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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 14, 2011

The Fabulous Tinagba Harvest Festival of Iriga City

BOY ABUNDA invited us to the fabulous Tinagba Harvest Festival in Iriga City that’s fast becoming as popular as Sinulog and Dinagyang. This time, it’s not a tribute to the Sto. Nino but to the Blessed Virgin Mary as it’s held on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11. The dancers shout Viva La Virgen and perform on the street with an image of the Immaculate Conception. The last time we were in Iriga was in the 80s and it was still a sleepy town then. Now, the beautiful city of springs living under the imposing shadow of Mt. Asog is a bustling city full of commercial establishments like LCC (Liberty Commercial Center), a mall chain in Bicol, housing new shops and restos. Credit all the progress to the dynamic leadership of Mayor Madelaine Alfelor Gazmen who modernized it with such impressive edifices as the Iriga Government Center, the Convention Center, Gawad Kalinga Iriga housing project, the imposing public library that houses a Noraniana room for Iriga’s most famous daughter (Ate Guy, more about this later).

The first part of the festival parade held in the morning, called Tinagba Around the World since many Iriganons from abroad returned as balikbayans for the affair, is a parade of bullcarts and floats from the University of Northeastern Philippines (UNEP), the University of St. Anthony (USANT), and the various barangay clusters and commercial establishments. The most spectacular floats for us were the giant tilapia that’s blowing bubbles and the float showing giant pieces of ginger (luya). There’s also a contigent of native inhabitants, the Aetas, who performed their ethnic dance well. Another represents the balikbayans of Iriga Bicol Association of America.

After lunch, the second part of the festival was staged: a dance showdown between the various barangay clusters. Two dance groups were exhibition showcases: the Voyadores of UNEP (the defending champion) and the band and majorettes of USANT (three time-winner at the Penafrancia Festival.) Many of the majorettes are beauty queen material, especially the long-legged leader named Danica who’s tall and really so pretty someone should bring her to Manila pronto.

Among the barangay clusters, the best dancers for us are those from Barangays Santiago, Sta. Elena, Sto. Domingo, Banao, San Juan and La Anunciacion of Cluster 2. They were dressed like Aetas complete with kinky hair and danced with precision movements even if it was raining heavily while they were performing. We were not surprised when they won 1st place with a cash prize of P250,000 and also won best in costume, best in choreography and best in sound and rhythm. Second prize of P200,000 went to Cluster 3 of Barangays Sto. Nino, San Antonio, La Trinidad, La Medalla, and La Purisima. Barangays San Agustin, Sta. Teresita, San Andres, San Vicente Norte and Sta. Cruz of Cluster 5 won P150,000 for third prize. For the floats, 1st prize went to Casureco Electric, 2nd prize to Iriga Water District, 3rd prize Cluster 6 of Barangays San Pedro, Perpetual Help, Sta. Maria, San Ramon, San Rafael, Cristo Rey, Sta. Isabel and Nino Jesus. The judges include Yeng Constantino of Pinoy Dream Academy and Jayson Gainza of PBB.

Thanks to Angie Baylon from the mayor’s office for attending to us during our stay in Iriga. Also Dr. Alma Gazmen, the mayor’s very accommodating mom. Mayor Mads is her second child and only daughter. The first born, a son, just finished law when he perished in a car accident. The youngest son, Ronald nicknamed Ganggang, is 10 years younger than Mayor Mads. He’s being groomed to run as mayor as she’s now on her last term. With her great performance for three terms, we won’t be surprised if Ronald would win easily.