Friday, 24 May 2019

Bangsi Fest: High Flying Fish-tival

MAITUM, Sarangani (February 8, 2015) – This rustic but scenic town comes to life every third week of January in a wonderful burst of life and abundance as locals celebrate the nature’s gift to their town, the bangsi.

Bangsi is the flying fish – the reason for the seasonal celebration of the Bangsi Festival, now on its ninth year.

This year’s revelries were officially opened by Mayor Pepito Catimbang at the Turtle Sanctuary in Purok Acacia, Barangay Kiambing on January 28.

Mayor Catimbang noted the evident increase in the number of revelers this year with the staple-local mix of visitors from nearby General Santos, South Cotabato, Davao and neighboring provinces interspersed with visitors from America, Middle East and Australia.

Bangsi Fest is gaining popularity in the international community for being a festival that has stayed true to the roots of its celebration which is to showcase their town’s product.

The opening day started early with a Fun Run to the beach, followed by a kapehan fellowship and the Zumbahanan sa Kadagatan.

Mayor Catimbang and Vice Mayor Jeanne Ablog joined the Zumbathon along with local government employees, police officials, visitors and local merrymakers.

After the Zumbahanan, a giant bangsi grill was opened beside the sea where everyone was treated to a free breakfast of unlimited, ocean-fresh harvest of flying fish.

This was followed by the formal opening which featured the exciting Bangsirit (Bancarera) where fast, motored speedboats from different locales outpace each other in an exhilarating series of races in the open sea.

The Bangcarera also featured a Lumba Bugsay where horsepower was replaced by human muscle as local fishermen tried their best to dominate the waves using pure human strength and technique.

Intricate sand carvings also festooned the beach as contestants of the Sand Sculpture competition sculpted the sandy shores of Kiambing to form giant squids, turtles, dolphins, people and the ubiquitous bangsi sculptures.

Contestants from different barangays from Maitum also showcased their dancing prowess in the “Hataw sa Karagatan” dance contest.

“Nakakatuwa kasi nakikita mo na community effort yung presentation, sumasayaw and nakikisaya pati ang mga barangay officials sa mismong dance number,” said Jolly Pasigas, a retired policeman who was caught dancing along the infectious beats of the Hataw sa Karagatan presenters.

That same morning before the end of the program, Mayor Catimbang called to the stage the photographers from different prestigious contingents such as the Gensan Camera Club, Davao Peoples Photographers, Inc. and others present to formally kick off Mindanao’s longest running photo contest, the Maitum Photo Safari.

Almost 70 professional and hobbyist photographers joined the contest.

The Maitum Photo Safari has attained legendary status in the budding photographers and hobbyists, becoming the southern mecca for would-be and award-winning photographers.

The morning festivities were capped by another feast on the abundant flying fish thru the Sugbahanay sa Dagat.

Crates-upon-crates of bangsi sponsored by the LGU were delivered to the seashore where white-hot open grills waited to cook the prize catches of Maitum into perfection.

Steaming hot rice was also served free to compliment the dish.

A true throwback to what a real festival should be, where local folks, visitors and tourists can share in thankful celebration the bounties of nature.

SMEs and Culinaries. True to its vision of maintaining its local roots and not losing its spirit, the 9th Bangsi Festival of Maitum also featured the Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) Showcase and Trade Fair in front of the municipal hall.

The SME Showcase highlighted the town’s products such as organic brown rice coffee, dried fruits, furniture and craft works; and the famous half-dried marinated bangsi.

Department of Trade and Industry officials as well as other regional support offices such as the Department of Agriculture were also present to show support and assistance to different local medium and small enterprises. Alongside the SME Showcase, was the cooking competition that featured different dishes with the celebrated bangsi as the main ingredient.

Members of the national media witnessed as students from different local schools and universities competed to produce the best tasting, naturally mouthwatering bangsi-based dish.

Alice Reganit, a tourist who has relatives in Maitum was one in the audience who happened to have just passed by the front of the municipal hall and was enthralled by the products and sumptuous looking dishes.

