Menu Close

2009 – Pag-inog, Pagdiwang, Pasasalamat

PerformancePag-inog, Pagdiwang, Pasasalamat
 ROFG Celebrates Seasons of Joy
Date and TimeDec 16, 2009 – 07:30 PM
Dec 17, 2009 – 2:30 PM and 07:30 PM
VenueCultural Center of the Philippines
TheaterTanghalang Aurelio Tolentino
TypeSeason Production













Cultural Center of the Philippines
Present the
2009-2010 Season Production of the
Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group
Ramon A. Obusan, +, National Artist for Dance

Pag-inog, Pagdiwang, Pasasalamat:
ROFG Celebrates Seasons of Joy

December 16, 2009 – 07:30 PM
December 17, 2009 – 02:30 PM and 07:30 PM
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino ( CCP Little Theater )

The Cultural Center of the Philippines congratulates the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group (ROFG) as it stages its season ender “PAG-INOG, PAGDIWANG… PASASALAMAT: ROFG Celebrates Seasons of Joy”.

We are certain that audiences will be dazzled by the ROFG’s insightful and artistic approach in its latest undertaking, which focuses on the complex rituals and unusual traditions that complete the Filipino life cycle, culminating in the birth of the Messiah. Through the medium of dance, ROFG continues to tell the story on these neglected and forgotten traditions, which will remain an intrinsic part of our ethnically diverse and culturally rich heritage.

No doubt, ROFG continues to succeed in upholding the vision and legacy of the late National Artist for Dance, Ramon Arevalo Obusan in perpetuity. Through the efforts of its administrators, Sonja Obusan Menor and Iris Obusan Isla, its executive director, Dulce A. Obusan, members of the company, friends and supporters, we humbly thank you for continuing to bring to the stage the immeasurable cultural treasures of Kuya Mon.

Maligayang Pasko!

Artistic Director & Vice President

“…Thank you for having shared your beautiful tradition with us during better times and we stand firm in preserving and to continue performing them as our token of gratitude.”

Ramon Arevalo Obusan

in this, its final season production, the ROFG reciprocates.
“Pag-inog, Pagdiwang… Pasasalamat: ROFG Celebrates Season of Joy” showcases milestones in the Filipino life cycle while the Christmas suite depicts the heavy Christian influence that explains the special attention given by Filipinos to the yuletide season.

We are grateful that through Kuya’s research, creativity and advocacy, these traditions have been saved for posterity. The atrocities and the ugly ramifications of political ambitions in Maguindanao and the natural calamities that have recently befallen countless communities, which are the very sources of materials used in this production, bring to the forefront some of the threats we face as we continue the struggle to try to keep our traditions alive and intact albeit on stage.

Such a struggle creates a debt of gratitude owed to countless individuals and organizations that represent stalwart believers and keepers of the ROFG flame. To each and every one of you, we humbly say “Thank You”.

Season’s Greetings and Blessed Be.

Executive Director Ramon Obusan Folkloric Foundation


would like to congratulate the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group for, again, managing to produce “Pag-inog, Pagdiwang… Pasasalamat: ROFG Celebrates Seasons of Joy”. It is a unique presentation, keeping with the Ramon Obusan legacy of continually educating as many people as possible with the diverse and interesting folkloric dances and rituals of this country.

OPTEAM will continually support the efforts of the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Foundation (ROFF) because we share its vision of investing skills and positive values in the youth, instilling pride in the Filipino towards his heritage, and its unwavering commitment of giving poor youth the chance to be a part of a world-class dance company.

As one of Finland’s largest manpower companies, our strength is Human Resources. Likewise, the ROFG derives from the inherent strength of the Filipino people-past, present and the future.
I look forward to, one day, seeing the company perform in Helsinki, Finland.

Chief Executive Officer

A Life into Rite
Fear and Fascination. These are the diurnal encounters of Ramon Arevalo Obusan, intensifying since he founded his folkloric group in 1971. These may also describe what’s inside the man for the past 35 years in order to set his extensive research and repertoire in Philippine dance. Which have both been solid and prized scholarly resource for us at home, and living treasures for the rest of the world to marvel at: about who and what we are, Filipinos.
Who could have provoked a critic in a Hong Kong festival to say that these are the stuff an art festival should be made of”? Not only to be startled by but also to believe in, in the verity and variety of a people’s folk expressions.

Obusan himself said of an obsession, “As an anthropologistethnologist, I am trusting a ray of hope into the grim fact that if we did not take time to understand the underlying influence or force that these rituals have on us, and save what is left of their forms, all this on-going destruction will throw us blind, leaving these rituals as displaced, out-of-context pieces of puzzle of our cultural heritage.”

This cultural concern is broad and deep: from this Bicolano who personifies all of us in his scouring our islands, who relentlessly communes with our peoples and their cultures, and who gives us and the rest of the world a total picture of these ethnographic pieces he speaks of. But beside other researchers and choreographers, and other folk groups, Obusan often goes beyond the easily panoramic and now formulaic presentation of those pieces.

What first won me over, from this man I did not then know, was his second Kayaw presentation in 1974 at the new Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Factual yet fascinating as it was, it veered away from the usual and digestible series of regional and variegated suites that seductively spellbind foreign eyes in our folkloric groups’ global tours, since the successes of the Bayanihan, Barangay and Far Eastern University groups in the late ’50s.

