Maguindanao LGU scholars value Sagayan Festival PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 February 2014 12:16

For agriculture students Junambai Beto and Elorde Delon, Jr., life in school has just been made even more exciting with their obligatory participation starting this year in the yearly celebration of the anniversary of Maguindanao province, and the Moro-inspired Sagayan Festival.

Beto, an ethnic Maguindanaon, and Delon, who belong to the non-Moro Teduray highland community, are among the more than 4,000 beneficiaries of the provincial government’s Maguindanao Program for Educational Assistance and Community Empowerment (MagPEACE).

MagPEACE scholars are obliged to participate in the Sagayan Festival, and in the November 22 annual founding anniversary of the province, which will be celebrated simultaneously every year starting 2015, based on a resolution promulgated last December 2013 by the provincial board led by Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat.

For Delon, joining the Sagayan celebration is not just enjoying the two-week revelries, but also learning from it the deeper history of Maguindanao’s tri-people – Muslim, Christian and lumad residents that are scattered in the 36 towns in the province.

“By mingling with our fellow scholars from across the province, we learn to respect each other’s cultural differences. We bond together and unite in our traditional and religious similarities,” Delon, a student of the Upi Agricultural School in Maguindanao’s North Upi town, said.

This year’s supposedly independent February 1-14 third Sagayan Festival will be the last. The event will be held simultaneously with the week-long yearly commemoration every November of Maguindanao’s founding anniversary starting 2015.

Maguindanao was created in 1974 through a decree by then President Ferdinand Marcos. The territory of Maguindanao was carved out of the vast Cotabato Empire Province that once spanned from what are now cities of Kidapawan in the north, to Gen. Santos in the South, up to the coasts of now chartered Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

A member of the provincial board, Bobby Katambak, said it was Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu who had wanted to have the two events fused not just for austerity, but to enable him to carry out more humanitarian missions, such as medical and dental services, during a mixed Sagayan-provincial anniversary event every November.

Mangudadatu organized and led the first Sagayan Festival in 2011, in celebration of the then improving security situation and investment climate in Maguindanao.

“We now look forward, this early, to a more colorful, meaningful joint celebration of the Sagayan Festival and the anniversary of Maguindanao in November 2015,” said Rochele Salik, a MagPEACE education student.

Salik said there is an overwhelming excitement among MagPEACE scholars every time they converge in Buluan town to participate in the Sagayan Festival.

“Because the revelries speaks well of our origin as Maguindanaons, something we ought to remember always,” Salik said.

The mayor of North Upi, Ramon Piang, an ethnic Teduray chieftain, said one good way of propagating Muslim-Christian solidarity in the province is for students to converge regularly and talk about each other’s “love for peace,” and the peculiarity of each other’s cultures and traditions.

Piang, as member of the government’s peace panel, helped craft the power-sharing annex to the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB).

The FAB is the basis for the setting up soon by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of a Bangsamoro entity to govern Moro-dominated areas in Southern Mindanao.

Another MagPEACE scholar, Lorein Ladrido, who is studying an elementary education course, said she had learned, by participating in the Sagayan Festival, that Maguindanaons have a very rosy history as people of the marshlands, also referred to as the “perennially flooded plains” of Central Mindanao.

The Sagayan is a centuries-old traditional Maguindanao war-and-courtship dance that depicts the readiness of locales to defend their women and children, their lands, and their Islamic faith, from all all kinds of aggression.

The Sagayan dance, until today, is still an indispensable part as an essential highlight of big celebrations and wedding events among native Maguindanaons.

“And that culture will never be outgrown or forgotten because we have more than 4,000 MagPEACE scholars that will help us preserve it,” Mangudadatu told reporters covering the on-going Sagayan Festival.

Mangudadatu started the MagPEACE scholarship program with only more than 700 beneficiaries after his first election as governor in 2010.