Binirayan To The Max
- JB Mande () - May 28, 2006 - 12:00am
The province of Antique celebrated the biggest Binirayan Festival in its 32 years of existence with month-long festivities all throughout April.

Thousands of Antiqueños flocked the plaza to witness the various activities of the festival, especially the impressive performance of tribes in the Malay-ati contest. The competition is Antique’s version of the Mardi Gras, with street dancing and a P100,000 prize for the winner. This year, the honor went to the Tribu Urukay of the Anini-y town.

The competition was participated in by eight tribes coming from various municipalities, with Tribu Abante Antique and Pahinis de Bukidnon, both from the town of Laua-an, as the 2nd and 3rd placers respectively.

A festival within a festival, the Komedya festival was also held to revive Antique’s old traditions and culture. The komedya is a folk theater form originating in the 19th century which was popular until the early 1900s. The first komedya in Western Visayas was recorded in San Jose, Antique.

The Biray kang Barangay, the reliving of the landing of the ten datus in Malandog, Hamtic to establish the first settlement in the country, launched the festival’s culmination last April 27. Gov. Salvacion Z. Perez, Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab and other officials and guests sailed on decorated bancas from San Jose Port to Malandog Beach, where the whole-day activity was held with a barrio fiesta motif with Antique dances and tribal music. The day ended with a torch parade from the Malandog marker to EBJ Freedom Park.

The Bugal kang Antique, the recognition of Antique’s illustrious sons and daughters this year honored the memory of the father of the Binirayan festival, the late Gov. Evelio B. Javier. He was conferred posthumously the Datu Sumakwel Lifetime Achievement Award. The EBJ Youth Leadership Award was given to Ariston Miñez III of Saint Anthony’s College and Lu Anne Ballarta of Northern Antique Vocational School.

Other awardees were Dr. Maria Eugenia Laosunthara, Layas nga Antiqueño Award (Education); Melinda Pechangco Liberman, Community Service; Dr. Ma. Luningning Elio Villa, Government Service; Barbaza Multi Purpose Cooperative, Entrepreneurship; Alberto Pacheco Solis, Community Leadership; Chrizel Nacisvalencia Lagunday, Sports; and the late Lorna Revilla Montilla, Datu Lubay Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other major attractions in the festival included the fireworks display, the grandest the province had ever seen, the rigodon de honor, parada ng lahi, karsadyahan street dancing and the Pasundayag trade fair featuring Antique’s one town-one product crafts.

The idea of celebrating Binirayan was pioneered by then Gov. Evelio B. Javier. Under his leadership, Antiqueños felt the need to get together to celebrate their history as a people. The festival has paved the way for Antiqueños scattered in different parts of the country and the world to journey back to their past and trace their noble roots.

The term literally means "where they landed," recalling the story of the ten Bornean datus led by Datu Puti and Datu Sumakwel who fled from the oppressive rule of Sultan Makatunaw and their subsequent settlement in Panay in the early 15th century. This episode in the history of Antique is relived on the beaches of Malandog and Hamtic during the festival.

"Binirayan is the mother of all festivals in Region VI. I also daresay that it is the mother of festivals in the whole country. We have no Ati-atihan if the Malays had not landed here in Malandog, nor would there have been Dinagyang or Halaran. Antiqueños should be proud of this distinction," said Regional Director Edwin Trompeta of the Department of Tourism Region VI.

Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab also urged Antiqueños to be proud of their rich heritage. "Be an Antiqueño first and you’ll be a Filipino. When we are anchored on our culture and are proud of our history, we will stand proud as one nation."

In her speech during the Biray, Antique Gov. Salvacion Z. Perez said that the celebration, through the Binirayan Foundation Inc., is getting bigger every year, although organizers have for for the past few years dropped the re-enactment. She noted that the big drama of the Binirayan is in the biray itself, with Antique leaders and the people sailing in to Malandog, and being welcomed.

The idea of the Barter of Panay was also dropped, since the sentiment is that the Ati, the original settlers of Panay island, were a noble people who could not have exchanged their land for only a golden sadok and a necklace. Thus, the Binirayan is now tagged as an occasion of friendship, sharing and greatness–the Ati welcoming the Malays as people seeking a peaceful place to live in.

This year’s Binirayan theme was "Kabuganaan halin sa pinanubli nga dunang manggad" (a bountiful harvest from our natural heritage), indicating that the province’s natural heritage is also its cultural heritage. "Let us look at our wealth–our history and culture–to eradicate poverty. Let us use this to our advantage," urged Gov. Perez.

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