Kayaw focused on the ritual traditions of the Kalinga, Benguet, Bontoc, Apayao and Ifugao. It was both a researcher’s and a stager’s triumph. It was an in-depth presentation on stage, not just a drastic or dramatic survey. Later, another enchantment from Obusan I saw was at Philtrade, focusing on our Kuwaresma rites. More existential than our traditional Senaculo that sweepingly reenacts the biblical story in Holy Land; the portrayed practices were forcefully close to and revelatory of how our people feel a religious need processing a conversion in indigenous terms. In contrast to that, today Obusan annually celebrates one of our most festive occasions Christmas. As no one has done, he has brought together an anthology of our Pastores (shepherds’ reciting, dancing, playing on way to visit the Christ Child) where he invites us, “Vamos a Belen”. I have seen this outdoor production in vernacular vigor, under the sun and sometimes rain, in front of the fountains of the CCP, and with a pulleypulled star-lantern drawn from a practice in a Negros Oriental church. It dares to end by bringing us to a modern mall in today’s colonial and consumerist spectacle of balloons, confetti and St. Nicholas’s presence. Is this a sly anthropologist’s question-in-performance?

This is the kind of cultural focus that makes the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group different from others. It is a concentration beside his study and staging of the far-andwidethat must have arisen from Obusan’s anthropological study in the University of the Philippines. (Or earlier, of as concentrated a world as marine biology which he once taught in a college out in Aklan.)

Can we equate this intensified focus to a disciplined acquisition he had from his father, Dr. Praxedés Obusan, and his music teacher mother, Josefina Arevalo? Born in Legaspi on June 16, 1938, to a large family, Obusan tells of how he grew up in a hardy, regimented atmosphere. Where he lives today in Pasay, fronting NAIA-I, he shows a brave enterprise that certainly goes beyond material goods as such. He has turned the family house into a museum containing his extensive collection of musical instruments, implements, costumes, furniture, artifacts of Filipino culture. Moreover, he has added more architectural features that also become settings for his presentations, film documentation, aside rom rehearsal and storage space of properties and costumes.

His investment is tremendous for these, in orderto enhance his archival record of such perish the practices as chants, songs and dances. His memory Sud understanding of these are phenomenal, which he geng ously shares with other schours, teachers, stage directors, Tibninakers, choreographers and numerous dance groups. Indeed, he houses a school for a living culture.

Often enough, he also houses more than his troupe’s members. When financially able, he would bring in various ethnic groups into his presentations. He arranges their coming and going,

feeding and lodging, adjustment in an urban setting. Indeed, his authentic concern goes beyond appropriating a tribe’s practices; he brings them in as living participants in his metropolitan life, as much as he becomes one with them in their remote, even dangerous domiciles. Out there, he would sometimes spend for an occasion in order to revive and record a celebration. Thus, the description director-choreographer is such a confining term to describe Obusan. He is also all of impresario, hotelier and, when need, be a modern-day babaylan to negotiate among folks, and between them and the spirits they believe in. To simply call him artist in dance is to restrict and constrict his obsession and function.
Inasmuch as he negotiates these, and between his performers and us, his audience, he does indeed tread the grounds of fear. To some, this may seem an exaggerated statement.

Fear stems from the uncertainties in the ephemeral nature of dance and all performing arts. Conceptually one may be clear and confident about what’s to happen in living bodies adapting to each other and to a setting, the stage or Mother Earth’s. But to be realized in that circumstance of uncertainties, dance embodies itself in concerted beliefs, in faith among collaborators, and in the goals of that momentary occasion. A faith validated at each performance.

Martha Graham has always harped on this fear as an “acrobat of the gods”. Yet this is paired with Fascination. For one, by the very precariousness of the performing arts. You have to ever go into it, to practice, practice, practice. In order to arrive at what you wish to be. Aside from the visual and virtual attractions of dance, this fascination stams from the very beauty of the body (post-modernly redefined as any body that empowers itself), the rhythmic enchantment felt and conveyed, and the (re-) enactment of the rite of being, of performing, of communicating an aspired-for cause.

These paradoxical feelings must explain the endurance and creativity of Obusan as an artist. Winess the breadth of his choreographic contentand craft.

Amid a long record of produçlions, he lists several full-length presentations. These include Kayaw ’68 and Kayaw ’74, Ritual, Tausug Tapestry, Noon Po sa Amin, Kaamulan, Maynila – Isajig Dakilang kasaysayan, and his survey of undocumented dances he calle | Unpublished Dances I, II, III. He also surveyed Asia in Under the ASEAN Skies, Glimpses of the ASEAN, Mystique Asia and in fact had formed and directed an ASEAN company, Bhile his dancers were once resident artists at the Sentosa Island in Singapore.

He has collaborated in several film productions, and himself direeted dance documentaries among them for the CCP’s Tuklas Sining: Sayaw series. To have won awards locally and abroad, one a grand prix de reportage in Videodanse, France. He has also been consultant for the UNESCO, and done research in the Pacific: Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand.

Obusan’s courage to be and for all of us, to the rest of the world, is recorded in his numerous tours at home and abroad: Asia, Europe and the Americas. He also joined the Smithsonian Folklife Festival during our centennial year in 1998. These just approximate in focus and scope his own intensive and extensive field research in our islands to know our dances and music, and the very people who do and live them. He doesn’t just study them; he joins their diurnal and ritual life.

