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Taclobanons reminisce sacred past at Sangyaw Festival, Parade of Lights 2023

Filipinos are notable for their grandiose expression of devotion by celebrating fiestas with lively performances on the street, matching the upbeat rhythm of their traditional music from live bands, and the vibrant display of colors through eloquently designed costumes.

Over time, this has evolved from simple processions during the Spanish era to the lively street dances of modern times, which mirrors the fun and creative side of the people from all walks of life.

Fiestas are deeply rooted with religious significance, courtesy of Roman Catholicism during the Spanish era, and are mostly celebrated with accompanying names of patron saints or revered icons.

Tacloban City's Sangyaw Parade of Lights, tinged with its own uniqueness, is different from the usual street dance performances virtually in many respects, as it is done at dusk until the darkness of the night shall have enveloped the city.

Tacloban City Night High School's portrayal of the cholera virus victims calling for mercy from Señor Sto. Niño before his miraculous return, which is believed by many devotees to have caused the cholera epidemic to an end. Photo: PIA Region VIII

This year's Sangyaw Festival carried the theme: "Paghiuli, Paghibalik, ngan Pagkamabakud,” and its festive parade was filled with colorful lights, floats and dance dramas revolving around the story of the miraculous return of Señior Sto. Niño "El Capitan" to the City of Tacloban, which is the core essence of the celebration.

There were 12 contingents from different schools, barangays and LGUs who participated and showcased artistic expression of their devotion to the Holy Child of Jesus during the street dance competition.

The replica of Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban standing on a float shaped into a sea vessel of the 8th Contingent from Tacloban City Night High School. (PIA 8)

Overwhelming large crowd occupying opposite sides of the downtown streets were left in awe as the contingents danced gracefully on their floats that became their stage, which symbolized the burned, sunken ship where the once lost El Capitan was aboard then consequently thrown into the sea.

Tacloban City Tourism Head Ma. Lumen Tabao said in an interview prior to the prestigious event that they had already expected the massive influx of people due to the fact that hotels and this month's flights from Metro Manila going to the city had already been fully booked. 

Meanwhile, the lights from various participating floats shone brighter as the sky turned to a deep dark hue of blue as the evening deepened, which according to Joycie Dorado Alegre, president of Leyte-Samar Heritage Society Inc., represents seeing hope in the midst of hardships.

Dancers from Tacloban Angelicum Learning Center swayed to the rhythm of the music to show an artistic expression of their devotion to the Holy Child of Jesus. Photo: PIA Region VIII

"A form of celebration of making the image available within reach of the people who are suffering, who are anxious," said Alegre, sharing her view of the festival.

The dramatization and narration of the historical, cultural and spiritual essence of Tacloban City Fiesta was not only a sight to behold that brought smiles and entertainment to the spectators.

More importantly, it was enlightening for all people present who had yet to discover the sacred history of Tacloban Fiesta. (MMP and VL - PIA Leyte)

Spectators couldn't help but admire and take photos of the 2nd Contingent from JE Mondejar Computer College's float adorned with colored lights. The float was designed to resemble the burned and sunken SS Consuelo Ship which caused the loss of the Sto. Niño image in Philippine waters. Photo: PIA Region VIII
Besides forming their floats into a beautiful replica of the ship that once carried the sacred image of Sto. Niño to Manila, other contingents added some historical and cultural symbols of the region to their floats, like the former longest bridge in the Philippines— San Juanico Bridge. Photo: PIA Region VIII

The San Jose National High School is this year’s Grand Champion in the Street Dance Competition, and Best in Costume during the Sangyaw Festival Parade of Lights on Tuesday, June 29, as part of the 134th Fiesta celebration of Tacloban.

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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