The true ‘kalag-kalag’ festival-A A +A
Thursday, November 1, 2012
MOBISITA ko diha sa kalag-kalag,” I PMed an old friend via Facebook a couple of weeks ago. “Dugay na ko wa kasuroy diha, da.”
My friend lives in Kalunasan, one of the barangays in the city that is located in what I always refer to as the lapel of Cebu City’s hinterlands. Before a cemented wide road and a bridge crossing the Sapangdaku River was built and two big jails were transferred there, Kalunasan was known as a barangay across the river at the back of the Guadalupe church.
I remember a community across the river, this time at the back of the nearby Visayan Glass factory, when I was a student. We would stay there during a lull in the strike that was staged by factory workers and which we supported. One couldn’t reach that community without crossing a narrow wooden bridge.
When I went back there in the early 2000s, I was amazed by the changes in the place. I could no longer locate the old community whose old look had gotten stuck in my subconscious. But practices don’t change easily. It was kalag-kalag, and the doors of the houses of our friends were open to visitors who did the rounds there following a century-old ritual.
Out there in the hinterlands of Cebu City is the true “Kalag-kalag Festival.” If only Barangay Calamba officials, who hatched their laughable and forced version of a kalag-kalag festival, and Councilors Augustus Pe Jr. and Margarita Osmeña who supported it, are discerning enough, they would have known that they promoted the wrong festivity.
I was in Napo in Barangay Sapangdaku in the mid-’80s when I saw for the first time the fiesta-like atmosphere in the city’s hinterlands during the kalag-kalag. Napo is the entry point to the Sapangdaku slopes and beyond. Before the roads were built in the upper reaches of the mountain overlooking downtown Cebu, only few people could be seen passing by the place.
But not during kalag-kalag. I watched as lowlanders followed the footpaths to the upper villages, looking from afar like ants in a green backdrop. I would later roam these upper villages and feel for myself the festive atmosphere during kalag-kalag. It is comparable to the fiestas in the barangays of my hometown Tudela in the Camotes group of islands. Every household prepares food for visiting relatives and friends.
No street dancing or “inter-funeral cadaver competition,” only plain socializing--relatives and friends reconnecting with relatives and friends, much like the living solemnly reconnecting with departed loved ones. There, villagers prepare food for the dead, as well as the living.
I once questioned such a tradition, especially when I observed that even poor peasants use their meager income to buy a few kilos of pig’s meat for the occasion. “Mosabot man siguro nang mga patay ug atong kaliwat,” I told a farmer. When an old woman heard that, he warned me, “mahiwi gyod nang imong baba.” It was then that I realized how deeply-rooted such a practice is.
This time, I am doing my own reconnecting. I am joining the hundreds of people who are spending time to go to the city’s mountain villages, sweating it out walking or riding just to be with relatives and friends once more and partake of the food readied. Past experiences will be recalled and friendships rekindled, as always.
If only our politicking officials know how to properly pay homage to our traditions.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 02, 2012.