Obusan has made of his own life a ritual process. As Victor Turner describes it, Obusan crosses borders, enters a ritual space (which can be any customary circle), and emerges enlightened. Or reinvigorated as a researcher-artist. It takes a kind of daring to just cross that transept. But Obusan the producer has to do another crossing by staging the peoples’ dances on stage, or just in any setting other than the original space. He claims to somehow resolve the question of “authenticity” by true costumes and music, and explicating on the context of a relocated observation. (This explicating was so easily and summarily done in the past with an attributed progeny by geographical location, general classification of costuming, and unilateral codification in recordings.) Obusan’s own collection, documentation and sometimes invitation of tribal participants mitigate accusation of appropriation. As critic, I must say that any performance could create its own context and could be accepted or rejected by the very verity of that moment, anthropological claims withstanding. (Check Homi Bhabha on hybridity issue.)

Despite and through all these, Obusan has won recognition or awards from the City of Manila, the CCP, the Centennial Awards in 1998, and what’s more, an ROFG Day out in Cleveland, Ohio in 1994. He ever refurbishes and reinvigorates his repertoire by his assiduous and indefatigable research work in the field, keeping his ties alive with the very culture he observes (and participates in). As a result, he has infused others with this research orientation, influencing teachers and directors of many dance groups all over the Philippines. Had he more than one life, be proclaims:

“If I could have another lifetime and several more, I would definitely go back amongst my dear friends living in deep forest recesses or wedged in some slopes of high mountains to listen to tales of a rich culture, delight in their music, be one with them in dance and record their timeless traditions.”

By Basilio Esteban S. Villaruz

Reprinted from the 2006 ORDER OF NATIONAL ARTIST Commemorative Book produced by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines

The Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group (ROFG) celebrates 37 years of preservation and perpetuation of Philippine traditions with special emphasis on music and dance.

Founded in 1972, the ROFG started as a fledgling dance company, compose of some thirty performers. Leaning on the vast amount of data and artifacts that he has accumulated while he was doing researches, Ramon A. Obusan thought of starting a dance company that will mirror the traditional culture of the Filipinos through dance and music.

For more than thirty years, the ROFG has created a niche in the world of dance as a forerunner of Philippine folk dance performed closest to the original. Boasting of over a thousand performances in the Philippines and abroad, the ROFG is one of the leading resident dance companies of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) since 1986.
Under the able leadership of its Founder, Artistic Director, Choreographer and Researcher – Ramon Arevalo Obusan, it has so far gone on three successful extensive European tours in 13 countries namely, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and Austria in 1987, 1990, and in 1993.

In the 8″ Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts 1983 critics showered the ROFG with praises describing it as “the stuff an arts festival should be made of”. Three years later in the 1986 Expo in Canada, its 21 shows ended in 21 standing ovations. In 1992, the group was the first Filipino performing group to receive resounding applause and standing ovations for all its performances in Japan under the auspices of Min-On. The group then had its first extensive American Tour in 1994 visiting sixteen (16) states capped with a proclamation of February 8 as ROFG Day in Cleveland, Ohio a first for a Filipino dance company.

In Asia, the group represented the Philippines in various dance festivals and conferences as cultural ambassadors. Along with this, Mr. Obusan was chosen as Artistic Director of the first Joint ASEAN Performing Troupe in 1991 and the ROFG as the official Philippine representative. In 1994, it was the only Filipino company asked to perform for six months at the ASEAN village in Sentosa, Singapore performing not only Philippine dances but dances of other Asian countries as well. In 1995, the ROFG helped raise HK1.5M for Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFW’s) in Hong Kong when the company performed for a fund-raising event sponsored by the Hong Kong Bayanihan Trust.

April and May 1996 saw the group in Paris, Turkey, Greece, and Sweden for a series of performances under the auspices of the Department of Tourism. In May 1998, the company performed at the Lisboa Exposition in Portugal as part of the Philippine Centennial Celebration and in Milan, Italy for the Philippine Consulate’s Independence Day Celebration. In 1999 the group returned to Japan for the Philippine Independence Day celebration through the invitation of the Philippine Embassy. The following year (2000), the company received the ASEAN Travel Association Award for Excellence in Tourism as Best ASEAN Preservation Effort in the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Thailand, besting other contenders. In 2001, the company traveled to South Korea, London, U.S.A., and Baghdad, Iraq for a series of special performances and workshops. It was also awarded the Sining Kalinangan Award of the City of Manila as Outstanding Folk Dance Company in the same year.

In the years 2002 and 2003 the ROFG was seen at Hong Kong’s Prince Hotel for the Philippine Food Festival and in the biggest Filipino musical extravaganza of Filipino artists in Hong Kong under the auspices of the Philippine Consulate. In March 2006, the company had a successful three-week performance tour of Hawaii as part of the Centennial Celebration of the First Filipino Migrants in Hawaii under the auspices of the EastWest Center, performing to more than 8,000 audiences in the five major provinces of the State of Hawaii.

