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Comedia de San Miguel returns to Iligan City, reviving rich cultural heritage

ILIGAN CITY (PIA)--After a seven-year hiatus, the city welcomed back the enchanting tradition of Comedia de San Miguel, locally known as “yawa-yawa.”

This folk theater pays homage to St. Michael the Archangel, the city's patron saint, celebrated every September 29th. The play is a religious drama performed in the Cebuano language, depicting St. Michael's or San Miguel's victory over Lucifer or Luzbel, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil in Christian tradition.

It was revived with the collaboration of the Iliganon clans, the city government, Hulma: Iligan Creatives Collective, Eskrima O mga Wata, Diyandi Original Ilaya, Kuri-Kuri Local, and MarRos Cocina, among others.

Anna Leah Sanson, the head of production, played a crucial role in the show's success. She spearheaded the design and conceptualization, as well as the creation of props.

Comedia de San Miguel, culture, play, theater, folk theater, play, Diyandi Festival
Young boys perform Eskrima dance, inspired by the Maranao's sagayan or war dance, embodying the movements of San Miguel's soldiers.(ADD /PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

Devotion in motion

Before the start of the comedia, the Diyandi (celebrate) ritual dance is performed by an all-female troupe, a tradition passed down through generations. It represents the unity of the tri-people of Iligan, which includes the Christians, Maranaos, and Higaonons. It is a heartfelt dance offering to San Miguel, symbolizing devotion with offerings like orak (eggs), piyak (chik), lasuna (garlic), and kagkawa (coffee).

Additionally, young boys perform Eskrima dance, inspired by the Maranao's sagayan, or war dance, embodying the movements of San Miguel's soldiers. Their graceful choreography portrays the celestial battle between Lucifer and San Miguel with vivid and dynamic movements, using swords and shields.

Heavenly angels fight against the rebel-angels and a 'seven-headed dragon' symbolizing the seven sins during the Comedia de San Miguel. (ADD /PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

Gratitude for the revival of comedia

Jinkee Lacuna, part of the play production, expressed gratitude for the revival of the media after seven years. She highlighted the challenges of preparation and the need for a significant budget for props and costumes.

“Dako among pasalamat sa LGU Iligan, kay for after 7 long years, napa-show gyud ug balik. Thankful kaayo mi. Dako pud among pasalamat sa Iliganon families nga nagpakita og support para sa success ani nga show [We are deeply grateful to LGU Iligan because, after 7 long years, the show was finally able to return. We are very thankful. We also extend our heartfelt thanks to the Iliganon families who showed their support for the success of this show],” she said. 

Jinkee also emphasized that one of the main reasons for reviving the show is to connect with the youth and reintroduce them to Iliganon's traditional heritage. She hopes that this revival will ensure that the cultural legacy represented by the comedia will not be forgotten and will forever be associated with the identity of Iliganon.

Rey Macapil Ypanto portrayse the role of San Miguel in Comedia de San Miguel. (ADD /PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

Decades of dedication

Rey Macapil Ypanto, 51, has been actively engaged in the comedia tradition since 1986. He began his journey as a volunteer, assisting behind the scenes. In 1988, he took his first step into the limelight, portraying one of the devils in the production, and later transitioned to angel roles. As the years passed, Rey's dedication deepened, and he eventually assumed the pivotal role of San Miguel in 1995, a role passed down from his uncle.

He also shared that rehearsals for the play started in January this year, every week or at least once a month. The storyline of San Miguel's life is intricate, and the performers need to master not only their lines but also the nuances of the deep Bisaya language used in the play.

Being with the play for many years, Rey has nurtured a profound faith in San Miguel along with his devotion, or "panaad." He believed that his faith answered his prayers. During the devastating Typhoon Sendong in December 2011, while serving as part of the rescue team, he contracted leptospirosis, a potentially fatal disease. In his darkest hour, Rey prayed to San Miguel for salvation, and he believed that divine intervention played a role in his recovery.

“Isa ra man jud ang among rason o tumong ani. Nagpanaad mi sa patron nga sya jud makapanalipod sa dakbayan ug mga katawhan sa Iligan basi sa gahom sa Diyos-Amahan sa gihatag sa iyaha sa pagpanalipod sa iyahang katawhan [There is indeed a sole reason or purpose for this. We make a vow to the patron because we believe that he truly protects the city and the people of Iligan through the power granted to him by God the Father to safeguard his people],” he said.

Rey Macapil Ypanto, portraying the role of San Miguel with fellow angels during the vibrant performance of Comedia de San Miguel. (ADD /PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

Meanwhile, Sotero Actub Llegado, a 68-year-old devotee of San Miguel, began his journey into this cultural practice by watching his grandfather and other family members participate in the comedia. He attended their rehearsals and became increasingly interested in the art form.

He initially took on the role of a rebel in the production after his older brother retired from the role. Later, he assumed the role of God in the play.

He recalled that a significant miracle occurred when his child suffered from a severe skin disease at a young age. During the feast of Senior San Miguel, he brought his child to the church and danced fervently, praying for his child's healing. At that time, his child's skin disease had already affected their eyes. Sotero earnestly prayed to San Miguel for his child's recovery, and he believed that it was through San Miguel's grace that his child's life was spared and his health was restored.

Comedia de San Miguel serves as a testament to Iligan's rich cultural heritage and the unity of its people. It provides Iliganons with an opportunity to reflect on their cultural values and identity. (LELA/PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

Comedia de San Miguel portrays the transformation of fallen angels, led by Lucifer, into fearsome 'yawa-yawa' or devils. (ADD /PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)

About the Author

Lou Ellen Antonio


Region 10

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