Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Araw Ng Lianga

Lianga has its annual town fiesta on August 14 of every year. One may find that a bit strange since the feast day of the Sto. Nino or the Child Jesus, the town's patron saint, has always been celebrated in January, like in Cebu which has its Sinulog Festival. But I, like so many of the younger generation, attributed the fact to some local quirk or perverse tradition.

It was my parents many years ago who eventually told me the reason for this practice. It seems that the town fiesta had indeed originally been held in January in the old days but that month happens to be right smack in the middle of this region's rainy season when the town's coastal seas were usually rough and tropical storms were common occurrences. The convenience and safety of visiting guests who had to travel by sea during those times became a major concern together with the problems of hosting such an important event in the midst of rain and stormy weather.

August 15 then became the date of choice for the annual event and so it was even until now. Proposals to change the fiesta date back to January were made over the years but the idea never had much support. The local folks have simply become used to the idea of the August fiesta and also dreaded having to spend more money entertaining guests after the Christmas and New Year binges.

Then some years ago, the municipal government, in accordance with the quaint Pinoy predilection for finding new reasons to celebrate something for the flimsiest reasons, decided we will just have two fiestas to settle the matter. Have the second one every January 15 and call it the Araw Ng Lianga and give the people the chance to officially commemorate a traditionally Catholic religious observance with civic and social activities.

So yesterday, aside from the purely religious celebration, Lianga had a civic parade, an official program of activities complete with patriotic speeches by local government officials, sporting events and official visitors and guests. It has also been declared an official town holiday for the benefit of the working class and the school students in the poblacion or town proper. Why indeed go halfway? Let all the town folks join in the fun.

I have always been more than a bit ambivalent about the this Araw Ng Lianga thing. I, like any other Juan in Lianga, have nothing against the townspeople having a bit of fun and excitement once in a while. It helps all of us relax, unwind and forget, even for just a day, the many problems we are faced with in the daily course of our individual and collective lives.

But I just wish that we could focus the same dedication, initiative and ingenuity at finding ways to entertain ourselves and others to the vastly more important task of moving the town along the path of economic, social and political progress. And to harness these same qualities to make the needed hard decisions and choices; to make the concerted effort to pull ourselves out of this morass of apathy and blissful indifference and struggle to move forward for the chance at bettering our town's future.

Celebrations like this are only significant and useful if they help build civic pride and nurture social responsibility which can be then be tapped by effective local leadership to motivate the local population to unite and do their share in the task of rebuilding and improving their community.

It is sad to note that, as usual, nothing of that sort happened yesterday.

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