In June 9, 2006, Ramon Arevalo Obusan was conferred by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at Malacanan Palace, the Order of National Artist in recognition of his artistic excellence in the arts, significant contribution to dance and as testament to his phenomenal work in Philippine Dance.
In 2007, the company performed the finale for the ASEAN Summit Gala Performance in Cebu City for the Heads of States of the various ASEAN-member countries as its dialogue partners, namely China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Though steep in international recognition, the ROFG has never forgotten the people who are the very source of its pride. For the past two decades it has documented and performed the dances, music and rituals of more than 50 ethno-linguistic groups in the country. With more than twenty outstanding full-length Filipino dance works, among which are the memorable suites from the Cordillera, Bagobo, T’boli, Tausug, Maranao, the Aeta and the Talaandig among others, the ROFG has continuously served to highlight the authenticity of the movements, music, songs and movements of these people.

Today, the ROFG humbly celebrates 37 years of fruitful existence and service to the Filipino people. To the ROFG, there is no stopping in the pursuit of recording and staging of fast fading Filipino traditions.



Executive Director


Artistic Director
Dance Directors

Music Director

Costume Custodian

Transportation Coordinator

Pag-inog Pagdiwang.. Pasasalamat
The late National Artist for Dance, Ramon Arevalo Obusan bequeathed the Filipino people with cultural treasures that will reward us forever. From his archives come materials rich in data that have been woven to produce a very colorful tapestry of the Filipino life cycle.

Some of these remarkable traditions have been abandoned due to modernization, technology or a shift in values. Nevertheless, because they have been interwoven into the Filipino psyche, his concept of beauty and society, of health and wealth, and the fabric of life itself, there lies a need for their appreciation and preservation.

For its second season production at the CCP, the RAMON OBUSAN FOLKLORIC GROUP presents an insightful and artistic approach to unveiling the complex rituals and unusual traditions that complete the Filipino life cycle. Though many of these have been neglected and forgotten, they remain an intrinsic part of why we are who we are, ethnically diverse, culturally rich, and proud Filipinos.
From dances which deal with the birth and healing, we move to rituals which depict important milestones in our lives. A people who enjoy gatherings, we move on to portray some of the liveliest festivals celebrated in the country. Finally, we cap the program with a dramatization of the story of Christ – as a Roman Catholic country, it is this belief which perhaps spurs us on most strongly today.

THE PHILIPPINE PASTORES TRADITIONS by Ramon A. ObusanŤ, National Artist for Dance
Spain discovered and conquered not only to augment the wealth of an empire, but also to bring Christianity to the rest of the world. One day in the 16th century, early Filipinos saw five galleons appear in the horizon. From then on life on the islands was never the same again. But before Spain could Christianize the Philippines, she had to interfere with the once placid life in the islands, dipping her fingers into its political, social and religious activities, and in the process imposing upon the natives, her culture, her art.

For more than two hundred years from the 17th up to around the mid-19th century, the church and the state in the Philippines were in partnership as principal patrons of the arts. The church’s influence on the arts was incalculable because it was the missionaries who worked directly with the people, marshalling there skills and intentions in the service of religion as well as creating innovations to ease the understanding of the church’s tenets. For their part, the missionaries who positioned themselves in almost all islands of the Philippines capitalized on the Filipinos love for music and dance. No sooner had they set up their first makeshift altar that they realized that the people came to adore in the manner they were used to in supplicating to the deities of nature – by song and dances. These Christian missionaries were delighted to discover that song and dance were second nature to the natives, so instead of obliterating the people’s inherent musicality, the priests encouraged the natives further to continue singing and dancing.

The pastores tradition is one example of the Catholic church’s intent to use song and dance as a catechetical instrument to get closer to the people. Thus it was the church that introduced the Philippines to celebrate the longest and probably the best known of all festivals – Christmas. Christmas became the main jewel of the Catholic crown becoming the most popular and celebrated feast of Christian Philippines.

To this day the pastores tradition is very much part of the Filipino Christmas celebration. Probably introduced by the Mexicans in the 17th century via the Manila- Acapulco galleon trade pastores groups are still found as far North as Sanchez Mira in Cagayan Valley and down South in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte. Pastores groups are still plentiful particularly in the Bicol region where older dancers have passed on the tradition to their younger counterparts.

The pastores refer to Christmas shepherds, a tribute to the lowly shepherds who were witnesses to the first Christmas in Bethlehem. Pastores bands in the early times roam the streets at Christmastime. Their arrival from far-off villages is anxiously awaited by neighboring towns playing hosts to these wonderful visitors. As soon as the songs and dances are heard, everyone knows that Christmas has arrived. The pastores are also are also known in many Bicol and Waray dialects as pastora, pastorcillos, or amongst the Cagayanon as infantes. The villoncicos and daigon or Christmas carolers of the Visayans are probable cousins of the pastores. The pastores are usually composed of young children from ages 8 to 13 singing and dancing from house to house at Christmastime inviting everyone to visit the manger where the Baby Jesus was born. There are also known pastores groups composed of old men and women. The pastores sing and recite Vamos a Belen in verses in a mixture of Latin, Spanish and the dialect of the particular place. As varying as the pastores groups are the colorful costumes, flower arches, musical instruments and other accoutrements used for their performance.

The regular pastores performance has always three distinct sections: a self introduction that tells the audience where they came from; the invitation to seek the manger; and a final goodbye. The pastores must have been such an important part of the Filipino’s Christmas celebration that even our national hero, Jose Rizal, was inspired to compose Pastores a Belen while in exile in Dapitan in the 1800’s. It is now a favorite song that is as much a part of the many Bicol and Christian Mindanao towns’ pastores’ version.

