When councilor Lloyd Quejada invited the Sox Bloggers to witness the Halad festival last January, I shamelessly grabbed the opportunity and went with the camera totting Band of Bloggers. Curiosity drove my instinct to witness one of the oldest and longest running festival in Mindanao. I’m used to seeing Dinagyang Festival celebrations for the feast of Sto. Nino, and this time experiencing one of our own here in Mindanao is something I actually look forward to.
So with fellow Sox bloggers Avel, Orman, Dax, Kyaw, Alexis, and Peter Pilot, Orman’s Ford Everest whizzed through North Cotabato’s rain drenched roads and landed in one piece at Hill Park Inn of Midsayap, North Cotabato. Hill Park Inn is perhaps one of the better “inns” I’ve seen around Mindanao. We were met by no less than councilor Quejada himself, introduced us to the Halad Festival organizing chair and toured us around Midsayap. Of course not after we finished devouring pancit guisado and halohalo (kahit umuulan) courtesy of the Inn’s cafeteria. Midsayap’s catholic church wowed us with the sto nino statuettes in various “walks of life” dress. Interestingy, I couldn’t find a doctor sto nino! I guess he was still at the ER attending to patients at that time.
We were treated to one sumptous meal after while our gracious host narrated the history of Halad Festival. Halad Festival, which is Midsayap’s way of celebrating its patronal fiesta (every third sunday of January) started way back in 1988. Among its highlights are the carnivals, cultural shows, novena, processions, agro-trade fairs, and of course the street dancing competition of tribes clad in ingeniously crafted costumes. By history, some of Halad Festival’s street dancing competition champions competed in the national level and won the national championship! So as the good councilor will tell us, we’ll be witnessing one of the longest running festivals in Mindanao.
After that, we walked around Midsayap’s streets and took photos of everything new to us. The stroll became a photo safari thereafter. Now it dawn on us that Midsayap is fast becoming an urbanized municipality of north cotabato. That night, we were supposed to sleep early for next days activities but a foam party is happening just below and beside our hotel room. We have no choice but to go down and lounge around until we blow our eardrums off. With beer of course. Then we slept.
At exactly 5:00AM the next day, we woke up to the knock on our hotel door. It’s street dancing competition time, said Kyaw and Councilor Quejada. Yes, festival participants are on the streets as early as 4 am, and we have yet to wipe off our snores. The competition starts exactly at 7:00am. They are very excited! So hurriedly preparing our photo gears, and ourselves, we hit the streets after a fast meal at the cafeteria. What lay before our eyes was hundreds of people and fully dressed up halad festival tribes. We wasted no time and looked for good areas to position ourselves for the photo bonanza. The streets are already filled with onlookers so we got no choice but to take photos inside the parade lane. Geez, it paid us with very likeable shots. See these photos.
After the parade, we headed straight into Notre Dame of Midsayap ground for the competition proper. There were nine competing groups in this year’s festival- three for the junior category and six for the senior category. Three winners (1st, second, third prizes) will be chosen in each category. Well, I was lucky I brought a telephoto lens, because the performance area is far from the podium or the viewers area. See these photos and you’ll be the judge who is the best among these tribes.
After the competition, we bade our host goodbye and headed back to our hotel and pick up our stuff. We’re going home. One thing for sure though, this year’s Halad’s festival gave us one good impression about Mindanao and Midsayap’s festival. Mindanao’s festivals are definitely catching up with our kababayans in Visayas and Luzon. We need to improve but yeah, we’d be there soon!
Thank you to our gracious host Councilor Quejada, Midsayap’s Mayor Rabarra and LGU, Halad Festival’s organizers, the good people of Midsayap and of course my fellow sox bloggers Band of Bloggers!