Sandugo Festival 2015

A bead of sweat formed on my right temple and quickly cascaded onto my already soaking shirt. As we entered the sea of warm bodies patiently waiting for the parade to pass their line of view, several arms brushed mine and I felt a sudden wave of panic. I was reminded why I never go to any festivals in the Philippines, much less ones that involve street dancing and convergence of people. Perhaps my dread stems from a decade of being stuck in Manila traffic during rush hour with no cabs available in sight, or stories of celebrations gone wrong that led to massive stampedes… I’m not sure. But in that moment, I wished I were home.

I anchored my sight on our guide who expertly dodged crowd control and we finally found our way in the middle of the cleared street, waiting for the next batch of contingents to announce their presence. All of a sudden, the audience on the side streets exploded with screams and applause. It was time…


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Sandugo History

Opening of Sandugo Festival 2015
Opening of Sandugo Festival 2015

Sandugo, most likely the condensed term of “isang dugo,” or “one blood” in English, commemorates the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna, a Boholano Chieftain, and the Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legaspi on March 16, 1565. This is considered to be the first international treaty in the Philippines.

Despite the notion of blood compacts requiring several pints of blood to be consumed in a vampire-like manner, Lopez de Legaspi said, in a report to King Philip II, that each party draws two to three drops of blood from his own arm or breast (I think arm was preferred) and mixes them in the same cup, with water or wine. The mixture is then divided equally and is drank, bottoms up.

Sandugo Reenactment
Sandugo Reenactment

Governor EdgarChatto as Rajah Sikatuna and Tagbilaran Mayor John Geesnell Yap as Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, being such good sports, re-enacted the blood compact that forged friendship between Bohol and Spain.

Sandugo Festival 2015 Street Parade

Sandugo 2015 Festival Dancers
Sandugo 2015 Festival Dancers

As the contingents marched forward, I had to stand up and tried to scale the performers dancing in front of me. The shortest, I think, came up as high as my chest, with headdress on. Good heavens, they are kids! And they were there, dancing enthusiastically and in unison under the glaring sun and above the scorching pavement. But they were smiling, smiling neither for the cameras nor the tourists. There was gleam of pride to be representing their barangay and a deeper understanding of what this festival was all about.

Bohol Sandugo Festival
Bohol Sandugo Festival

Sandugo 2015 Streetdancing Competition
Sandugo 2015 Streetdancing Competition

Sandugo Festival 2015 Parade
Sandugo Festival 2015 Parade

The street dance choreographers were enrolled in a workshop to be able to translate Bohol culture into dance. With the beat that represents the province, there was also a demand to unravel every fiber of being born in Bohol through the costumes, props, and story line of each presentation. It was a feat to put together all these elements; and what I saw that day was nothing short of awesome.

Colorful Costumes at Sandugo Festival
Colorful Costumes at Sandugo Festival

Sandugo Festival 2015 Street Dancing Contingents
Sandugo Festival 2015 Street Dancing Contingents

Streetdancers
Streetdancers

As my bubble got fully invaded by children trying to squeeze their way into the front of the crowd with their sticky hands from eating god-knows-what, by the old wedging themselves using their wrinkled but strong and unusually aggressive hands, by teenage boys sporting a punks-not-dead fashion, and by bubbly pre-teen girls obviously deranged by the hipster culture, I finally understand what Sandugo Festival was.

Festival in Bohol
Festival in Bohol

Streetdancing Contingents Sandugo Festival
Streetdancing Contingents Sandugo Festival

Sandugo Festival is an expression of communal love. Love of history, love of culture, and love of Bohol. Its people were able to peel off the skin and flesh and see the core of what drives other people into its islands… If a group of people has an understanding of where they came from, a clear perception of who they are, then the whole world will try its best to catch, even just a simple glimpse of the Boholanos’ sense of identity. And if this is replicated in a grander scale, say the whole of Philippines, then I’m sure the world would line up to see us for what we really are, a culture of history, of unique identity, and of love. – Monette Fernandez

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