It will be a legendary celebration in Albay, literally, as Legazpi City relives an epic legend during the Ibalong Festival this month.
Regarded as Bicol’s biggest non-religious festival, Ibalong is based on indigenous folklore and is perhaps the only cultural event in the country which celebrates an epic.
Now in its 21st edition, the festival is a popular recreation of a mid-19th century, 60-stanza epic poem penned by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Melendreras about the ancient civilization of Ibalong or present-day Bicol region.
Cast in the mold of the classic Greek mythology "Clash of the Titans," Ibalong tells about its three legendary heroes—Baltog, Handyong and Bantong—who, with their supernatural strengths, rid Bicolandia of beasts and helped it attain its golden era.
Arriving at various times in history, these warriors who came from a faraway land, vanquished the dreaded beasts which sowed terror among the populace. They later cultivated the land, established a government and a justice system, followed by an age of discovery and invention which helped civilization flourish.
The epic was written in the Spanish by Melendreras who was inspired by the accounts of Kadunung, a wandering minstrel in Albay, regarded as the "bard" of Ibalong for being a fountainhead of folklore and indigenous history.
Ibalong first got into mass exposure in the early 1900s when editor Wenceslao Retana compiled and annotated the fragments of the poem in the book "Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino." The original Spanish manuscripts are preserved at the Archivo Franciscano Ibero Oriental in Madrid.
In October 1992, the late mayor Imelda Roces staged the maiden edition of the festival to rescue the epic from the dustbins of history and make it a source of pride for the people of the city and the whole region.
According to Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal, Ibalong puts to the fore the Bicol’s rich pre-colonial culture to remind Bicolanos of their noble beginnings and their resilient nature despite the adversities they encounter.
She said that in transforming an almost-forgotten legend into a colorful festival, the city has put a visual touch into it to make it more understood and appreciated by the people.
The month-long festivity, which will run from August 12 to 31, will feature various socio-civic events, national and international sports tournaments, entertainment shows and cultural activities.
The fest’s highlight is the epic presentation on Aug. 30 where vital chapters of the Ibalong mythology will be re-enacted by participating contingents in a colorful parade and street theater.
Rosal concluded that the event will also showcase the strides made by Legazpi City in terms of urbanization, infrastructure, governance, as well as in convention and adventure tourism.
For details, log on to www.wowlegazpi.com.
Article written by and used with permission from Mr. Bernard Supetran.
Photos by Marco Paolo Arroyo