Sagada Town Fiesta in Etag Festival

>> Monday, January 30, 2017

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE- Why not bring back the celebration of the town fiesta to its old name, Sagada Town Fiesta is the emphatic assertion of Auntie Emilia Cadiogan, my next door neighbor who manages Yoghurt Haus.
Auntie Emilia recollects how the town fiesta was then celebrated in the earlier days when the town’s people play games with rivaling softball players such as Southern vendors versus Poblacion vendors stressing on the participation of its very own people during the town’s festive day celebrated every first week of February. Even foreigners have a taste of how the town fiesta was celebrated with tourists versus iSagada playing basketball.   
Ballgames is a participative event  and the  townspeople loved it watching and cheering when a hefty-built candidate for senior citizen whacks the bat and the ball cascades to Sayocsoc down the creek. Cheers and more cheers shall resound at the softball ground of the Mission Compound and from where my house sits, I could hear festive shouts of homerun or the batter having been declared ‘out’.  The next game is followed by the announcer’s first caaaaaaaaaalll for softball boys: Ambasing Elementary School versus   Antadao Elementary School….. And so on it goes.
Till the recent years when this scenario in the olden days was not felt  nor heard with obvious silence at the softball ground where  first ‘caaaaalllls…’  were not blaring anymore and no loud  cheering was heard.  Whatever happened.
Activity was centered in the basketball court and this is where the announcers’ table was found. Whatever happened with the announcers table at the softball ground asks the question if there is lack of announcers or there is lack of sound system or both.
Anyway, people wanted to converge come every  fiesta and this is obvious when the   grounds in front of the church  is filled with picnickers from northern, eastern and southern barangays who share their packed food on the first day of the  event and  eat lunch together. People automatically and by community norms of converging together do this ‘collective picnic at the church grounds’ that I noticed happened the previous fiesta celebrations just after the happening of ground demonstrations and cultural presentations at the soft ball grounds.
Now this is what the Etag Festival Committee of this year wants to do. A gathering of people for them to enjoy their own town fiesta. And so some amount is shared from the municipal coffers for each barangay to share with other barangays and  zonal lunches to be done. Some amount is also sourced from barangays as counterpart. Mayor James Pooten was emphatic about this and so with other members of the working committees until some amount was able to be budgeted for aid to barangays. 
Barangay Captain of Tetep-an Sur Kapitan “Alas’ Bagsingit is ardent about people coming together and enjoy especially among the children and the youth.
The previous fiesta celebrations saw the conduct of activities to make children and the youth happy aside from ball games to join, be happy and earn money. For this year’s celebration, we have contests on musical renditions, poster making and video production on disaster awareness, essay writing, quiz bee, quiz show, Little Ms Sagada , Ms Teen Sagada. This apart from  cultural presentations, street dancing, dance competitions; and group contests on ground demonstration, street dancing, and ball games.
Of course we have the perennial tug of war that cannot be ignored and done at the last day of the fiesta in the afternoon of the day.  This is a game which always makes my day and the fiesta fulfilling enough even if I watch this many times over.  How players would pit strength against strength and even use some tactics to win such as not moving, holding on to the rope and suddenly jerking the opponents down. Muscles would flex and one can see every nerve of strength to hold on to the rope, pulling towards one’s collective strength till the stronger one gets the opponent loosening their grip on their rope and lose.
This festival’s  theme ‘A celebration of an empowered community through faith and culture’ rightfully  tells of a people of Sagada who in most instances  asserted their  collective opinion and statement on matters they sense is proper, what should  be and what is good for the community.
While there are some isolated cases  of some having slipped off the control of Sagada, these are instances always cited and used as reference not to happen again.
For one, a demilitarized town in the late 80s speaks of a people who don’t want their community suffering again from either the NPA or the AFP so the call for a demilitarization of the town and eventual   declaration of a peace zone for Sagada in the early 1990s by the   national government.
Other instances talk of a people who don’t want a 5-Star Hotel nor Jollibee, McDonald or Dunking Donuts operating in their vicinity besides the multinational food chain company is already a giant firm unimaginable to even allow it to operate in a small community and shoving people off their livelihood.
And so on. Business in the town is largely owned by residents themselves though there are isolated cases of ‘outsiders’ operating in town. Isolated cases which are always being brought out as examples not to be repeated.
Sagada having been  ‘empowered’  keeping on to their  culture  amidst the introduction of another Christian faith managed to see their culture in the new faith introduced by American missionaries in the early  1900s and  vice versa.
This age-old value of “inayan” closely akin to the Christian value of doing unto others what you would like others do unto you has time and again kept each Sagadan hold on to his ears and examine his conscience if something is right or wrong or proper or improper.  And most of the time, community consciousness creeps in and tells the person how to behave. And such norm is a guiding value and belief for one to base his actions on. Where some have done another way, it is not surprising to hear that the someone ‘comes from another place’.
Anyway comes Etag Festival and when this was made into an ordinance  by the Sangguniang Bayan in 2011 with the first  Etag fest celebrated on same year recognized the importance of ‘etag’ in the cultural life of the iSagada. Etag is used in almost all cultural rituals – dangtey, begnas, senga, and sabusab - and in almost any contemporary occasion- baptisms, graduations, and thanksgiving, family and clan get- together events.  And while the olden days made use of the ‘etag’ as a sacred  delicacy  mixed with  chicken or pork, now has seen ‘etag’  sold in market costing P180 and to as high as P220 nowadays.
Etag festival while it has been criticized for a no- show of it for sale during the four to five day festival has been that way since the festival was celebrated in 2011. Though there has been some ‘etag; sold during the first day of the event the rest of the days saw the lack or none of it.
 And so comments of an  ‘etagless’ etag festival contrary to how other places portray their own festival such as a longest line of longganiza and many more longganiza in a longganiza festival or volumes of  bangus for a Bangus festival or flowers abounding in the much visited Panagbenga festival in Baguio City.
The trend says the Etag festival beckons people to prepare for the big day and raise pigs and more pigs so to make more etag and more sales and on. But it doesn’t happen that way. People either have not been keen in raising a number of pigs and producing ‘etag’ and more ‘etag’ due to whatever reason. I am more inclined to believe that people in Sagada produce what they can manually handle and not based on a factory-mind set.
So we see fruit wines in bottles and cakes sold by what the family can produce and woven materials in what the family and a few worker-weavers can work on. Boxes and boxes and boxes of Sagada made jams and jellies and ‘etag’ by the tons is not something or factory to see in town.
Changing the mind set of what is Etag festival from a contemporary capitalist setting to a symbolical and cultural celebration of what it is, and not a celebration based on how others commercially celebrate it seems to be what should manageably be. We celebrate the Etag festival to be reminded of a culture that binds us as a people and keeps community values strong as the value of ‘inayan’, a culture- based celebration of faith and belief.  That is, one shall not be looking for lines of ‘liniding’ ay etag along the streets or piled in booths. It is good enough that a visitor was able to buy a kilo of ‘etag’ and gotten a taste of etag pizza or etag sandwich in one of those booths set up purposely for the fiesta, and came to imbibe culturally what ‘etag’ means beyond that aromatic smell and tasty delicacy of salted pork smoked from alnus leaves for a period of time
While this is so, let us celebrate the Etag festival in the spirit of a town fiesta. Unless the town’s legislative body shall  think otherwise and officially recover  the old  name, Sagada Town fiesta  back and the Etag festival to be held in another date to celebrate culture. Or as some say another festival to celebrate the bounty of creation to recognize Sagada’s agricultural and homemade- products one of which is ‘etag’.   


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