HOMETOWN SNAPSHOT

Coconut festival stirs memories abroad

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STREET dancers during the “Niyogyugan Festival” PHOTO COURTESY OF THE QUEZON INFORMATION OFFICE

LUCENA CITY—Memories of the weeklong “Niyogyugan Festival,” which showcased Quezon province’s top products and rich cultural traditions in colorful fiesta-like events, have spilled overseas from Perez Park and the provincial Capitol complex in Lucena City.

Amelia Perez, a retired teacher from the Bondoc Peninsula, said her daughter and grandchildren, who are based in Italy, had been pestering her for video CDs of the different events.

Her daughter, a nurse who has been out of the country since the early 90s, saw some photos and video clips posted by her brother on her Facebook account and cried, Perez said.

Janet Geneblazo-Buelo, Quezon public information officer, said the Internet had helped provide a wider audience for the festival. Photos and video clips have been posted on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Instagram and other online sites, she said, citing her friends and provincial employees.

Niyogyugan was coined from “niyog,” the Tagalog word for coconut, and “yugyog,” or move to a fast beat. Quezon Rep. Aleta Suarez, the governor’s mother, conceptualized the first Niyogyugan festival last year to feature the artistry, beauty and rich cultural heritage of the province.

This year, the festival was held on Aug. 12-19 at Perez Park and the Capitol complex. It was the local government’s way of recognizing the role of the coconut, also known as the “tree of life,” to its contribution to the cultural and historical development of Quezon, Gov. David Suarez said.

It displayed agricultural and other products from 38 municipalities, which joined the Agri-Tourism trade fair. Buelo noted a high demand for the products seen by prospective buyers.

On Aug. 14, people lined up along the major city streets for the dance parade competition.

Lucena Bishop Emilio Marquez held Mass at the Quezon Convention Center on Aug. 19 to commemorate the 135th birth anniversary of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, a native of Baler, Aurora, a former subprovince of Quezon.

In his homily, Marquez urged local officials and people to continue their united efforts to promote the province.

Despite the success of the festival, some farmer groups said it was irrelevant to the sorry plight of poor coconut farmers. In a statement, Mylene Santos, spokesperson of the Pinag-Isang Lakas ng mga Magsasaka sa Quezon, said a government-sponsored festival is the “height of callousness” amid worsening landlessness and poverty suffered by coconut farmers.

Coconut farmers across the country are still struggling for the return of the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund forcibly collected from them by the Marcos regime in the 1970s amid dipping copra prices.

In his State of the Province Address on Aug. 12, Suarez appealed to the provincial board to pass a resolution asking the national government to return the levy, estimated at P72 billion, to the farmers.

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