[Philippines] There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the Philippines—dancers parading about in neon colors of fuchsia, orange, yellow, green and purple, and accessorized with headdresses, leis and bracelets made of seaweed, which is the main industry in Tawi-Tawi.
Celebrated with pomp, the Agal-Agal Festival in Tawi-Tawi was the highlight of the 42nd Kamahardikaan Festival, held recently in the capital city of Bongao. “Agal-agal” is the local term for seaweed. “Kamahardikaan” is the Sinama word for “the highest honor.” Every September, it commemorates the founding anniversary of Tawi-Tawi as a province.
The parade brought to the spotlight the cultures of the Sama, Badjao, Jama Mapun and Tausug of southern Philippines. Dance groups from 11 municipalities performed the pangalay, the indigenous dance from the south, characterized by sinewy arm movements and expressive fingers, and traditional martial arts. They flashed their janggay, the metal nails to emphasize their hand gestures and used colorful banig as props. Some dancers were perched on bamboo poles, floats and ethnic houseboats to portray marine life and the stages of seaweed farming. The dances were accompanied by traditional music using the kulintangan, agung, gandang, biula (native violin) and the native drum.
The festival also included the fluvial parade and a beauty contest, called Budjang Tawi-Tawi. Budjang is the Sinama term for a single lady.
At the recent program held at the Department of Education Sports Complex, Gov. Nurbert Sahali underscored that Tawi-Tawi’s seaweed industry is unmatched in the Philippines, and that it has generated tourism since 1988.
“Every year, we showcase to the world the uniqueness of the Agal-Agal Festival. We are proud that Tawi-Tawi has gained a reputation as the Seaweed Capital of the Philippines because we supply 40 percent of our seaweeds to the world market,” Sahali said.
Under his leadership, Tawi-Tawi’s economic activity has flourished. With his solid agricultural background, Sahali supported government and private initiatives to help coastal farmers and seaweed fishermen produce high-quality seaweeds.
They also produce its byproduct, carrageenan, an additive used mostly in dairy and vegemeat. Sahali commended the mayors of the 11 municipalities for their participation in the festival.
“I would like to also thank the military, the police, all our leaders and, of course, the people of Tawi-Tawi for the unity, trust and confidence in my leadership. Let us be united as a people and show our visitors the hospitality they deserve.”
Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali added that cultural festivals such as the Kamahardikaan and Agal-Agal are a way of changing the negative image of Mindanao. Tourism Council Head Dona Juana Sahali vowed to preserve the rich heritage of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, especially its dance and music, through the Agal-Agal Festival.
View original article at: Exotic music and dance highlight Tawi-Tawi’s Seaweed Festival