Sama samang saya at Sangyaw Festival
The floats are decked out with different materials, displaying designs of historical and cultural significance
Photos from Tacloban City Information Office-CIO Facebook page

Sama samang saya at Sangyaw Festival

Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The phrase “Sama-samang saya” best describes this year’s Sangyaw Festival of Tacloban City. It is anchored on the place’s reputation: Home of the Happiest People in the World. Their warmth and hospitality are sensational.

“Sangyaw means to trumpet or to announce. It means to trumpet the good news,” said Mayor Cristina Gonzalez-Romualdez of the annual month-long celebration in an intimate group interview with the Manila Entertainment press. By the way, the actress-turned-politician could be Tacloban’s perfect poster girl for she is always ready to give everyone a smile. “It started during the time of Madame Imelda Marcos when she was still the first lady,” she added. Sangyaw heralds the feast day (June 30) of Tacloban’s Sr. Sto. Niño and the city’s  fiesta. It reminds one of umalohokan (town cryer) of the pre-colonial times, who goes around barangay to announce new laws and explains them to people.

In a speech, Mayor Cristina said that the 129th fiesta celebration is a testament of Taclobanons’ “rich culture, resilience and unity as one city.” This means showcasing their history — which encompasses traditions, heritage, arts and culture — and creativity. All of this was captured in varied activities leading to the city fiesta.

Sangyawan Music Festival was one event that attracted throngs of Taclobanons. On different dates, it featured up-and-coming and established names from the live music and recording scenes.

Gracing the musical event were Siakol, Jepsen and The Flips, Mayonnaise, Daybreak, Cueshé, Mulatto with I Love Tacloban Band and Ex Batallion. TJ Monterde, Jason Fernandez, Jovit Baldivino and Sofia Romualdez took turns for solo spots. Sofia is a Viva Records talent who has released her second single titled Thinkin’ of U, the follow-up to Pikit Mata (part of the soundtrack of Julian Trono and Ella Cruz’s movie FanGirl FanBoy). Sofia’s music reflects the sounds of her millennial generation. Her management shared that Sofia’s latest single is an R&B-pop piece that’s “very stylish, very modern.” Since she records the music she loves, Sofia is bound to create unique tunes.

Another anticipated event was the Festival of Lights street parade as preview of the competition held after.

Fifteen groups participated in the dance category. Two of them represented Samar towns. There were also 10 groups that joined as merry-makers. Aside from that, 15 floats were decked out with different materials, displaying designs of historical and cultural significance. Imagery ranged from ecclesiastical like the Sto. Niño, mundane and secular (the flora and fauna depicting agricultural and fishing life), the San Juanico Bridge to real-life figures like Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who made Tacloban the temporary capital of the reestablished Commonwealth government and turned it over to eventual Pres. Sergio Osmeña. Onlookers had a visual narrative of local history.
Beyond the pomp and pageantry and the sights and sounds a Pinoy festival offers, Sangyaw has its religious roots.

Part of the festivities was the Balyuan rites that, according to tradition, involve the exchange of Infant Jesus images between Tacloban and Basey. It represents their shared history and identity and how Christianity has been embraced in the Philippines. Samar and Leyte (where Tacloban is in its northeastern tip) are the first places Europeans set their foot on. With that, one may think that sangyaw also means to trumpet the good news from the Biblical sense.

As for good news, Tacloban has bounced back by leaps and bounds after being hit hard by Yolanda in 2013. It is a bustling city and remains the hub of the Eastern Visayas region. According to Mayor Cristina, people from Samar come to Tacloban to do banking, study and shop. Its downtown can be compared to Binondo. The local government efforts are focused on such projects as traffic (system and lights), climate resilience response system (where people have to register first to get text messages about weather conditions, warnings and advisories on evacuation), beautification efforts and livelihood. Located within the city hall complex are livelihood and training center buildings. Tacloban had 45 hotels before Yolanda and now has at least 75, not to mention some popular establishments dotting the landscape.

Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Gonzalez-Romualdez and singer-daughter Sofia — Photo by Tim Canes

Since pockets of developments are in place, the mayor banks on her experience as a councilor for nine years and a politician’s wife. “We have a much improved and very good (city) planning office,” she said. “(Of course,) everything starts in city planning (like) zoning, roads and budget. It is good to learn. And I love to learn new things.” Mayor Cristina added that she has a good team behind her and a supportive husband in former Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

So, Taclobanons are sama sama not only in saya (good times) but also in gawa (work).

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