Religious, folkloric, fantasy trappings and unimaginable innovations render each pastores version unique. For instance, the Tolosa, Leyte pastora version is not content with the lua verses alone, it has an angel and a frightful devil to match; the Bool, Bohol group dances with Saint Joseph’s flowered canes; Pastores Talisay from Camarines Norte takes the cake with ladies swirling in voluminous china poblana skirts while the men cavort with star lanterns or paroles to represent the star of Bethlehem and papier mache horses representing the mounts of the Three Kings. Curiously, in the Siaton, Negros Oriental version, the center point of the daigon or Christmas carol sung by an Agta is an image of Jesus of Nazareth instead of the Baby Jesus. These are just among the many variations that the pastores tradition has to offer from all over the country.


For the Northern Mindanao tribes such as the Manobo, Higaonon, Bukidnon and the Talaandig, a ritual is performed to welcome the birth of a first born son. This is Lagudas.

Under a canopy of rice stalks and ears of corn suspended from bamboo poles, the proud father prances around as he shows off his new son to the villagers. A group of ceremonially dressed women rise and join the father in dance. Dressed in very exotic and colorful combs of feathers, yarn and beads (reminders that they are descendants of the great bird-god), the women move around in circles around the family. They wave wide, red, handkerchiefs to invoke their ancestral god “Pagpagayok” for the well-being of the newborn. Tiny brass bells on the dancer’s ankles produce the most beautiful music to the ears of the god so that no other musical accompaniment is necessary in this communal act.

To the Kalinga, life is precious. Celebrations mark each milestone from the point of conception to childbirth. There is the “Ilong” which is the celebration for the life in the womb and the “Singising”, the ritual for childbirth. “Gabok” also known as “Gapas” in other areas is the celebratory rite to welcome new life using bamboo instruments called “tongatong”.

A. “Manalisi” (shaman) repeatedly strikes a bowl invoking “Kabunyan” (Benevolent Father) for a bountiful life. A woven basket filled with herbs is also presented. It is believed that the “manalupay” has a therapeutic effect on the family. Strips of rattan (iwoy) are tied to the 4 corners of the house to symbolize closeness of family ties while coconut leaves (biing) represent the qualities of strength, meekness and humility that the child needs as he grows up. The Betel Nut vine guarantees that the child grows strong though he clings yet he does not fall. Water is sprinkled on the mother to ensure more breast milk and wine (lawod) is consumed by the father for virility. After the invocation, the father gets up. Armed with a bow and arrow he aims at and shoots a suspended banana blossom. The act drives away the evil spirits so that the mother does not get sickly, ensuring the survival of the child.

In the end, a lullaby (uwawi) is sung while the men strike their “tongatong” in syncopated rhythm as they and the women move around the family in a dance of celebration.


To celebrate a young boy’s rite of passage, he must undergo what every Muslim boy experiences, the inevitable circumcision ritual called “pag-Islam” (cutting a part of the foreskin). This rite happens as soon as a boy is considered mature enough to undertake the responsibilities of a man. His father and male relations prepare him for the ceremonial *pag-Islam” by planning a big celebration attended by relatives and friends.

To ease the boy’s pain during the ceremony, several “kudyapi” (lutes) are played while an elderly shaman performs the “pag-jiin” to drive away malevolent spirits or “tunong”. The high priest or “Imam” performs the circumcision rites according to the tenets of Islam. After the ceremony, the boy rides an elaborately dressed-up horse to his decorated house. There is food, music and entertainment for the guests and the promise of gifts for the young man.

A peculiar way of gift-giving in the form of money bills stuck together as flaglets are artistically fastened to a house-like contraption with colored eggs and gold flowers. This offering is the “maligay”. Other material gifts such as clothes and shoes are not looked upon as mere gifts but also symbols of his transition to manhood. Once a boy undergoes “pagIslam” he becomes an official member of the community security force.


Many of the ethnic groups of Northern Luzon stage ecstatic dances often associated with healing rituals and trances in which special attention is given to the participation of the healer, the sick and the attending public in general. One such ritual is the “Marag sa Kararwa” of the Gaddangs of Parasilis, Ifugao, Mountain Province.

For the Gaddang, anyone who gets sick has his spirit frightened off and can only be retrieved by a Marag sa Kararwa rite. The ritual is initiated in a kalkalapan (hut) where the sick person lays. Everyone except the Magkamang (healer), an apprentice and the mother (if the person who is ill happens to be the husband or her child) stays inside the hut. The rest of the congregation is shooed off to the front of the house lest they contract the sickness. A sinamat (a piece of long, dark, woven cloth the size of a g-string) is stretched from the doorstep to the house and held on one end by the mother and at the other by the Magkamang. They gently shake the cloth in wavy movements making sure neither one lets go for doing so may cause adverse effects to the sick or the family. In some ways this cloth acts as the bridge between the mortals and the spirit gods through which supplication and healing are affected.

To the spirit the Magkamang calls “Come spirit of the sick, enter your house” (umay kayon tawen, muli kan sitano). She then follows her pleas with a roll call of relatives congregated by the doorstep. After several repeated calls, the Magkamang pauses as if to feel the air and checks the akengkengan (porcelain plate) with sand for the presence of footprints. Should these prints be those of another spirit, the Magkamang invokes the intruder to leave at once. She calls to the nature gods to assist her in her propitiation. “Mighty Spirit please return his spirit to his body now!” (Ikayampay kangan palin dawen papea ino kararwa na!).

