Saturday, November 22, 2014

Biggest gathering of Ilocanos set to take place in fourth Tan-ok

Pamulinawen Festival of Laoag City,Tan-ok 2013 Champion
By Grazielle Mae A. Sales

With the Province of Ilocos Norte’s record-high number of overseas Filipino families, the Provincial Government plans to widen the reach of the Tan-ok ni Ilocano by targeting Ilocanos abroad who are coming home for the holiday season.

“Tan-ok is a celebration of Ilocano pride. It is the gathering of all Ilocanos saan man sila galing,” said Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos adding that the provincial government is going on an all-out campaign to encourage several Ilocano associations abroad to grace the event.

Dubbed as the “Festival of Festivals”, the Tan-ok ni Ilocano was established to bring together all the 21 municipalities and two cities of Ilocos Norte which are expected to come up with their own dance interpretations of their respective festivals. “Tan-ok” means “greatness”.

Running successfully for four years now, it has successfully drawn thousands of spectators, the biggest being from the previous year which recorded a record of 30,000 people. The crowd usually includes locals, visitors from neighboring provinces, tourists as well as television celebrities and respected personalities from the world of culture and the arts.

“With tens of thousands of people watching it live and many more viewing it on television and online, [Tan-ok ni Ilocano] is no doubt the biggest convergence of Ilocanos in history,” said Herdy Yumul, an Ilocano sociologist, esteemed writer and blogger.

‘Ilocano stories, stories of Ilocano’
In his column in The Ilocos Times, Riknakem, Mr. Yumul lauded the Provincial Tourism Office’s initiative to advocate “authenticity” in the upcoming festival dances by holding a story workshop last November 5, 2014. It was participated in by choreographers from the various towns and cities.

“Festivals should have in its core the true story of its people, be it of an object, food, event or any phenomenon,” he wrote.

Being one of the speakers for the story workshop, Mr. Yumul also hinted on the new highlights to anticipate for this year’s edition of Tan-ok. One of them is the Sunflower Festival, the oldest organized gay parade in Asia to be performed by the contingents from the town of Pasuquin who are now shifting away from Panagasin (saltmaking) festival which “consistently placed poorly in the competition”.

Batac City, which consistently bagged major prizes since the first installment of the competition, will also have major revision in their storyline for the Batac Empanada Festival to make it more relevant to the city’s history. 

The town of Bacarra which is widely known for its huge number of balikbayans and overseas Ilocano families will celebrate on this success rather than retelling its Bac-bacarra Festival which is mainly about the townsfolk’s harvesting of “bukto” (a freshwater fish).

When asked about the significance of the festival in the Ilocano society, Mr. Yumul stated: “No singular activity has raised awareness of and pride in Ilocano greatness more than the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals.”

“The grandeur of the performances permeates the consciousness of our people, who in turn replicate and multiply greatness in their respective spheres of influence. The songs and dances, and everything they stand for, resonate in every nook and corner of the world where there is an Ilocano,” he further explained.

‘Expounding greatness’
Given its growing audience reach, Ms. Marcos sees Tan-ok as “a promising opportunity to lead a good and relevant cause.”

In 2013, part of the festival’s income was used to help construct the new building of the Philippine National Red Cross in Ilocos Norte as a reward for the organization’s “extraordinary efforts in times of calamity”, the governor said.

This year, Tan-ok organizers said that part of the proceeds from the sales of VIP tickets will help uplift the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the province.

Ms. Marcos also believes that with the involvement of balikbayans this year, Tan-ok will cause a flurry of economic activity and the possibility to re-hype the Overseas Filipinos Remittances Development project or OFs-RED project which aims to leverage overseas Filipinos' remittances for local economic development. Ilocos Norte is the pilot site for the said UNDP-supported project.

Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals will be held on November 29 at the Ferdinand E. Marcos Stadium here in Laoag City. Major cash prizes await top performing groups which in turn can be utilized for livelihoods, services and other projects for the people. 

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