MAKATAPAK Festival makes a comeback after six years in this year’s La Naval Fiesta Celebration at Bacolor, Pampanga. And what a comeback it is with the collaboration of both the public and private sectors in the historic town.

Barely two weeks after the Local Government Unit of Bacolor bagged the much coveted Seal of Good Local Governance, Mayor Eduardo “Diman” Datu spearheaded the revival of this uniquely Kapampangan festival, with the able leadership of senior Councilor Voltaire “Bong” San Pedro and the invaluable support of San Guillermo Parish priest Reverend Fr. Emil Guiao. Avid festival followers will recall that this festival started in 2008 when Reverend Fr. Jess Manabat was the parish priest at the sunken church. At that time, then Vice Mayor Diman was also the Centro president and served as festival co-founder. The festival went on a hiatus in 2013.

What makes Makatapak Festival unique is that it both commemorates and celebrates our faith and resilience as Kapampangans. It is one of the best ways in which this generation and the next ones remember the Mount Pinatubo and lahar experiences. The transfer of memory through the performing arts is quite commendable and it was such a poignant and hair-raising experience for me to watch grade school dancers interpret a part of our history which they didn’t get to experience but could also claim as their own.

The subsequent and forced diaspora of the people of Bacolor from their hometown more than two decades ago brought on a geographically fragmented future for its people. However, instead of exacerbated displacement, Makatapak Festival today succeeds as a catalyst which reinforces the sense of pride of place and belongingness of the Bacolorenos wherever they may be. I could only think of it, if I may borrow Benedict Anderson’s concept, as a nation that is an imagined community. My heart is full that the people of Bacolor do not forget their history and identity.

Interestingly, the runaway winners in this year’s street dancing and free dance interpretation competitions are Bacoloreno students from the resettlement areas. Emerging as champions were the Santa Lucia, Magalang elementary school clusters and the San Vicente Pilot School for Philippine Craftsmen, Bulaon, City of San Fernando, Pampanga in the secondary level. Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University fielded strong contingents too, along with DALQUIS, Calibutbut, San Isidro Elementary School and the Bulaon elementary clusters. While the festival choreography encourages creative interpretations, the common themes still showcase the struggles during the Pinatubo eruption and lahar, and the recurring triumph of the Kapampangan and Bacoloreno spirit, albeit badly battered and barefooted. Makatapak reminds us how our faith forges and strengthens us.

If there is one festival that Kapampangan children should not miss is the Makatapak Festival, and I do hope and pray that it is here to stay today and in the years to come. I am especially grateful for having been invited to take part in the festival this year as it inspired me and jolted me out of a personal hiatus from writing, so let me just say that Makatapak for me is also a comeback.