Lang-ay Festival is the biggest celebration of the year in Bontoc. Despite the frequent rain and long, recurrent brown-outs during the week-long festival, many came to Bontoc to enjoy the festivities. Not sure if there were the 30,000 in attendance of last year, but when watching the street dancing there were people crowding the streets and even on nearby balconies and roofs.
Here are a few highlights of this week-long event from our viewpoint:
Our girls enjoyed the foot-long hotdogs and cheeseburgers. Thomas and I ate our share of shawarmas, tortillas filled with roast beef, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and covered in a cheese sauce and some white sauce. But we were much too full to sample the delicacies a vendor was grilling on the street: chicken intestines, chicken heads, or little chicks all available on a bamboo skewer. Brings a whole new meaning to chicken nuggets.
The special "Lang-ay" wine was promoted but we supported another festival sponsor, Coca-Cola.
We watched some of the sports competitions. There were plenty to chose from: basketball, volleyball, table tennis, softball, and archery.
A huge crowd gathered for the Battle of the Bands and the Lang-ay Concert. This prompted a mixed reaction among our family. Some of the girls plugged their ears but Annalise did not let the volume keep her from falling asleep on my lap. Thomas and I enjoyed some of the groups more than others but we really liked the band from Baguio.
We laughed and laughed during the acrobat show. All the performers were excellent but the clowns were our favorites.
There were many opportunities to learn more about the culture of our neighbors. We went to a play, Sinauliyan, about love amidst tribal wars performed completely in some of the local dialects. Thomas did not attend the play and was impressed when the girls came home and told him the story-line even though none was in English.
The biggest cultural event was the street dancing on the final day of the festival. Groups from various communities performed dressed in the traditional clothing. Most groups included people of all ages, children to the elderly. As each group paused during the parade to perform their dance explanations were given of the occasions for the various dances. They portrayed cultural elements of the mountain people. Many followed agricultural themes: planting and harvest of rice, sugar cane, or other crops. Some portrayed tribal conflicts or even the head hunting past of the region. After performing at several places along the parade route, the teams competed at the high school grounds.
Festivals are great times to gather with some friends and make some new ones. We spent time with some of the students from our church and some from our SSM ministry. Alexie met some of her friends from the Values Education class.
When our family came to the cultural competition and found the bleachers and all available viewpoints packed with people, we walked around and talked to the various groups that were waiting to perform. Many stroked Annalise's blonde hair and fair skin. Since I had taken plenty of photos of them it was only fair to agree to the many pleas for photos with the girls. It was interesting as we talked with them about their villages, traditions, costumes, and presentations.
When we went down to find out what "Lang-ay by the Chico River" was all about, Thomas and I quickly found ourselves being invited to eat with the governor and his wife. Wherever we are we are noticed. It is hard to blend in when you are so much taller and have blonde hair. But we are thankful for the many opportunities to meet people and make more friends.
The girls and I will look a bit more like our Filipino friends wearing our new tapis, the traditional woven wrap-around skirts of the Igorot women. Thomas prefers to keep his wardrobe more American and chose a t-shirt from one of the vendors. Maybe he'll learn to play the gongs....but no g-strings for him!