Inside the jampacked grandstand, Elma Arboleras was eagerly waiting for Tribu Talakudong to arrive for its field demonstration at the fifth and last performance area in downtown Iloilo City. It was January 25—the highlight of the Dinagyang Festival. It was past one o’clock in the afternoon and the sky was threatening a heavy downpour. She was worried that after nearly four hours of brisk dancing in four other areas around the city, the kids would be exhausted coming in to the last station.

But Elma was wrong. As soon as the beat of the drums, gongs and kulintangs reverberated in the air, the kids of Tribu Talakudong energetically swayed in unison, their chants at their loudest and seamlessly doing magic with their hats, the trademark of Talakudong. The drops of rain bouncing off their kudong and fuschia-and-gold attires only added drama to their strong performance. In between and right after the kids’ eight-minute field demonstration, cheers and applause echoed everywhere.

The moment the drumbeats stopped signaling the end of the kids’ presentation, Elma jumped out of her seat and darted towards the performers. She congratulated everyone and even gave tight hugs to some of the tribe members including his friend Councilor Rodrigo Jamorabon. “That was a world-class performance by Talakudong dancers. They were simply amazing,” she exclaimed.

Elma, a Tacurongnon who gained international prominence in the field of science and technology because of her iBus invention, was in Panay for a special project. She decided never to let go of the chance to witness her kababayans’ outstanding performance. She reiterated her amazement to the kids’ performance on Facebook saying “I was just blown away. Mighty proud of the world-class performance of the City of Tacurong during the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City today”.

Many others who were in Iloilo to witness the Dinagyang shared their admiration to Talakudong’s act. Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was at the Freedom Grandstand, gave Mayor Lina Montilla double thumbs up. Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and many others also congratulated the mayor. Montilla was also at the grandstand with Vice Mayor Joseph Lechonsito and other Tacurong City officials.

Mabilog later told Montilla that even the United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg had gotten interest in Tacurong and has been asking questions on how to get there.

Opening Salvo Performance

Tribu Talakudong, invited by the Iloilo City government to perform during the highlight of the Dinagyang Festival on January 25, provided the opening salvo performance before the start of the much-anticipated Ati Competition. Koronadal City’s Pyesta Kolon D’tal, performed second to Talakudong. Tacurong and Koronadal delegations were in Iloilo City to take part in the world-class Dinagyang Festival, which gathers millions of tourists all over the country every year.

Ambassadors and other foreign nationals were among the sea of people who flocked to Iloilo City during the event this year. As a guest performer, Tribu Talakudong never failed the expectations of those who had been anticipating for its act.

Clad in multi-colored costumes and dancing in brisk motion, Talakudong performers captured the hearts of the delightful and applauding crowd during their performance in all of the five performance areas.

Photographers were busy clicking trying to get better shots of the dancers. On the kids’ way to the next performance area, the mammoth crowd flanking both sides of the streets took time to have their pictures taken with the dancers.

Jorvelyn Jaruda Espinosa, an Iloilo resident and Executive Director of Maya Learning Center, also posted her praises to Talakudong on her Facebook wall. “This year’s celebration of Dinagyang was highlighted by two performances of our guests from Tacurong and Koronadal cities”, she said.

“Their performances left me in awe at the purity of the celebration in honor of Señor Santo Niño… purity in the sense that they all performed as a group in sync and they took the front stage; not the props and the costumes. The colorful costumes and props merely enhanced their dance and movements”, Espinosa added. “I was struck by the feeling that it was as if I was with them in Tacurong and Koronadal. They brought me home with them with their performance. How apt that they are now our sister cities”.

Strengthening of sisterhood

In his speech in front of thousands of audience during the opening program of the Ati Competition at the Freedom Grandstand, Mayor Mabilog recognized the presence of Mayor Lina Montilla of Tacurong and Mayor Peter Miguel of Koronadal.

He explained to the Iloilo people that the sisterhood agreement forged with the two Hiligaynon-speaking cities in Mindanao is part of the Balik-Iloilo program of the city government; that is to invite Mindanaoans with Ilonggo roots to visit Iloilo especially during Dinagyang Festival.

According to Mabilog, the sisterhood will also pave the way for exchanges that will benefit the sister cities such as in the areas of commerce, culture and tourism; hence the presence in Iloilo of the key officials from Tacurong City.

Before the performance of Tribu Talakudong, Mabilog conferred to Montilla the title Dinagyang “Pangulong Hangaway” or head warrior in honor of the sisterhood agreement. Montilla was given the headdress, garb and other tokens. The same gesture was afforded to Mayor Miguel.

Mayor Montilla was extremely overwhelmed by the hospitality and how the Tacurong delegation was very well received by the Iloilo people.

“Our travel to Iloilo City is a milestone. The whole country and the world have come to know our city and our Talakudong Festival. The invitation of the city government of Iloilo for our dancers to perform on the world-class Dinagyang stage manifested Mayor Mabilog’s commitment of keeping true to the spirit of sisterhood”, Mayor Montilla enthused.

Tacurong City, with its group of performers from Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, went to Iloilo to with the aim of showcasing Tacurong’s beauty and culture to the national stage. With the praises the performers had gotten from the Iloilo crowd, they sure won the hearts not only of the Ilonggos of Panay but also of the thousands of local and international tourists who came to witness world-class performances at the Ati competition.

Talakudong’s presentation of its unique culture added flavor to the Dinagyang and provided a breath of fresh air to those who long for something new. Indeed, it was a mighty performance from the little kids of Tacurong City. (Allan S. Freno-LGU Tacurong City Information)