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Bohol’s festival of light, darkness

First Posted 13:37:00 09/13/2009

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LOON, Bohol, Philippines?Street-dancing competitions are a dime a dozen in a country predisposed to celebrations and revelry. The contest in Loon town in Bohol, however, is one of a kind for one reason: It is held at night.

Loon Mayor Lloyd Peter Lopez says it is not about trying to be different, unique, or fancy.

?It is held in honor of the town?s patron saint, the Birhen sa Kasilak (Our Lady of Light),? Lopez explains. The street dancing was held on September 6.

For one who is committed to arts and culture development in his own town, Lopez cannot deny that the unusual concept was a product of a creative mind. The light on top of the criteria in the contest was not lost to the first-termer local executive of the town, 28 kilometers north of Tagbilaran City.

?Loon is reviving this unique contest. I am not aware of anything like it. As far as Bohol is concerned, there is indeed none like it so far,? Lopez points out.

Unlike most street dancing competitions, which are known for their gaiety, colorful costumes and banners, and attractive makeups, Loon?s version is all its own.

?The emphasis is on the lights, how to make it dance,? Lopez says.

Reenactment

Two hours before the contest, the town held a reenactment of the arrival of the image of the Our Lady of Light.

When the banca (motorboat) carrying the image was met by town officials and villagers at the Napol fish port some 500 meters behind the church, one can sense a religious fervor of the observance.

The 15-minute fireworks that lit up the sky and the six bamboo torches carried by the people who received the image provided an interesting contrast symbolic of the meeting of the contemporary and the ancient.

While all eyes were on the impressive array of colors exploding in the sky, the fire in the bamboo torches surrounding the image continued to burn for people who care more for substance than form to see.

Loon?s version of a street-dancing contest, the third in 10 years, did not disappoint the crowd.

Delegations from the Sacred Heart Academy, University of Bohol?s Loon Institute, Saint Teresa Academy, Jacinto Borja High School (Cantaongon), Sandingan National High School, Cabilao National High School, and Loon South High School gathered at the Loon South Elementary School.

A different contest

They danced their way to the Loon?s Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church where the contest would culminate, sashaying through the national highway to the Loon Sports and Cultural Center and Loon public plaza, a distance of roughly one kilometer, while people lined the road.

Right from the start, the people who converged at the church park when the contest was about to start could see what made the contest different: There were none of the traditional frills.

The contestants wore only their school uniforms and no makeups. If some insisted on doing so, it hardly mattered. From the viewing places, one could hardly tell one dancer from another. Makeups or costumes were virtually pointless.

?Unlike other contests, the participating teams did not have to spend on costumes, makeup, and banners,? Lopez points out.

As the contest wore on, more of its uniqueness became apparent.

Cool evening breeze

The audience did not have to bear the scorching heat that daytime inflicts. They were treated instead to the soft cool evening breeze that blew every now and then.

In place of the sun with its fiery blaze, only the moon with its mysterious glow lit up the Loon Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church plaza while the lights were put out for the contest duration.

The omnipresent mineral water, ice candy, ice cream, and ice drop hawkers were hardly visible for obvious reasons.

From start to finish, all eyes were on the dancing lights.

Most of the lanterns, which the dancers carried, were flowery, taking the form of tulips, bulbs, and petals. The lanterns of one contingent were shaped like a fish since the dancers came from one of the schools in the island villages.

Two groups danced with only a fluttering of orange lights. Two others made full use of a dazzling array of colors beamed from penlights and flashlights wrapped in shades of blue and green.

One, however, stood out. Its dancers did not rely on battery-run bulbs but used traditional candles underneath the lanterns.


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