Surigao credits patron saint for sparing city from disasters

SURIGAO THANKSGIVING Street dancers honor Surigao City’s patron saint, Nicolas de Tolentino, during the Bonok-Bonok thanksgiving festival in the Surigao del Norte provincial capital. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

SURIGAO CITY — Around 70,000 people trooped to this city last week for the annual thanksgiving festival honoring the city’s patron saint, who locals believed had protected Surigao from natural disasters.

“This year, as we celebrate our 34th Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival, we thank our patron saint, Nicolas de Tolentino, for sparing Surigao City from several typhoons and earthquakes that came our way,” said Roselyn Armida Merlin, the city’s supervising tourism operations officer.

She was referring to the 6.7-magnitude earthquake in February 2017 that rocked Surigao, the 5.1-magnitude earthquake in July this year and several typhoons that battered the city, including Tropical Storm “Basyang” in February this year.

“We are thankful that our city has been spared from death and devastation,” she said.

Blessings

She said 19 teams from Caraga region and Misamis Oriental province joined the street dancing for the Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival on Sept. 9.

“‘Bonok’ [means] heavy downpour. The pouring of rain, for us, signifies a blessing from the sky. Bonok-Bonok, which repeats the word, means [continuous] pouring of blessings,” said Merlin.

Local historians traced the festivity back to the tradition of early indigenous settlers, the Mamanwa and Manobo, who used to dance as they prayed for rain.

Merlin said September, back then, used to be part of the dry months.

“The climate and the dry and wet season [pattern] might have changed but the tradition remained,” she said.

Aiming high

Merlin said this tradition was adopted by early Christians who linked it to the feast of St. Nicolas de Tolentino.

Mayor Ernesto Matugas said the city was “aiming high” to make the festival known in the country and introduce it to other countries.

He said the city government set aside P5 million to stage the festival.

The top winners in the street dancing competition were the contingent from Placer town, Surigao del Norte province, and Surigao City’s Mat-i National High School. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

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