AFTER winning first place in 2008 and taking a break last year, the Mabolo Elementary School (ES) returned to the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Dakbayan yesterday with flying colors, upstaging eight others with its performance.

Abellana National School (ANS), on other hand, bounced back from a fifth place finish by taking the top spot in the high school category, with its adoption of a Bulacan ritual dance in its production.

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Choreographer Walter Betito said he used the Subli-an as the concept because it also honors the Sto. Niño. The celebration is held every May 2.

He did not expect to clinch first place, but said he believes they managed to do so because of their performance and choreography.

Both Mabolo and ANS also took the best in costume award in their categories.

ANS dethroned Don Sergio Osmeña Memorial National High School (NHS), which placed fourth.

With its dancers wearing the traditional Filipiniana with bell sleeves, Betito said the white costumes with see-through tapis were also an adoption of the Subli.

The presentation included a huge black cross (Sta. Cruz) that was the centerpiece of the Subli.

Dr. Larry Gabao, board of judges chairman, said ANS could improve on the transition from the use of the cross, as object of veneration, to the Sto. Niño.

But, he said, the ANS contingent showed maturity and discipline in the clean execution of the dance steps, and this was what made it win.

As to the Mabolo contingent, Gabao said the judges were impressed with the life the dancers gave in the presentation.

“You see their spirit, how the dancers projected what true veneration for the Sto. Niño is,” Gabao said.

He said that while the concept was so simple—what stands out is an image of the Sto. Niño emerging from inside a huge papaya—the dancers performed a well-coordinated dance that captured the crowd.

Mabolo’s presentation started with a boy trying to harvest papaya fruits but getting attacked and prevented by black birds.

The boy lost his balance and fell unconscious; but with the aid of the Sto. Niño, he was healed. He danced to pay homage to the Child Jesus.

Mabolo choreographer Maximar Custodio, in a separate interview, credited their win to the discipline the children showed in learning the dance.

He said the right support and funding for the props and logistical needs were also contributing factors.

Since the setting was that of a farming community, he adopted a neo-ethnic costume adorned with wooden beads.

He promised to add more “surprises” for the grand parade on Jan. 17.

With Mabolo winning first place, Lahug, which was the defending champion, took second place; Cebu City Central School, third; Guadalupe ES, fourth; and Labangon ES, fifth.

In the high school category, Apas NHS (formerly Camp Lapu-lapu NHS) again won second place; Inayawan Night HS, third; and Banilad Night HS, fifth.

Yesterday’s winners will join the 10 winners in last Saturday’s Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan in the grand parade this Sunday.

The first place winners in the Sinulog sa Kabataan competitions received P150,000 each, plus P10,000 for the choreographer; second, P100,000, with P5,00 for the choreographer; third, P75,000, with P3,000 for the choreographer; fourth, P50,000, with P2,000 for the choreographer; and fifth, P25,000, with P1,000 for the choreographer.

The best in costume award came with a P20,000 cash prize.