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Katagman Festival 2012: Music, Dance & Theater Competition (Part 2)

Submitted by on May 10, 2012 – 9:09 am2 Comments

Katagman’s Music, Dance and Theater Competition is not your ordinary cultural or performance contest. I believe the organizers have taken the idea of the way ancient Filipinos pass their stories and myths – through word of mouth. Elders gather the tribe in the center and sang the history of the tribe usually at night. The same way the competition was held, in the evening. But this event is more than just words, they let you feel, see and hear how they interpret the rich history of Iloilo and its oldest pueblo, Oton. The rich heritage was passed on, not only through words, but with beautiful choreography, music and dance. What I learned about Katagman’s past will make you proud, not only as an Ilonggo or Ogtonganon, but as a Filipino.

I wouldn’t want to prolong my introduction. Let’s go through the richness of the performances as we look back into the unique heritage of Oton.

The Katagman Gold Death Mask

The center of the festivities is the finding of the gold death mask at San Antonio by the celebrated Ilonggo anthropologist F. Landa Jocano way back in the 1960s. The find is instrumental in proving the existence of a complex Malay civilization before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Gold Death Mask, now stored in the National Museum, led to the discovery of the belief of the natives in life after death and their burial customs. The mask was used to prevent evil forces in entering the dead as it covers the eyes, nose and mouth. The Gold Mask, so beautifully crafted, was unprecedented. Nothing like it was found anywhere in our country. The mask is now declared as national cultural treasure of the Philippines.

“Katagman” itself was very important in our history. Based on old records, Katagman was the ancient name of San Antonio, Oton, the seat of regional power way back in 1226 AD under Datu Paiburong (one of the ten Bornean Datus). At the mouth of Batiano River, the roots of an Ilonggo nation traded with the China and the rest of Southeast Asia.

The Alcadia De Oton

On May 3, 1572, Fr. Martin de Rada of the Augustinian Order signed the declaration of Oton as a pueblo, the third in the Philippines after Manila and Cebu. This year’s Katagman Festival celebrates the 440th year of foundation of Oton.

So if the name of the area was Katagman, where did Oton came from? Many believe that Oton came from the Hispanized word, “Ogtong Adlaw”. The story goes like this, when the Spaniards coming to Katagman asked a native what is the name of the place, the native answered “Ogtong Adlaw” (noontime) thinking that the Spanish were asking about the time of the day.

Another theory is that Oton was derived from the fish, Kogtong, which are abundant in the area. A third theory is that the town’s name was derived from a plants commonly found on Batiano River.

The Parish of Immaculate Concepcion (1570)

Much older than the town of Oton is the establishment of the Parish of Immaculate Concepcion. Fr. Rada, First Provincial of the Islands, built in Oton the first church in the country in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in 1570. It was located at the tip of the Batiano River, now the site of the present Catholic Church and Convent. Several times the church was destroyed through revolt or natural calamities.

Probably the biggest and most beautiful church constructed in Panay and completed in 1889, the Oton church was destroyed in 1948 during the “Lady Caycay” Earthquake.

The Tapar Revolt

In 1663, the babaylans, who lost power and influence upon the Christianization of the Ilonggos, led a revolt headed by Tapar. A babaylan himself, Tapar organized a cult wherein he incorporated Catholic doctrines and beliefs, into the ancient belief. Proclaiming himself as the “God Almighty”, Tapar, dressed in a woman’s clothes, attracted many followers.

Father Francisco de Mesa, the parish priest, opposed the new religion. He was subsequently killed by Tapar and his followers before the burned the church down. Tapar and his followers were captured by the Spaniards, and later suffered a horrible death.

The Attack of the Dutch

Oton, being the seat of power of the province of its namesake, was a thriving Spanish settlement and port. It was an important part of the supply chain of the Spanish conquistadores in the south. The land was rich with provisions, and populated by skilled shipbuilders. Because of its strategic importance, Oton was subjected to several invasion attempts by foreign colonizers.

The Dutch attacked Iloilo in early 17th century and was repelled by Diego Quiñones. In one of the nights of the attack, Quiñones, while inspecting the defenses, tripped and fell on a hole where there was a box. Upon opening, the box contained the image of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which many believe is instrumental in beating the Dutch. The image can now be found at the Parish of San Jose, Iloilo City.

Here are some of the snapshots of this year’s competition:

Sto Niño

Tribu Nakatungdan

Kuta Papulo Malaca

Tribu Parayan


Balangay Paraw

Tribu Mandaragat

Whew! And that’s only a fraction of Oton’s history spanning through four and a half centuries. Definitely, a glorious past with unique heritage, Oton is now looking further ahead in the future. For me, Oton has brighter future ahead of her. Her people, smart and hardworking, are now working in unison to achieve the full potential of the town. A sleeping giant now rising from slumber, Oton will surprise everyone who visits her.

See you all again on Katagman 2013! More exciting events are definitely be organized next year!

Note please see Part 1 “Katagman Festival 2012: Oton moving to greater heights” for several of the side events held at the festival.

These are the winners of the 2012 Katagman Music, Dance and Theater Competition (Thanks to Jonathan Clavel for the information)

  • 1st Place: Kuta Papulo Malaca (Best in Performance, Choreography, Discipline and Best Banner)
  • 2nd Place: Tribu Nakatungdan
  • 3rd Place: Tribu Paraw

Special Awards
Best in Music: Tribu Katamnan

Street dancing
1st place is Kuta Papulo Malaca

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  • Ken says:

    “Nothing like it was found anywhere in our country.”
    just to highlight that…
    the National Museum said…
    “there are also pre-hispanic gold burial mask was also recovered in Masao, Butuan, Agusan del Norte where gold was abundant in ancient times.”

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