To further persuade the spirit to return, the apprentice offers the Magkamang water in an ungat (coconut shell container). She exclaims, “Isn’t the water from the earth tasteful?” (“Malawad yo danum to iliosa?”) The mother on the other hand pleads “Do not hesitate, come back and help me gather firewood, cook and fetch water!” (“Ape ta nanoka? Awan itongatan! Awan manaobsi pakalutuan tan!”).

Judging by the frequency that this ritual is performed, Marag must have been long practiced by this indigenous group.


The whole of Christendom welcomes the Risen Christ in as many variations as there are varied beliefs in His coming back. In the Philippines, the most celebrated part of “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay” or the Resurrection is the “Salubong”. It is the meeting of the Risen Christ with His Sorrowing Mother. The re-enactment of the encounter is held by the faithful at dawn believing in the symbolism of the rising of the sun to that of the rising of Christ from the dead.
Darkness and the early morning chill do not stop the people from gathering to commemorate this blessed event. Preparations for this once-a year religious spectacle takes center stage right after the somberness of Good Friday and Black Saturday. Old ladies in their crisply pressed baro’t saya, old men in their baol smelling camisa de chinos, families décked out in their Sunday best with the children in their white first-communion outfits all come out to celebrate and welcome Easter. It is after all the “real” Christmas.

**Bati” is the Tagalog word for greeting. In the provinces of Rizal, Batangas and Marinduque, a dance so named is performed on Easter Sunday to greet the Risen Christ and His Sorrowing Mother (Mater Dolorosa) in the re-enactment of their meeting

In Parañaque, children (mostly girls, with a few boys) aged 10 to 13 get the chance to be local celebrities for one morning. Dressed in Easter Sunday finery of frilly lace, bows and ribbons, ruffles and lacy sun hats, the children take part in the Bati. These doll-like, cake- figurine visions hold silk banners decorated with ribbons and tiny flowers which they gracefully wave as they sway to the lively music played by a brass band.

The Bati is performed under a makeshift structure of bamboo and coconut leaves called a “gallelea”. A child who sits on a swing suspended from the center of the “gallelea” plays the part of an angel who lifts the veil from the Sorrowing Mother. As a gesture of rejoicing, the banners are swayed as they dance the Bati and shouts of”Viva Jesus, Viva Birhen at Viva sa Bayan” is heard.

In the small village of Tulo in Laguna like many more around the country, May is the month to celebrate the colors, fragrances and freedom of summer. Young girls look to flowers as the best offerings to the altar of the Blessed Mother. Also in May, school children and young adults are off from school. The farmers too take a break from work. Crops have just been harvested and it is now time to say thanks to the Provider. All activity centers on the “tuklong” or small village chapel where every night in May the “dalagas” gather to bring their flower offerings to the altar. The girls walk with male escorts (good-looking no doubt) who are chosen by their families beforehand. Entire families follow as they mutter prayers of thanks.

Long before May comes, decisions about what to wear, who to pick to make the gowns, and guesses as to who the escort might be becomes the preoccupation of Tulo. The flower offerings play a very important part in the celebrations. People often raise questions such as “What form of arrangements must be ordered this year?”” “Shall the flowers be gathered or bought?” “Should Aling Openg the resident flower – arranger be commissioned to design her masterpieces?”

To create the arrangements, Sampaguita, Roses, Calachuchi and other flowers are strung together with “tingting” (the coconut leaf midrib) which is then staked into “saha” (cut-up banana trunks) to create sprays, bouquets and fabulous replicas of the Virgin from the combination of flowers. Work starts in the early morning and ends just in time for the evening“alay” ceremonies.

Evening at the “tuklong” creates confusion when people try to pick on what to look at. The shift of focus is between the Sagalas (the young women) or the flower “Virgins” they carry. These outstanding works of art vie for equal attention with the beauty, charm and youth of the Sagalas.


Dubbed by many as the fiesta to end all fiestas, the San Isidro Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon is held on the 15th of May to honor San Isidro de Labrador, the Patro Saint of Farmers.

“Pahiyas” derived from the vernacular “Payas” means 16 decorate. Nowhere else is there an all out effort of townspeople to express their gratitude for blessings showered on their farms and fathilies. What started as a simple display of agricultutal harvests and products on the doorsteps of houses along the procession’s route became a showcase of creativity and color. Entire façades are decorated to create a spectacular presentation of such magnitude that the event has become a top tourist draw every year. The most famous decoration that has come out of this festival is the “kiping”. Made from ground rice, the flour is mixed with water, turned into wafers and shaped in various forms most notably that of “cabal” or leaves. They are dyed in brilliant colors and strung together to form chandelier-like artwork that are referred to as “arangya” or created in the shape of huge majestic flowers.

Another notable and distinct decoration that graces this fiesta is the “anok”. These are dummies made from straw and dressed in old clothes to represent the farmers and ordinary villagers. They are set-up in different poses such as farmers as they go about their daily chores, workmen doing their crafts, or lovers in romantic poses. The farmers parade around town showing off various agricultural products and local handicrafts. Women most specially show off outfits made of indigenous materials in what is termed “parikitan” which translates to “that which is prettiest”. Pockets of performers form a long line as the ever-present Hermano and Hermana Mayor lead the parade as it snakes along the streets of the town.
The highlight of the celebration is the procession, when the image of San Isidro is brought down from the church and carried through the streets of the town. The route is lined with bamboo poles bent to an arch and bedecked with food and treats for everyone. As the image passes under each arch, the ropes bending the bamboo poles are cut and the people rush to grab what they can from each pole.

