Negros comes alive with the Panaad Fest

- Antonieta Lopez -
BACOLOD CITY — The fulfillment of a panaad, a Hiligaynon word which means "vow" or "promise," is manifested in different ways.

In Negros Occidental, it is manifested through revelry in a week-long festival called Panaad sa Negros.

Negrenses consider the event the "mother of all festivals" as the 13 cities and 19 towns of Negros Occidental showcase their individual fiestas, cuisines and products.

It features an agro-industrial fair, a dance parade, exhibits, a religious procession and beauty pageants held on the 20-hectare, eucalyptus tree-lined Panaad Sports and Recreational Park in this city.

For a week, starting yesterday, the park is transformed into a giant festival site where theme booths of the 32 towns and cities, including this capital city, show off their crafts and cuisines.

Guests can sample local delicacies such as the talaba or mussels of Hinigaran and Ilog, the dried fish and squid of Cadiz, rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves of Manapla, refined sugar and canned goods of Victorias, and the sweets and pastries of Silay.

Visiting the booths is like touring the whole province, hence the Panaad Park has been referred to as Negros Occidental’s version of Nayong Pilipino.

Launched in May 1993 as a summer festival, Panaad promotes the province not just as the country’s sugar capital but also as a beehive of other industries such as furniture-making, garments and houseware, handicrafts, cutflowers, prawn culture, high-value crops and gamefowl breeding.

Panaad is also a showcase of the different festivals in the province — the famous MassKara of Bacolod, Pasalamat of La Carlota, Pintaflores of San Carlos, Sinigayan of Sagay, Kadalag-an of Victorias, Kansilay of Silay, Babaylan of Bago, Dinagsa of Cadiz, Manlambus of Escalante, Sinulog of Kabankalan, Pasaway of Sipalay, Himayaan of Himamaylan, Pasidungog of Talisay, Tinabu-ay of Murcia, Mudpack of Mambukal, Bailes de Luces of La Castellana, Kali-Kalihan of Salvador Benedicto and other emerging festivals such as E.B. Magalona’s Snake Dance Festival and San Enrique’s Bulang-Bulang Festival.

The Latino-themed MassKara Festival held every October has earned for Bacolod the title "City of Smiles," with its colorful smiling masks. Civic-minded individuals conceived it at the height of the sugar crisis in 1980. The word MassKara was coined from "mass" meaning people, and "kara" or face.

Pasalamat is a thanksgiving festival of La Carlota to celebrate a good harvest. It is based on an age-old practice of offering thanksgiving to the god of agriculture believed living inside the Kanlaon Volcano.

The Ati-Atihan of Cadiz and the Sinulog of Kabankalan mark the Feast of the Child Jesus, the Sto. Niño. Revelers garbed in Ati costumes dance in the streets to the beat of the drums.

Pintaflores of San Carlos City highlights the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo and features "tribes" dressed in colorful, ethnic-inspired costumes with their bodies painted with flower designs reminiscent of the tattooed Visayans of pre-Spanish Negros.

Performers in a Kali-Kalihan dance parade in the mountain town of Don Salvador Benedicto don indigenous costumes and sashay in graceful movements to ethnic music using kali sticks. It culminates with an offering of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, and a fire-walking ritual.

Kansilay is Silay City’s festival about a folktale narrating the bravery of beautiful Princess Kansilay who offered her life for justice and freedom.

The emerging Sinigayan Festival of Sagay City showcases street dancers in costumes made of seashells called sigay, from where the city derived its name.

Another unique festival in Negros Occidental is the Babaylan of Bago City. It explores the folktale about the babaylans (witch doctors) and their rituals and the artistic endeavors of the early Bagonhons.

The Mudpack Festival of Mambukal, Murcia town is a symbolic celebration of man’s return to primitive times when he was closer to nature. The faces of the dancers are covered with mud and their bodies with Mambukal clay.

Panaad is more than a showcase of the province’s bests, it is a testament to the Negrenses’ love for the good life and their ability to rise above any strife.

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