Abu Sayyaf fails to dampen Boholanos’ fiesta spirit

A gothic style church in the town of Calape

Photos by Cooper Resabal

CALAPE, Bohol - The gothic style church has been repaired and repainted in time for this town’s fiesta.

At the provincial capital, Tagbilaran, the celebration started before the May 1 feast day with a 12-day novena priming up the community for the annual festivities in honor of its patron saint, St.Joseph, the worker.

On fiesta day, lechon, humba, torta, and other town delicacies were standard fare in many households’ dining table.

And of course, there were the much-awaited beauty pageants.

May is marked in Bohol calendars as a month of fiestas when almost every day some town or village celebrating its patron saint’s feast day.

This town, some 45 kilometers north of the capital, marked its fiesta with horseback riding women leading a parade that passed in front of its church that is now sporting a new look.

Something happened, however, last month that threatened to dampen the fiesta celebration in some parts of this town, particularly in barangay Kahayag, Pangangan Island, where two men in a stolen banca appeared asking for food, and quickly ran away to the vast mangrove forest when some youth called them “Abu Sayyaf.”

Devotees line up to kiss statue of San Vicente Ferrer.


The two men’s arrival in this town happened exactly a month after they, along with nineothers were spotted in a village in nearby Inabanga town where they were purportedly to base their kidnap and bombing operation. A Holy Week firefight claimed eight dead dead, four from the notorious kidnap for ransom group, and four from government forces.

A pursuit operation in nearby Clarin town end of April, resulted in the killing of four more Abu Sayyaf men, including Boholano convert Joselito Melloria.One of the men was captured alive in a village in Tubigon town earlyMay, but was later killed by police while in transit to the Bohol District Jail in Tagbilaran for allegedly trying to grab a gun from the police.

Despite the fact that the Abu Sayyaf remnants appeared on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in barangay Cahayag, councilman Edward Pelesoressaid in an interview, “The show must go on .We will have a pontifical Mass on fiesta day. We trust that Mama Mary will help and protect us.”

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., who was the guest of honor in Tagbilaran’s fiesta, explained to the crowd that fiestas in the province are “faith-based, with the people imploring the patron saints for blessings or thanking them for favors given. “

“In our celebrations, God is in the center,” the former rebel priest told the crowd in Boholano.Moreover, fiestas “remind us of our responsibility to guide the youth, that they may not get waylaid and continue to uphold good Boholano values and Church teachings,” he added.

Evasco considers this particular season significant since he said there is still a threat of disturbance that could make many Boholanos apprehensive about going home to the province.

A lone faithful at the altar of the ruins of Maribojoc church.


He urged everyone to ensure the protection of peace and development in the tourist province by being vigilant and not hesitating to inform authorities about strange people they observe in their areas.

In Maribojoc, Evasco’s hometown, it had been a tradition for devotees to dance their prayer requests or thanksgiving in front of a statue of San Vicente Ferrer, the town’s patron saint, accompanied by a “basaw” or beating of drums and a gong.

This year, at the temporary tent church people lined up to kiss the antique wooden statue of the saint which survived the 7.2 intensity earthquake on October 15, 2013 that toppled the town’s 17th century stone church whose ruins and giant bells can be seen in the background

Through the town's Enting-Enting Festival, the viajeros are reminded of the teachings of the Church, and miracles attributed San Vicente Ferrer.“Dala nila and santos aron sila giyahan (they bring the inspiration of the patron saint whom they believe guides them),” Evasco said.

Villagers took turns in presenting elaborately choreographednumbers all focusing on a miracle or assistance made by San Vicente Ferrer, with each group graced by a dancing festival queen, a symbol of the Blessed Mother who is believed to intercede for the faithful.

In some partsof this town, fiestas and summer vacations have been occasions for reunions and of acquainting the young to the cultural heritage of their ancestors in Bohol.

Bol-anon Village Cultural Trails, part of disaster recoveryin barangay Tori,l arranged an ancestral heritage trail in a forest setting for the family of Milagros Narido whose son and daughter in law and grandchildren were brought to the ancestral house, andintroduced to the various cultural practices of their ancestors, like pounding and winnowing rice, toasting tuba and drinking sikwate (chocolate).

A runner-up in the Miss Maribojoc beauty contest.

“I would like my apos to experience life in the village before cellphones and other gadgets came into the picture, so that they will appreciate their cultural roots in Bohol,” commented Narido, a retired accounting professor. Her daughter in law Kim Chi, a Bicolana, said it was the first time she saw how the sikwate (chocolate) drink is prepared with a baterol, and considered the heritage trail experience “extraordinary and educational.”

Very day this month, young girls and boys in Toril village, dressed in white, attend the Flores de Mayo, a prayer tradition which includes offering flowers to the Blessed Mother and taking turns in carrying the letters AVE MARIA to the altar while singing “Maghimaya ka Maria (Hail Mary)”.

Other towns like Alburquerque, marked its fiesta with the re-inauguration of the restored “retablo” of its church that was damaged during the2013 earthquake. The “retablos” display intricate craftsmanship in wood-carving in the town.

In a move to strengthen organized security operations in Bohol, the provincial government gathered local officials, mayors, barangay leaders and barangay peacekeeping action teams (BPATS) May 10 at the Bohol Cultural Center to consolidate the anti-terrorism information drive amid the Abu Sayyaf threat.

Police Regional DirectorTalino stressed at the gathering the need to organize for information networking,and assured tourists and homecoming residents that travel to Bohol is still safe.

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