The foods that decotate the bones are given to guests and the children who always look forward, celebration.


As a social gathering, a wedding is not merely a reason for indulging in good food and merriment. It also becomes an opportunity to establish kinship, exercise influence and authority, flaunt economic status or just simply use the occasion to excuse oneself from the drudgery of everyday life.

The town of Albuquerque, Bohol exemplifies the way an average Filipino family celebrates a wedding. Thus: Several days before the wedding day, the “tag-lalaki” (groom’s family members) bring cooking utensils and paraphernalia, food to be prepared, drinks, and the manpower to execute the task of preparing the feast which is to be held at the bride’s house. It is a very well organized endeavor with key people overseeing activities most of which involve food preparation, table setting, kitchen trafficking, serving and ultimately, cleaning up.

While all these activities take place in and around the household and the yard, there is a general sense of gaiety in the air. An abundance of alcohol and an electric atmosphere punctuated with jokes, teasing and the subsequent howls of laughter combined with a blaring brass band or a 20 piece rondalla playing somewhere in the yard adds to the pandemonium of the occasion.

With the final guest served, the last morsel of food swept off the table, and the furniture moved to the sides, the best part of the wedding celebration commences, the GALA.

The GALA is a boisterous display of gratitude by the “tag-lalaki”. Everyday household items such as kitchen utensils, plates, basins, pots and pans, chopping boards, etc. are banged together to produce a cacophony of sounds while they sing familiar Boholano songs accompanied by the rondalla. It is a fitting ending and a different take in ending a celebration with a bang!


Not many people know that amongst the items of interest Ramon Obusan has accumulated throughout the years is a very extensive collection of Belens or Christmas Mangers. Numbering over five hundred sets, these works of art come in the form of wood, paper, cloth, corn husks, metal and hardened bread amongst other things. All these he painstakingly collected from all over the world. His fixation with the birth of Christ must have offered Obusan the motivation to present a suite dedicated solely to the nativity scene.

Incorporating various Christmas practices and well-loved traditions, he brings to life in a very spectacular fashion the celebration of the first Christmas. Obusan believes that Jesus’ birth should be met the way Filipinos would want it – with great pomp and circumstance!

POSADAS (Search for an Inn)

The Christmas story has always fascinated National Artist Ramon A. Obusan. In his many travels around the country in search for the Pastores, the Posadas or the Search for an Inn, would always present itself as the centerpiece of this celebration. Inspired by his unusual finds, Obusan would create an abridged version of the wonderful Posadas stories from Luzon and the Visayas. His adaptations often highlight the peculiarities that differentiate each version despite the seemingly common thread that binds each and every one of them. It is the fundamental story of rejection by Mary and Joseph on that fateful night. This poignant tale is performed to capture the drama as it unfolds in its various regional interpretations.

The posadas is the re-enactment of the search for a place to stay by Mary and Joseph on the first Christmas eve. They plead to heartless innkeepers in songs and verses. Posadas was introduced from Mexico and since then it has metamorphosed into many delightful versions.

Some spectacular depictions of the posadas are popularized as Panunuluyan (Tagalog), Kagharong (Bicol), Panarit (Waray), Ensayo (Southern Leyte) and Maytinis (Cavite).

PANARIT (Laurente, Eastern Samar). Panarit is Waray for rejection. The plea for a place to stay is sung by a chorus in a very singsong manner. They accompany Mary and Joseph who act out their parts without saying a word.

ENSAYO (Libagon, Southern Leyte). Utterly simple. A poor Mary and Joseph clad in pieces of curtain materials and faded blankets knock on doors of makeshift huts or “barong-barong” for a place to stay pleading their intentions in Cebuano.

MAYTINIS (Kawit, Cavite). Maytinis is taken from the Latin word “matins” which means midnight vespers. Historic Kawit boasts of the most impressive posadas which includes a parade, a procession, small floats, thousands of walking contingents, a singing and acting Mary and Joseph and four innkeepers waiting in decorated porches of designated houses. The scene featuring the meanest innkeeper is reenacted here. The Maytinis procession snakes through selected streets of Kawit on Christmas eve and culminates in the old stone church where a Misa de Gallo is said to announce the birth of the Savior.


Obusan would always go back to his beloved birthplace — Albay province in the Bicol Region. This is the seat of the Pastores. Every visit would produce undiscovered treasures of these popular Christmas performances. What may have attracted Obusan to the Pastores is the challenge to bring out unique qualities of each version because this folk practice shares a common content. Also, it is unfortunate that the original forms of these traditions like many other before it is threatened with extinction. In cooperation with the provincial government of Albay, he has worked to stage a yearly Pastores festival in a vain effort to preserve and perpetuate a seemingly dying practice. This is proof of his love affair with this very Bicolano tradition.

PASTORES TOLOSA. (Tolosa, Leyte). Here, verses are recited in Waray, highlighted by an angel and a devil.

PASTORES MERCEDES. (Mercedes, Eastern Samar). Young girls of Mercedes, Eastern Samar go around town asking for “aguinaldo” (presents). Wearing dainty pastel dresses with beautiful flower baskets they move from house to house singing a Spanish carol or Villonsico.

