Late Wednesday night, I found out that my MIL volunteered me yet again to another activity involving her organization. I was quite dismayed because 1) I had scheduled to attend a book launching at the Ateneo de Manila University, a book that took many years to see print, not for lack of effort on my part; and 2) she volunteered me to be an emcee in a dance competition at the U.P. Bahay ng Alumni. I hate having to talk in front of huge crowds. It may not be readily apparent, but I am glossophobic.
Needless to say, MIL prevailed, and I had to bail out of the book launching. I hope they still give me a complementary copy of the book on Community-Based Natural Resource Management. Not your average person's reading material, but it is an important collection of research and studies on Philippine CBNRM.
And so, it was with acute trepidation that I found myself in the huge hall of the Bahay ng Alumni, trying to establish a rapport with my co-emcee, who I was meeting for the first time. The occasion is the Luzon Sayawitugtog Bata, a dance drama competition on Philippine Myths and Legends, held by the International Organization of Folk Arts Philippines (IOFA) every two years. Frankly, I expected to be bored to tears.
It was quite a comedy of errors at first. I was given my cue cards and spiels, and at the last minute, the organizers changed the order of the program. Imagine me, standing there in the podium, working up the crowd to frenetic excitement (I was doing my best Pokwang impersonation) as I begin to introduce the first contestants, when I was cut short by the floor director, who said the judges had to be introduced first. Ugh! Talk about wrong timing. Only twenty minutes into the program and I was already wishing I was somewhere else.
But as the elementary students representing the different regions in Luzon performed, I paid rapt attention. I was, to say the least, awe-struck with the beauty and strength of their performances. The youth could perform with such spirit and verve. And only the very young cannot be self-conscious about being dyed dark brown, and being asked to wear afro wigs and g-strings.
I learned much about the beginnings of Vigan, the Christianization of Cagayan Valley, the simple life and culture of the Balugas (Aetas) of Tarlac (when I was a child, my siblings would scare me by saying the Balugas would come and put me in their bayong), the legend of Calamba - I never knew that the town derived its name from "kalan" and "banga" (clay stove and jar), the beginnings of Iriga City, the Cordillera Administrative Region's Romeo and Juliet in the legend of Gana-ac and Lupting, and last but not the least, the history of Pasig.
I wish I could have taken more photos or videos of the performances but absorbed as I was with the stories, I still had to do my duties as emcee. Which went far better than I would have expected as I was drawn into the importance of the event - the opportunity to showcase the relatively unknown stories of the different parts of the Philippines. It is indeed vital that we Filipinos, beginning with the very young, have a deeper appreciation of our diverse cultures and heritage.
Next year, IOFA will be holding the Visayas and Mindanao phases of the competition in Cebu. I hope I get invited to emcee again. If not, I will volunteer, if I have to twist my MIL's arm about it.