Pandang Gitab Festival, also spelled Pandang-Gitab Festival, is a summertime cultural festival in the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines every April 30. It is also called the Festival of Lights and considered the biggest festival in the province.
Moreover, it has become a platform for tourism and a toast to the indigenous people called the Mangyans.
Most activities that are participated by the local government units of its component localities occur in Calapan City, its capital.
History of Pandang Gitab Festival
Pandang Gitab Festival comes from the words pandanggo which is derived from Pandanggo sa Ilaw (a folk dance of light) and dagitab which refers to light or handheld lamp.
Pandango sa Ilaw
Pandanggo sa Ilaw is believed to be derived from the fandango that refers to both Spanish courtship dance and traditional music. The Spanish dance originated from the Moors and gained currency in Europe in the 18th century.
In the Philippines, the beginning of Pandanggo sa Ilaw is traced to the island of Lubang in Mindoro.
The dance itself, pandanggo, has several versions. In Bulacan, dancers utilize hat (called sambalilo) as accessory while the Mindoro and Pangasinan version uses light (ilaw). Dancers have to balance three lights, one placed on top of the head and the other two are for each palm.
In Pangasinan, it is called oasioaos which translates to swinging and the lights are enveloped with a scarf. The dance became fashionable in social events of the ilustrados in the time of Spanish colonial era.
The use of light is inspired by marine and coastal life of the archipelagic nation that is the Philippines. In particular, Mindoro is characterized by coastlines whose waters abound with rich aquatic resources. Spouses bring lamps at the break of dawn to light the way for their fisherfolk who are about to go to the sea.
Additionally, lamps are also present to give illumination when they are out in the open seas and casting their net for the day’s catch.
The dance thus as a performance is an expression laced with hope and celebration for a good harvest and for safe fishing trips. Dancers with lights also inspire in the spectators’ mind images of fireflies.
First Pandang Gitab Festival
The first Pandang Gitab Festival was launched in 2001 in time for the province’s celebration of its 51st founding anniversary.
In 2017, it was amended by Provincial Ordinance No. 73 which added a provision to teach the Pandango sa Ilaw as part of the basic education curriculum for elementary and secondary levels in public and private educational institutions in the province.
Starting in 2013, the fest was held every third Saturday of February but then to avoid the rainy season its schedule was changed to the summertime.
In 2015, it was held in May.
Its schedule was fixed in April in 2019. The festivity has been the official entry of the province to the Aliwan Festival since 2011 and usually earning a spot in the top finalists.
Pandang Gitab Festival Activities
Pandang Gitab Festival activities are organized by the Provincial Tourism Culture and Arts Office which was put up in 2013.
Its calendar can be as short as two days such as in 2014. Some events occur prior to the start of festival such as cultural consultations and workshops.
Events highlight eco-tourism, culture, and heritage of the province. There are also parades, bazaars, photography contests, and other activities including:
Mangyan. Another one of its thrust is to give the spotlight to tourist spots, such as the beautiful Puerto Galera, and indigenous people called Mangyan. Mangyan settlements are found in the municipalities of Bulalacao, Mansalay, and Sablayaan.
Mutya ng Pandang Gitab. Mutya ng Pandang Gitab, which translates to Miss Pandang Gitab, is a beauty pageant for females. At times it is a joint search called Mutya at Hari ng Pandang Gitab (Miss and Mr. Pandang Gitab). The candidates who successfully win the title/s become the province’s ambassadors of tourism and goodwill.
Pandang Gitab street dance. The fest is also one of the few where the street dance occurs in the evening. Pandang Gitab street dance, the highlight of the festivity, is not marked with loud merry-making typical of other Philippine festivals.
Instead, dancers are out in the street in the evening and they bear lighted candles, oil lamps (called tinghoy), or battery-operated bulbs whose flickering light illumine the nightscape.
They perform to the tune composed specifically for the Pandanggo sa Ilaw by National Artist for Music Antonino Buenaventura.
How to reach Oriental Mindoro
Book a flight bound for Manila Airport, then take a bus for Batangas. From there, take a ride in outrigger boats for Calapan City.
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