It is with much gusto that I always await the celebration of our annual Baragatan. The festivity has become a symbolic tradition of Palaweños as a people. I was not able to participate last year since missionary duty called me to another side of the globe. Hence, within me has been constant anticipation of babawi-na-lang-ako-sa-susunod-na-taon wishing. But (oh) no, there is none for me again this year. There is none for the entire simple fun-loving Palaweños this year. Que barbaridad! (I am borrowing this expression from Spanish people who would instinctively exclaim due to frustration, shame, unbelief and all that make one disgusted.)
The reason? That goddamn politics again. Because election has just been through and no more time to prepare… no more money to spare, so declared by the newly re-elected governor Alvarez. Allegedly, his contention is concurred or had stemmed from the pulse courtesy of the town executives below. So told, Baragatan is the primary casualty of too much politics and politicking. I am dead sure of my claim since this is already the second time around that Baragatan has suffered such an awful fate. When did it first happen (or, it did not happen)? Last 2016, after the elections.
Instead of foregoing it, my resolve rather is to push all the more for Baragatan, especially every after elections. We need Baragatan more than ever after a long, tiring and hurting campaigning, voting (vote-buying being more tiring and spirit-melting), counting up to proclaiming the winners. Baragatan will be that perfect opportunity to regroup ourselves after becoming divisive and divided caused by our disagreements in political colors. Furthermore, Baragatan will be a fitting magnanimous celebration of victory for those elected leaders and their cohorts. On the other hand, it will also be a subdued healing occasion for those who were defeated. Thereupon, Baragatan will so shine as a moment to offer a handshake to erstwhile opponents. It will be a sort of respite for tired bodies and worn-out spirits. Is not this what Baragatan truly is and does? It is about coming together and it does gather people from far places and from varied experiences.
Collateral damage is on tourism. I have high hopes in Baragatan that it is slowly capturing our imagination to be that festival which could be at par with other more popular celebrations around the country – Sinulog, Panagbenga, Kadayawan, among others. This is actually the reason why Puerto Princesa City also launched its own version last year. Subaraw, that is. Grand festivals are not instantaneous. Sinulog was not made popular in just a year or two. It became what it is today because of community, creativity, and consistency. It happens year, after year, after year no matter what and how. In the world of theater, the greatest performance is usually under the principle of “the show must go on”. The best actors are judged as well based on resourcefulness and endurance amidst distractions.
In essence, Baragatan cannot be postponed. It is already embedded in every Palaweño soul. According to Sam Magbanua, the one who is always calling the shots of Baragatan, “Meron namang Baragatan. Pero simple na lang.” The show must go on indeed. But, how simple will simple be? Let us wait and see. We wish nothing else and nothing less than success.
During the previous years, this was my Baragatan to-do list: go around the trade-fair meeting people from municipalities (parishes), family dinner in the capitol grounds, bonding with friends, enjoy nightly shows, watch street-dancing (as spectator or a member of the panel of judges), lead a prayer in a program, deliver the homily at Mass, among others. This year though (in its simplicity), will I still have the same to-do list? Or, will I just miss Baragatan at all.