of commercial products and religious icons in the islands. Some also celebrate chiefs and legendary heroes.

Ibalong Festival, Albay
Image: PhilStar

For the Bicol Region, none of their tales ring as soundly as the epic of Ibalong. The epic tale focuses on three heroes on the quest to prove their worth at their tribes and set on the region of Ibalong (the old name for Bicol). While arguably a typical tale of heroism, the culture that shaped livelihood and notability in these parts is enlivened. The result was an authentic tale and one for the ages.

The festival is celebrated by recreating the epic story of the hero Ibalong. Despite retrieving a fraction of the original document (Sixty out of 400 stanzas), the story was resolute. The fragments collated by the poet Cadugnung featured the courageous Baltog facing a monstrous boar named Tandayag, the unwavering Handyong leading battles against the three-necked and one-eyed monster known as Ponong, giant sharks known as Triburon, and Sarimao with sharp fingernails and ultimately restoring peace through the serpent Oryol. The third hero was the gallant Bantong who fought and slew the giant Rabot. The tale of Ibalong is often written in many literature textbooks for high school students in the Philippines.

Ibalong Festival, Albay
Image: OphirPh

Some aspects of the epic tale chronicled the origin of bartered goods such as the weaved abaca clothes, the onset of villagers, and the creation of tools used for farming and cooking. The tale also mythically explained how the Bicol region was separated by earthquakes and floods, which resulted in present-day rivers and terrains. All of which are pivotal to the occasion held in the first 2 weeks of August.

A recent iteration of the Ibalong Festival was held in Legazpi, Albay. The event featured a parade of lively dance performances accompanied by vivid colors and loud pounding of musical instruments. Men were equipped as warriors and maidens were dressed in grandiose costumes. The villains of the tale were meticulously recreated and paraded.

Ibalong Festival, Albay
Image: PressReader
In line with the traditional welcoming Filipino spirit, visitors are encouraged to partake. They get to taste traditional Bicol Region cuisines such as Bicol Express and get to travel to famous historical sights. Visitors are also treated with traditional pots, earthen jars, exquisite kitchen utensils, and other handcrafts such as those made from Abaca. There are also musical performances, street carnivals, and firework displays that capitalize on the spectacular event.

The Ibalong Festival is proof that the Philippines has a rich culture and there are many overlooked stories from our literature that is often overlooked by Filipinos. The festival is among one of the dozens of similar festivals that showcases our pre-Hispanic tales of heroism and courage. You can watch a short independent animation below that retells the Epic tale of Ibalong

Written by Joshua Rodriguez, IFY Books

Greetings fellow book and pop-culture enthusiast! I am your average young adult that loves to read science fiction (SF), general fiction and occasionally, young adult novels and children’s literature. At my spare time you may find me watching Star Trek and Doctor Who or updating my library with the latest shows from streaming giants such as Netflix and Hulu. I devote most of my time in learning, critiquing, and researching. If you want to know more, go check out my reviews!

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