“Sana marami sila niluto para matikman din naming hindi lang yung judge, nakakatakam kasi tingnan,” Reganit cooed in delight.

She also bought wooden ornaments locally made in Maitum that were carefully crafted to resemble flowers with long stalks and shiny red petals.

Munting Mutya ng Maitum. Twelve candidates from different barangays in Maitum also stutted their stuff as part of the Munting Mutya ng Maitum pageant. All the 12 contestants were sponsored by different local companies and private individuals giving the spectacle a comfortable yet competitive feel.

Companies that sponsored the candidates included; Cebuana Lhuiller, Digs Movilla and White Water Tubing, Association of Barangay Captains, Municipal Mayor’s Office, Vice Mayors Office, Local Government Unit-Department Heads, Sangguniang Bayan Members, 4-Life, Mlhuiller Kwarta Padala , LJ's Pandesal atbp and Mr. Samsun Estabillo.

Higher the second time around. The second day saw the festival soar to even greater heights as the street played host and stage to the Float Parade and Street Dancing competition which culminated in a grand gala in front of the judges and local municipal officials.

Contestants from different delegations in the high school and elementary level treated the crowd gathered in the sidewalk to joyful cheers, colorful costumes and entertaining dance steps which later exploded in a bonanza of colors and spectacle as the contest proper for the Aquatic Dance and Bangsiyawan Showdown got on the way.

Stories of environmental preservation, abundance of nature, myths and thanksgiving were told thru the beauty of movement, dance, festive music and colorful costumes.

This was quickly followed by the popular “Sugba-sugba sa Kadalanan” where almost two tons of bangsi or flying fish were grilled on an estimated 300 meters long grill and served free to the public, visitors and tourists.

Locals tended the grill as members of the local government unit distributed steaming piles of rice.

People were free to roam around jumping from one grill to another to eat and enjoy the delicious bounty of Celebes Sea.

Smiles abounded as tourists reveled at the open sharing and party like atmosphere despite the hot, hot sun.

Maybar Sulek Dyan, a half-Israeli, half-Filipino tourist was invited by family members who worked for the regional fisheries council to join the festivities. Sulek said that he cannot help but stand in awe as to the freshness and nearly overflowing supply of the scrumptious bangsi.

“When my relatives invited me, they said there would be a lot of bangsi available for everyone, I didn’t know there would be this much, it’s amazing,” Sulek said.

Sulek, who admitted that he loved the dried and marinated version of the bangsi, also said that what he enjoyed most about the “Sugba-sugba sa Kadalanan” was the showcasing of the Filipino hospitality and the community sharing of their blessings.

“Pinoy na Pinoy, like a fiesta. Sarap,” he added.

The food fest stretched till the later part of the noon, and even then you could still find a couple or more people meandering along the grill line picking and grilling some of the remaining fishes.

The whole Bangsi Festival celebration wounded down with a unique, “Slowest Drag Race” – where motorcycle speed jockeys in regular drag races are replaced by balancing ballerina like racers who drive their motorcycles towards a finish line in the slowest manner possible balancing their rides without their feet touching the ground for support.

This was capped-off by a disco and party organized by the local government, all free for the people to enjoy.

In smiling retrospect, one cannot help but stand in awesome disbelief as to what the small and silent town of Maitum was able to achieve. The local officials and the towns people were able to attain the near impossible of sending to soaring heights the popularity and entertainment value of their festival, but still maintaining and not forgetting the reason for the celebration of the season.

Perhaps, Maitum Mayor Pepito Catimbang said it best when he elaborated on the vision of the Bangsi Festival. “The Bangsi Festival was conceptualized so that the people of Maitum can learn to love the product that gave us livelihood and a beautiful life. Dahil kung hindi mahal ng Maitumians ang sarili nilang produkto, hindi ito mamahalin ng mga taong hindi taga dito.” (MAITUM INFORMATION OFFICE)

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