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Kasanggayahan Festival 2013 highlights start of Christian Civilization in Southern Bicolandia

Pantomina sa Tinampo. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

Pantomina sa Tinampo. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

By Bennie A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY – This October, the province of Sorsogon will again celebrate the Kasanggayahan Festival and for this year, one historical importance, marking the beginning of Christianization in Southern Bicol will be given the highlight.

Different from the previous celebrations, this year’s Kasanggayahan Festival will offer local folks as well as domestic and foreign visitors a candid display of its distinctiveness as a province, being the birthplace of Christian civilization in Southern Bicolandia.

Highlights of the activities for Kasanggayahan Festival 2013 will be displayed starting from October 17, the date when Sorsogon obtained official independence from the province of Albay, and will end on October 23, 2013. However, the usual month-long activities like the trade fair, art exhibits, nightly shows and the traditional “Pantomina sa Tinampo” will still be showcased.

The Provincial Government of Sorsogon under the auspices of Governor Raul R. Lee spearheads the major activities for this year’s festival in close coordination with the Kasanggayahan Foundation, Inc. (KFI), the group that officially oversees the conduct of Kasanggayahan Festival since its organization in 1995.

It can be noted that Gov. Lee was persistent in promoting the distinctive nature of Sorsogon by attracting more tourists to come to the province. He said Sorsogon has a lot of potentials, be it in tourism, culture and arts, agriculture and natural resources that should be given outstanding recognitions every time the Kasanggayahan Festival is celebrated.

KFI President Msgr. Francisco P. Monje said that one week may be too short for a grandiose celebration of a festival, but the organizers have made it a point to haul out the distinct mark of Sorsogon “which the province and we, Sorsoganons, could proudly claim we own: the site of the First Mass in Luzon where Christianization in Bicol emanated”.

The first day of the weeklong celebration will be highlighted by the Re-enactment of the First Mass in Luzon through a progressive street dance presentation from Magsaysay Street to Rizal Street going to the Provincial Gymnasium where an “Inculturated Mass” will be offered as a culmination activity.

Mr. Dan Razo, in charge of the Cultural Affairs and Executive Director of the Community-Based Theater Group (CBTG) said the re-enactment will start at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Fourteen “Higantes” will be portraying the role of Spaniards and villagers while a large number of street dancers will add up to the flavor of the presentation.

A mini-stage and bleachers will be put up in one strategic location where guests, visitors and viewers can comfortably position themselves.

“What will make the mood festive are the hullabaloos of the “Higantes” and the street dancers as well as the participation of the onlookers. Leaves, banners, and other stuff will be distributed to the crowd which they can use as they join the street presentation,” Mr. Razo said.

The traditional pilgrimage and commemorative mass will still be offered in Sitio Gibalon in Brgy. Siuton, Magallanes. According to the organizers, the mass in Gibalon will not be scrapped since it is in this place that the original first mass in Luzon was held. The distinct mark of Sorsogon will be brought to the city so as to heighten awareness and encourage more participation of the public in promoting Sorsogon, as explained by the organizers.

The street presentation will re-enact how the Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who was then based in Panay Island, dispatched sometime in 1565 to this part of the island, an expeditionary group headed by Capitan Luis Enriquez de Guzman together with their chaplain, Augustinian friar Fray Alonso Jimenez, to gather additional strength in Panay and, at the same time, evangelize the villagers they might come upon during their journey.

The group came upon a small, but thriving fishing village at the mouth of the Hibal-ong River, now the Ginangra River, in what is now the municipality of Magallanes.
This was Hibal-ong, or Gibalong, the very first Christian settlement in the island of Luzon and where the first Mass in Luzon Island was said to have been celebrated by Fray Jimenez.

Meanwhile, based from the accounts translated from the original Spanish by Fr. Francisco Mallari, S.J., Mariano Goyena del Prado narrates that in 1569, Capitan Luis Enriques de Guzman went ashore for the first time on Bikol soil in the continent of Luzon, and for the first time also, Missionary Father Alonso Jimenez proclaimed the gospel.

Late poet and historian Rev. Fr. Isidoro D. Dino, in his article, “Sorsogon: Birthplace of Christian Civilization in Southern Bicolandia,” also wrote: “At the barrio of Hibal-ong, Capt. de Guzman and Fray Jimenez put up a temporary chapel at the banks of the Ginangra River and held the first Mass on the island of Luzon”. This provides evidence that the Bicol peninsula had become a part of Christian civilization even before Manila became Christianized.

Samuel K. Tan, Ph.D., former National Historical Institute (NHI) chair and executive director, recounted that after conducting initial research, data seem to imply that, indeed, Sorsogon was the site of the First Mass in Luzon.

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