PASTORES TAFT. (Taft, Eastern Samar). From the Spanish Villonsico (carol) came words hardly understood much less seen – cahel, castanas, flauta, sista, dulce, ravel – local versions used were palay, corn, flowers, guitars and other native items.

PASTORES KALAWIT. (Camotes Island, Cebu). Taking time-off from fishing and selling fish, the village folks gather by the shore to witness the whimsical dance of the oldies. Grandmothers don doll dresses and swing to the jazzy tune of guaratza and pachanga interspersed with local daigon, carols and verses.

NAZARENO. (Bakong, Siaton, Negros Oriental). The marginalized Agta or Aeta of Datag, Siaton, Negros Oriental perform a dance called Nazareno, which simply honors the only image they have – the black Jesus of Nazareth.

“In every corner pops up relations that bring us to realization of where each of the Pastores (or for that matter, any Christmas tradition) has or may have originated or has taken great influence for their hallmark step, movement, prusic, costume, props, etc. that are peculiar to each dance… there may have places that shared a great practice with us and influenced our dances”. – Ramon A. Obusan (December 2006)

Obusan always believed in the Filipinos’ penchant to adopt and adapt a culture outside of his milieu. Obusan presents local dances, music, movements and steps and attempts to contextualize each one by performing them in tandem with their foreign counterparts.

PASTORES NEW WASHINGTON. (New Washington, Aklan) / Bavaria. Popular Bavarian folk and village dances introduced by the Spaniards to the Filipinos included the Maypole. As with much else in Philippine dance, the Maypole blended well but in due time changes were made. Some of the elements and steps were altered. Several Niños Dormido (Sleeping Child) began to be the centerpiece of the dances.

PASTORES TOBOG. (Tobog, Oas, Albay). Like the City of Pompeii, Tobog town that sits at the foot of the majestic Mayon Volcano is always threatened by violent eruptions. For deliverance, Tobog villagers pray and perform several religious rituals year round. At Christmastime, a group of young girls chosen for their beauty and grace move from village to village performing the pastores.

PASTORES TALISAY (Talisay, Camarines Norte) / MEXICO. Obviously, Mexico is the one country that lent color to Philippine Christmas. It generously shared its sapatiados, vueltas, harabe and cambios to the Philippine dance tradition. Many of these steps found their way into many pastores versions. A visit to a churchturned museum by the late Ramon A. Obusan in the 80’s in Teposoplan, Mexico gave proof that the pastores has always been an early Mexican Export preserved in some towns of the Philippines.

Cherry Ylanan . Christine Carol Singson • Jhunnard Jhordan Cruz. Romylyn Frias • Alvin Cano • Emelita Medina . Dandel Espeña • Liza Nepomuceno • Percival Carel • Kenneth Christopher Torres • Rechelle Signo Erwin Abanilla. Abigail Calma • Ace Villanueva • Mila Reyna Rivera • John Luigi Millamina • Sheena Lou Tesalona . Amante Villacorta . Benjo Escalante • Krell Alphonsus Bendijo

CENTRO ESCOLAR UNIVERSITY Winfer Amor • Mary Rose Singh • Angelyn Rodriguez Camille David
Michelle Miti Delfin Estacio

Noemy Gamboa. Joey Rico Lady Roxanne Borde • John Dave Nuñez • Emil Jasper Tuazon Mike Bryan Arcega. Rannie Ray Geronimo

Marina Oishi

Ma. Jubelyn Alcantara • Jose Roel Oga • Jemmema Mikee So • Luke Anthony Singson • Faye Tancinco Michael Angelo Medina. Shyme Jeremy Arellano Franklyn Lobos Shiela Mae Delalamon . Derick Rod Hilario . Cristina Marie Parato • Rafael Tismo Lhyra Jane Ramos • Jaytor Panganiban • Lishelle Salamanca • Rigor Reaño. Jasmine Bautista Jasmine Arellano. Ginalyn Tismo

Angeline Parato • John Christopher Romasanta Ma. Lee Roselyn • John Paul Romasanta • Daniela Alagbate Christopher John Livina . Pia Antonette Velasco Angelo Yama . Lynne Capiral • Lemuelle Cuba • Leizyl Alejandria • John Edmer Dela Cruz Chriscelle Joy Livina • Jerizze Dimayuga • Crystal Charisse Pascual • Micaella Ibasco • Ma. Feliza Saragoza • Lady Anne Jommel Ibasco • Jaira Mae Tablizo

Orlando Ocampo • Anne Lloraine Medina. Romeo Medina. Benjie Bitoon • Mark Roy Magaling Michael Bayani • Edwin Amolo

Bayani Dela Cruz Jr. • Ma. Theresa Elio. Niña Manalo

Direction and Script

National Artist for Dance

Set Designer

Dance Director, Choreorapher & Restager

Rehearsal Masters

Music Director

Special Music & Sound Effects

Production Stylist & Aristic Consultant

Assistant Production Stylist

Technical Director and Lights Designer

Thank You
St. Anne Theater and Dance Company
Mr. Bayani Dela Cruz
Ms. Dang Elio
Ms. Marian Manalo


Executive Director

Production Manager

Stage Manager

Assistant Stage Managers

Set Supervisor

Graphic Designer

Lorenzo Photokitchen

Dream Time


Costume Custodian

Assistant costume custodian

Property Master

Food Coordinators



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.