‘Higalaay’ Festival is it (First of 4 parts)-A A +A
A Matter of Taste
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
LAST week’s Kagay-an Festival is said to be the last. Starting next year, the fiesta celebrations will fall under the aegis of the Higalaay Festival.
As in, Friendship Festival.
When Reuben Canoy was mayor of the city, he coined the term “City of Golden Friendship” as a kind of social branding for Cagayan de Oro.
The term resonated with our values and character and aspirations and ideas about the city we live in.
“The Higalaay Festival brings us back to the basic values we in the city share—being friendly, being hospitable, being generous even to a fault, being a person for others,” said Eileen E. San Juan, chair of the fiesta committee.
This, in fact, was echoed by the articulate, intelligent, and delicious Amadea Piatti, our beauty queen this year, when she gave her reply in the Q and A moment.
Higalaay, then, celebrates our going out of ourselves to help others, to cooperate and participate in community initiatives, to connect with others in a grand network of friendships, affiliations, collegiality, and all sorts of personal and professional linkages.
Higalaay is a celebration of how we stand tall because of our multicultural harmony in the complexly constituted reality of Cagayan de Oro, one of the urban centers of Mindanao and recently named the country’s most competitive city.
It was Evans Yonson’s idea to enflesh such a concept by using street-theater “giants.”
He regaled us with his stories and photographs of the higantes festivals in Spain, where he pursued his graduate studies.
Eileen and I agreed the giants should represent Cagayan de Oro icons.
I remembered that Errol Balcos, the prizewinning visual artist who is very active in the scene, once enjoyed a residency at the lakeshore artists’ villages around Angono, Rizal. The area is famous for its festival showcasing papier-mâché higantes.
I called up Errol to ask if, during his residency, he was able to absorb the how-to’s of making a higante. He said yes.
And Eileen got him to do the higalas.
That was how last week’s parade of higalas came to be.
Here is a rundown of the higalas. We are indebted to the inputs of Nono Montalvan and Nanette Roa, as well as to other chroniclers of local history, in particular those at Xavier University. Some of the materials were from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.
1 and 2. Higaonon (Male and Female): Early Inhabitants.
In the beginning, a peace-loving people lived in the northern shores of Mindanao. They were the Higaonons.
Among the various cultural communities in Mindanao, the Higaonons were known for their ritual for making peace or for settling conflicts, the ‘tampudas hu Balagun,’ or the treaty of the green vine branch. Literally it means the cutting of the vine, and is symbolic of the act of cutting short feuds among the ethnic groups. Tampudas, according to oral traditions of the Higaonon as noted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, are re-enacted whenever feuds rise between groups.
The Higaonons lived in survival mode.They hunted bats, snakes, field rats, monkeys, and birds. They fished in the rivers. They planted rice and corn in the slash-and-burn method, and picked fruits and vegetables along the way.
They were ruled by a datu, who was at once the administrator, the army chief, the treasurer, the healer, the priest, the ceremonial dignitary to meet with guests and visitors.
It is with the Higaonons that the story of our city, the gateway to Northern Mindanao that is Cagayan de Oro, begins.
3. Fray Agustin de San Pedro: El Padre Kapitan.
In 1626, the Spanish Augustinian Recollect Fray Agustin de San Pedro persuaded Datu Salangsang’s aunt from Butuan to bring him to the Datu. They took a local boat from the Caraga Region and entered the primal waterway secured by Datu Salangsay, chief of the settlement called Himologan up in the cliffs overlooking the river.
Fray Agustin convinced Datu Salangsang to transfer his community eight kilometers to the north, where Gaston Park now stands. The new settlement was marked by a fort, thwarting the attacks of Sultan Kudarat.
From the church and the fort sprang forth three roads that became the main streets of Cagayan de Oro: Calle de la Iglesia, now Burgos Street; Calle del Real, now Capistrano Street, and; Calle Del Mar, now Velez Street.
On the embankment at a bend in the river chosen by Fray Agustin—fondly called “El Padre Capitan”–was born the city we now live in.
4. San Agustin: Patron Saint.
A native of North Africa, Augustine of Hippo came to be known as the first Doctor of the Church.
He was an intellectual who made the risky travel to Rome to look for bright students to teach. He found them there, but realized that their morals left much to be desired. He instead taught rhetoric in Milan. There, he converted to the new religion. He became famous for his prayer, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” He returned to North Africa after his mother died and stayed there for the rest of his life as one of the most eloquent philosophers of the Church. He was already a Bishop when he died in The Year of Our Lord 430.
His writings fused the philosophical thought of the ancient Greeks with the revolutionary thinking of Christianity. Even the leaders of the Church would turn to his writings to seek enlightenment and guidance.
San Agustin is the patron of Cagayan de Oro City.
5. Santa Monica. Mother of Patron Saint.
Santa Monica, mother of San Agustin, is a saint revered for her patience.
A devout religious woman, she was given, through an arranged marriage, to a pagan who was ill-tempered and whose mother made life for the young wife a challenge. Santa Monica endured in her prayerfulness and acts of charity. Her two other children, a boy and a girl, entered the religious life. Even her husband and mother-in-law were eventually baptized.
But it took 17 years before she was able to convince her firstborn, Agustin, to become a Christian. She never ceased in her prayers and offerings. She is said to have shed tears for her son every night, prompting a bishop to tell her, “The son of those tears shall not perish.” When San Agustin finally relented—after having two female lovers and a son by one of them—and was baptized by St. Ambrose in Milan, she said that her soul was now at peace and that she was ready to die. She passed away afterwards. (To be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 04, 2013.