Maguindanao folks, local execs prepare for ‘Sagayan Festival’ PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 January 2014 14:28

Local officials, the police and military have started formulating security plans to ensure the safety of the February 1-14 Sagayan Festival in Maguindanao.

This year’s festival, which is a yearly event, is partly aimed at celebrating the fragile peace now in what used to be a dangerous Maguindanao, and as thanksgiving for the gains of the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, officials of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and its component-brigades discussed last Friday in Buluan town the security measures needed to ward off saboteurs, and to protect guests, among them foreign dignitaries, prospective investors, and national officials when they come to grace the event.

The Sagayan is a centuries-old ethnic Maguindanon “war-and-courtship dance” depicting the group’s inclination to be at peace always with non-Maguindanaons, regardless of their religions and racial identities. Sagayan dancers also depict in their steps the readiness of native Maguindanaons to defend at all cost their lands, race, and Islam from any aggression.

Mangudadatu told reporters this year’s Sagayan Festival, which will showcase the apparently sustainable tranquility now reigning in the province, is also meant to give credence to all the dramatic improvements in the political, investment, and socio-economic climates in Maguindanao in most recent years.

There has not been a single armed encounter between government forces and MILF guerillas in any town in the province in the past four years.

Investors, among them Puerto Rican capitalists, and Malaysian merchants, have lately been frequenting the province in preparation for their planned setting up of vast tracts of Cavendish banana plantations, and oil palm farms, respectively.

Maguindanao is a known bastion of the MILF, where it has dozens of enclaves scattered in the area’s 36 towns.

“We have so much to celebrate and thank for,” Mangudadatu told reporters.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID, said the division is ready to provide a battalion of soldiers to secure the surroundings of all venues for the Sagayan activities, which include street dancing parades, ethnic games, and multi-sectoral gatherings.

Most activities during the festival will also showcase Maguindanaon traditions, particularly those pertaining to camaraderie, hospitality, and the resilience of locales to the challenges and odds that come their way everyday as part of Moro life.

The term Maguindanaon means “people of the perennially flooded plains,” or the Moro communities in the marshy ilod (downstream area) and raya (upper delta) of Central Mindanao, around the Liguasan Marsh, which is the world’s largest and said to have vast deposits of natural gas and oil.

The Sagayan Festival was pioneered by Mangudadatu after his first election as governor in 2010. The culmination of the festival coincides with the natal day of his spouse, the late Genalyn, one of the 58 people that perished in the infamous November 23, 2009 “Maguindanao Massacre” that shocked the world.

Mangudadatu said he is thankful to the Maguindanao provincial board, led by its presiding chairman, Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat, for recently drafting a resolution institutionalizing the Sagayan Festival as a yearly event.

The resolution also allocated at least P7 million yearly grant to  bankroll the activity.

Board Member Bobby Katambak, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committee on appropriations, said the governor, for the purpose of streamlining the use of funds allocated for the annual festival, decided to fuse the celebration with the yearly November 5 to 22 commemoration of the founding anniversary of the province.

Katambak said the provincial board separately allocated P7 million for Maguindanao’s yearly founding anniversary celebration.

Katambak said Maguindanaon folks will start celebrating the fused Sagayan Festival and the founding anniversary of the province in November of 2015.