CEBU CITY -- A ritual dance that shows how fishermen work in Bantayan won for the town the Pasigarbo sa Sugbo “festival of festivals” grand prize for the third straight year.

The key, said Vice Mayor Geralyn Escario-Cañares, lies in doing the research that makes the dancing seem real.

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Her choreographers and artists often went out to sea with fishermen so they could observe how they moved and remember this when they taught the young dancers the choreography.

During their presentation last Saturday, the Palawod dance troupe used small boats placed on top of rolling platforms, while cutout boards made to look like waves were waved by dancers below. It seemed the boats were really floating on water.

Since the Palawod festival was organized in 2001, during Cañares’s first term as mayor, the idea was to depict the lives of fisherfolks. Fishing is the most common source of livelihood in Bantayan.

Dancers performed in costumes designed to make them look like shrimps, squids, octopuses and sea urchins.

The same basic storyline and the Palawod dancers’ portrayal of it have allowed Bantayan to win a hat trick in the annual competition of festivals.

For the triple win, Cañares credits three Cs: consultation, cooperation and coordination.

“It was not a brainchild of one person. There was unity among all players,” she told Sun.Star Cebu shortly after the winners were announced, and after the dancers gathered for a pep talk and prayer.

Bantayan will take home P1 million. Cañares said they spent over P1.3 million for the dance, including transportation and food for the 245 dancers, props men and guardians.

“But this is not a business, so we are not counting the return of investment. It is about pride and honor for the municipality and the people,” said Cañares.

“The dancers gain confidence and they learn human relations,” she continued.

Cañares and Mayor Ian Christopher Escario stayed with the dancers until they went home past 2 a.m. Sunday. Winners were announced shortly before 2 a.m., nearly eight hours after the ritual dancing started.

There were a total of 32 contingents and Palawod was a clear favorite from the moment they took the stage.

They were well-applauded all throughout, then earned a standing ovation from the audience that included Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale.

Sibonga placed second prize in the Best in Ritual category, for a performance that featured, as props, large paintings of fruits in large baskets.

The rest of the top 10 are: Carmen’s Sinulog sa Carmen Sinamay Festival; Moalboal’s Kagasangan Festival; Toledo City’s Hinulawan Festival; Consolacion’s Sarok Festival; City of Naga’s Dagitab Festival; Talisay City’s Halad Festival; Sogod’s Panagsogod and Minglanilla’s Sugat-Kabanhawan Festival.

Palawod also won the Best Arranged Festival Jingle and costume prizes.

Carcar City was adjudged best in street dancing, which happened Saturday afternoon before the showdown at the Cebu International Convention Center.

Toledo City won for the prize for the best decorated audio van. Carmen had the best “andas”, which is part of the festival, as all fiestas are celebrated in honor of a patron saint.

Common among the 32 contingents were glittering costumes, imposing props and fast-paced dancing.

The number of contingents went down to 32 from 38 last year, reportedly due to budgetary constraints. Favorites like Daanbantayan’s Haladaya Festival and Alcoy’s Siloy Festival were among the absentees this year. (JGA of Sun.Star Cebu)