Their fast, synchronized and energetic dancing has earned the admiration of the crowd and the nod of judges during the festival competition that depicts the culture, tradition and way of life in Samar.
Performers of the Carabao Festival of Gandara town, which pays tribute to the draft animal that helps people till their farms and provides milk for Gandara kesiyo (native cheese), were declared grand champions in the Festival of Festival competition.
In colorful attire, they acted as carabao bulls, herons, medicine men and villagers in portraying rural life. They danced, pranced, ran and fell to the ground to the rhythmic beating of the drums, with the lead dancer carrying an image of St. Michael de Archangel, Gandara’s patron saint.
They did mock bull fights and shouted at the top of their lungs in the city streets despite the drizzle.
With the victory in the competition held on Aug. 11 in front of the Samar Capitol building in Catbalogan City, the group went home P250,000 richer.
The Mayawmayaw Festival of Pinabacdao was second, receiving P100,000; Surtidos Festival of Villareal (third), P70,000; and the Patiklos Festival of Sta. Rita (fourth), P50,000.
The Festival of Festivals was among the highlights of the weeklong celebration of Samar Day. Other activities were the commemorative program, search for the Mutya ng Samar, drum and bugle, and headdress competitions, job fair, and medical and dental missions.
Samar Day used to be celebrated every Nov. 10 to commemorate the first local election in the newly created provinces of Samar. The island was divided into the provinces of Western Samar (later renamed Samar province by Congress), Eastern Samar and Northern Samar in 1965.
During the martial law years in the 1970s, the celebration was moved to Aug. 23, the eve of Catbalogan’s fiesta, so that people could attend the feast day of St. Bartholomew, the city’s patron saint, on Aug. 24.
Catbalogan was the ancient capital of the island province of Samar. It is now the seat of Samar’s provincial government.
Again, the celebration of Samar Day was moved to Aug. 11 in the late 1970s upon the recommendation of a committee tasked in finding the appropriate date. On that day in 1841, Queen Isabella III of Spain signed a royal decree establishing Samar as a military province separate from Leyte.
Samar may be 172 years old now, or even much older in existence, but its people still hold the same fervor and pride as their forebears—that of being Samareños.