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Eccentricity of Albay’s Daragang Magayon Festival divides Albayanos (Feature)


LEGAZPI CITY, Mar. 28 (PNA) – The recent parade of giant effigies here as part of the events for the holding of Albay’s Daragang Magayon Festival renewed the age-old debate over the borderline between art and obscenity.

Daragang Magayon refers to the province’s mythical legend featuring the iconic Mayon Volcano whose name is derived from Daragang Magayon (beautiful lady in the Bicol dialect).

The festival -- which is all about Mt. Mayon whose serene picture-perfect scene tells why a tragic love story that has become an enduring myth makes it one of the world’s most restive volcano -- comes yearly as a month-long pre-summer celebration made as one of Albay’s major tourism promotion strategies.

The parade of giants, now on its third year of staging, used to be a unique one being the only giant effigy parade in the country that is based on mythological characters documented as early as the mid-18th century by Fray Jose Castanos, Juan Alvarez Guerra and Fedor Jagore.

The giants, according to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, “tell the story of the mythological, the mythical and the mystical beliefs of ancient Albayanos” as a reminder of their roots and anchor their unity in the pursuit of their prosperity goals in the future.

In the event, over 50 “higantes” towering more than 10 feet tall are paraded on floats and rollers to interact with guests and spectators lined up along the eight-kilometer route of the parade covering the city’s main thoroughfares, marking the opening of the festival that also celebrates the province’s foundation anniversary in April.

Among these giants are Oryol, the beautiful maiden whose lower part of the body is of a serpent; Rabot, the half-man, half-beast character; the anti-her, Aswang; the fierce Bonggo whose eyes flash out fiery flames; Bakunawa, the serpent which determines the seasons; huge wild boars Kulakog and Tandayag; and Tambaluslos, the odd one.

The debate is focused on the oddness of the image of Tambaluslos, a scraggy dark-skinned mythical creature with an oversized phallus barely displayed protruding in front of its body and paraded before a huge audience composed of a mixture of people--young and old.

The Provincial Information Office described the tambaluslos as “an awkward, lanky, wrinkled black creature that has long, thin, wobbly legs, hooves and big joints and punished by Gugurang (mythical god) by enlarging its phallus to gargantuan proportions for its promiscuity.”

But some parade watchers who questioned the basis of the pervading characteristic of the mythical creature were distressed over the effigy, so much so that a considerable number of children were watching.

“It should have been excluded in the parade because it was an expression of obscenity,” according to Amparo Moraleda of Daraga, Albay.

On the other hand, some expressed approval asserting that the freedom of expression of the artist behind the effigy must be upheld.

“Before reacting on Tambaluslos, please read the Bicol folk story about it. The depiction was correct as it emphasizes on the punishment meted upon him,” Raymund Escalante, an employee of the Department of Labor and Employment’s regional office here, said.

Lawyer Oliver Olaybal of Guinobatan, Albay, likened the display of Tambaluslos to the attempt in 1972 to rename the Republic of the Philippines as “Maharlika.”

Introduced by then Bicolano senator Eddie Ilarde, the proposed change drew outright presidential approval from Pres. Marcos “as it would place in context the presidential portrait hanging on the walls of Malacañan Palace, where the President and the First Lady were shown garbed in native attire, as if descended from royalty of yore.”

But the founder of The Philippine Star, Max Soliven, Olaybal recalled simply laughed it off as an unknowing attempt to celebrate the male genital as Philippine God, like the deities of ancient Greece.

Soliven explained that according to his friends in Indonesia and India, the etymology of what is known in the Philippines as “maharlika,” consists of the words “maha” (meaning great) and “linga” (meaning phallus), Olaybal said.

“Had Ilarde succeeded in getting his bill approved, we would have been the land of the great phallus,” he said.

The Provincial Government of Albay, Olaybal continued, is implementing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that includes gender sensitivity.

“If they continue to be insensitive to the moral values of Albayanos, they have no business staying in office even for a moment,” he said.

“The Bishop of Albay reportedly declined to comment on the incident, for lack of personal knowledge. This is not acceptable. As head of the Catholic Church in the province, he should have ordered an investigation to provide basis for denouncing the 'civic pornography' displayed by provincial authorities during the festivities, which offends, and should offend, the morals of his faithful,” he added.

Meanwhile, the debate continues on the social media with one saying “honestly speaking, I don’t’ like Tambaluslos. I support Magayon Festival but not this one. Please don’t include it next time. It’s not amusing. Rated SPG for children.”

Another posted, "Sayang ang opening Mass kung si Tambalulos lang ang kasunod na ipaparada. Saan napunta ang Kristyanismo ng Albay (The opening Mass was useless with parading Tambuloslos would ensue. Where is Albay's Christianism)?”

"This is being taken out of context. The creature is Tambaluslos, a mythological being prominent in Bicol lore. It being the star of the higantes parade is understandable due to the artist's rendition of it's oversized phallus, which is where the misunderstanding begins," another reactor said.

“Tambaluslos has an oversized scrotum, rather than this gigantic penis we see in the parades. This is also the root of the Bicol word "luslos," referring to the medical condition suffered by many men. I personally see nothing wrong with parading this 'creature'," he said.

The higantes parade is a good attempt at re-education, re-introduction and elevating folkloric awareness of our own heritage and culture, the reactor further said.

“Many of our young have already forgotten the stories of old because they prefer the Avengers and the Xmen over stories of the 'aswang', the 'manananggal', the 'santelmo' or the 'tawong lipod'. Most think that because these creatures aren't real, they are not worth discussing! But these stories are the stories of our people, our heritage,” he added.


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