With 18 different indigenous groups living in the valleys and mountain regions of Nueva Vizcaya, it is so fitting to use the native Gaddang word “Ammungan” as the province’s festival title. It is also an Iluko word from “ummungan” which is commonly understood by the different ethnic tribes which means “to gather together”. Last week from May 21-24, 2014, the Ammungan Festival 2014 was celebrated and one of the highlights of this 4-day revelry was the Street Dancing Parade and Competition. 10 out of the 15 municipalities gathered together in Solano to showcase the uniqueness of their hometown and the characteristics of their people through music, costumes and dance.
The Ammungan Festival
The Philippines may have more festival than the 81 provinces we have. Filipinos love to celebrate just about anything, from fruits to saints and even giant fishes. There are the populars ones like the Sinulog, Dinagyan and Ati-atihan but let us turn our gaze this time on the lesser known but equally grand festivities in the country like the Ammungan Festival. Held every third week of May is now on its 175th Founding Anniversary and it is getting bigger and better every year. To kick of the festivities is the street dance competition.
Nueva Vizcaya has 18 indigenous groups, the most number in any provinces in the Philippines.
I wasn’t really familiar with the indigenous people in Nueva Vizcaya since I only pass by the province en route to either Tuguegarao or Banaue. I recently learned that they have 18 tribes, the most number in one province. Some of them, there are the Ibalois, Bugkalots, Kalanguya, Igorot, Isinai, Ybanags and Dumagats. Despite their different ethnic roots they are united as one province.
From the Provincial Capitol Plaza, the participants walked towards the Nueva Vizcaya Sports Complex where they performed their main dances routines. On the way they stopped by three stations where a judge evaluated their street dance performance. The sports complex was huge but the concrete seats were filled to the rafters. We got a seat along with the judges and this time I just wanted to just enjoy the show and only took a few snaps once in a while.
The tribe from Quezon was the first to perform, it was decent but the spacing was loose but was a nice way to start the competition. Solano has a good spread of performers and fuses the ethnic with Spanish influence all in all was very good. Bagabag has very quirky story line. The tribe from Kasibu made good use of red and white patterns and amusing choreography. Bayongyong has a beautiful depiction of farm life. The others like Bambang and Dupax del Norte could do better.
I really enjoyed the show, unlike the more commercial festivals, this one was more culturally enriching. It’s not only about choreography or costumes but more about the ethnic tribes, their way of life and their beliefs which clearly showed in their performance. The third placer Dupax Del Sur wowed us with its colorful production, captivating music and theme. Second place Sta Fe went back to its native roots, their performance have very traditional elements but delivered with captivating choreography, the rich Ifugao colors drew us in and I especially liked the build up of music at the start. The tribe from Aritao, which I learned that day has been the long time champion, showed their winning form. Even from the street dance, they already caught my eye with their Dumagat inspired curly hairs, dark spandex costumes with native accessories as accents. Their performance made good use of props, the transitions between sets of their routines were impressive and their choreography was a joy to watch. No wonder they have won again this year.
My hats-off though goes to all the young performers in this street dance competition. It was mid-day, the sun was bearing down on everyone even under the shade of our tents we could feel the heat. The performers were all directly under the sun but they performed like there’s no tomorrow. Just the effort of giving a grand show makes them all winners to us spectators in this Ammungan Festival.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.