This week’s “Countdown to Christmas” project of the Department of Tourism highlights the best of Bicol (Region V). Having missed the 2014 Gayon Bicol Trade Fair last month at SM Megamall, I got excited by the chance to experience a scaled-down version of it at the DOT office in Makati.
The organizers make no bones about it. The Bicol showcase is a Mini Christmas Exhibit, with emphasis on “mini.” The goods occupy no more than four small spots in the lobby. Tourism Regional Director Maria Ravanilla had a most logical explanation for what seemed, to a highly expectant Bicolano like me, a lame turnout.
She said that Region V (composed of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon) has—and there’s no question about it—so much to offer to the world. The chosen venue, however, limits the opportunity to show all or most of them. Bringing in the products to the small space, may not draw the desired crowd and is just not cost-effective. Still, they hoped that whatever they brought in would reflect the richness of the region and the creativity of its people.
Realizing that I couldn’t focus on what’s not there, I looked around at what was available—and still saw what I was looking for. The Bicolano oragon and magayon characteristics were right there before my eyes (oragon is the Bicolano term for excellence in any undertaking; magayon means beautiful).
Abaca products have gone a long way from the traditional bags and slippers. The colors have become more vibrant, the craftsmanship is cleaner, and the appeal has gone world-class. There ought to be a good market out there for the new designs of handicrafts made in the region.
The native Christmas decors are particularly beautiful.
Pili-based goodies come in different persuasions. They now come in turmeric, muscovado, garlic, and other healthful choices. There’s moringa (malunggay) polvoron, too. I was looking for laing or pinangat, but there wasn’t any. Instead, I got katnga, another name for the Bicolano dish made with taro leaves and coconut milk. In bottled form, its shelf life got even better.
Chili peppers (sili or lada in Bicol) not only provide the heat in Bicolano cuisine; they also make colorful ornamentals.
I’m glad I stayed for the afternoon cultural presentation. It turned out Iriga City in Camarines Sur is not just Nora Aunor country when it comes to musicality. The MAG Dancers are called “Iriga’s Pride” for a reason. Their swirls, leaps, and lifts come with such grace, energy, and precision. Simply jaw dropping!
These dancers are scholars of former Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen, which explains the acronym MAG.
Watch this video of the dancers in action at a different event.
I learned from Mayor Madel that Iriga City holds its Tinagba Festival in February. I have heard so much about this festival and have always wanted to visit Bicol for this very reason.
Come February 2015, I must, I must!