Cogitations of a balikbayan ‘Lamdag Balangay’ spectator

By Alfred Bernados

My daughter-in-law urged me to watch the 2019 Lamdag Balangay (illuminated float parade) the night of the fiesta on May 19. I thought Butuan must have greatly improved in terms of aesthetics now anchored in local history.

I was a college student of Urios College in the ’70s and active member of an organization where we join parades and helped set up floats. The last float I remember had a beautiful lady sitting in the center dressed as a goddess, inspired from a Greek mythology.

I was excited to watch Lamdag Balangay because as you know it’s been a long time I have not savored the atmosphere of “good old Butuan” of our time. Besides, I would like to know how “developed” Butuan is now in the field of arts and its acceptance of history discovered by contemporary historians and encourage by the local government.

Who would have thought that in ancient time Butuan was a seat of local civilization and its people making incredible boats that sail even to mainland China. That is why it is worth our time as Butuanons to be proud when the wooden boat called “Balangay” is made a symbol of resilience and of greatness. Viva Balangay!

But I must be honest, I was disappointed to see it because the floats were not that impressive. The boats were there alright but it lacks creativity and imagination. The lights of the floats did not even do justice to the perceived balangays parading one by one. I was expecting a showcase of a close to real balangays trading goods and other items but I see no in-depth creative output from supposedly artistic people of Butuan. What happened? No quality control people in charge? Clearly there is none.

I think we did better in our time. Our floats done with sleepless night preparations before the parade itself, were far more artistic, expanding and colorful. They also told stories in clear details and characters. It may not be localized because we were ignorant of our history that time but honed on classic universal mythologies.

Our parades were done early morning and winded up before lunch so you could imagine the heat and sweat that we went through. One time I participated as a Greek prince and my classmates would cheer and tease me. People lining the streets from Urios College to Montilla Boulevard—would sometimes clap their hands when they see us right in front of them. Such moments of pride!

I hope this story will be taken in positive light so that it would be much better and effective next time. Also, it was annoying that private vehicles were competing on the shoulder of the highway, giving the audience a hard time to even see the dancers along each float. Is this a sign of lack of discipline and good organization? You be the judge.

Photo courtesy of Kim Bless

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