The Tawo-Tawo Festival breaths life to the elements of the rice field, the scarecrow or tawo-tawo, the maya birds, the farmer and his wife tilling the land and in thanksgiving. They are woven together to form a bigger scenario of the rich culture and history of Bayawan City. The festival whose roots are traced back to pre-Hispanic times has reaped honors for the city in the provincial Buglasan Festival of Festivals and in Sinulog of Cebu, both major festival competitions.
“In the past, Bayawan has always been known as the rice granary of Negros,” according to German P. Sarana Jr., the city mayor. “Her vast plains have seen glorious days of prolific rice harvests. Today, Bayawan City is known as the Agricultural Capital of the province of Negros Oriental, added Mayor Sarana. And the presence of Tawo-Tawo or scarecrow had always been a great help to the farmers for several decades. This farmer’s creation (others call it ingenuity) has resulted to achieve bountiful yield during harvest – for the Tawo-Tawo has been known as an effective great scare to drive away the pesky little birds – the native maya, that feed on the ripening golden rice grains. Thus the birth of the Tawo-tawo festival.
If you started long enough to feel the rhythm and the beat, you find out at some point that you have imbibed the rhythm within you and were now heady with playful excitement. Down the main national highway, teenagers from the various barangays, in creative costumes from various, schools and organization participated in non-stop artistically choreographed movements of Street dancing. Tong-tong-tong-tong!, went each respective official drum beat. Contingent after well-prepared contingent wowed one and all. It was a thrilling whirl and swirl of color and choreography, motion and commotion.
One contingent had a barrio fiesta motif, complete with rural farming scene of barrio fiesta motif complete with Bahay Kubo and basketful of farmer’s harvest. Other contingents shared an ethnic frame of mind, on bamboo poles in the frenetic air and forming fragile human pyramids in the middle of the quadrangle. One contingent came out as brown maya birds flapping their wings and colorful flecked arms here and their in shrill delight.
But the contingent I personally liked most was the indigenously made, minimalist garbed, with natural farm field colors and fabric of course, but eschewing colorful accouterments. Their dancing was crisp and unpredictable, sharp and very techno, very now. Just look at the dance. Look how we celebrate is how the participants must have felt- with all that body and soul – and make merry and give thanks for life’s entire blessing of a bountiful harvest. Had I been invited to judge the event, I would have picked them as the winning entry – for they grabbed me with their upfront, infectious joie de vivre. But of course I was not a judge but a mere spectator.
Aside from the Tawo-Tawo festival, the city also held other events including a variety of competitions, games, cultural and entertainment shows, motocross competition and even a male and female beauty contest. I felt that the pageantry was so infectious that oftentimes, onlookers including myself abandoned their spots on the parade route to join in the revelry with such abandon, fun and camaraderie. One of the newest festivals I’ve participated where everyone is caught up in the exuberant gaiety of this explosion of creative talent, colors, spectacular revelry and fabulous costumes.
Conveniently, the festival highlights the celebration of the city’s annual bountiful harvest. The simultaneous events and activities which always make the people giddy with excitement, stresses the pulsating festival mood with numerous activities from each district of the community.
Aside from the Tawo-Tawo festival, Bayawan City is also know for a delicacy made of glutinous rice, young coconut and sugar called the baye-baye. This is a wholesome snack or dessert which comes in a handy pack perfect for pasalubongs.
While going around the city, one can’t help but notice the mayor’s flagship livelihood initiatives which itself has become another tourist attraction for visitors to the city. One of this is the pioneering Jethropa Curcas production project for bio-diesel, a fast becoming agro tourism attraction. Currently implemented as a pilot livelihood project of the city, the entire transport fleet of the city government has been successfully converted to run on this type of bio-fuel. Mayor Sarana, sees this initiative as the city’s contribution to the prevention of the worsening global warming phenomenon happening around the world.
For several years now the Tawo-tawo festival has drawn mixed crowds of local and foreign tourists. Guests from other cities, municipalities’ provinces and foreign countries have come in droves to witness the street dancing spectacle and field presentation. Beyond doubt, the revelry of colors, and showcase of costumes in the festival has rained one of the most exalting experiences for the city, and tourists alike. It has after all become an integral part of Bayawan’s psyche.
How to get there: By Land – Ceres buses from Araneta Center Cubao station; By Air- Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines have 2 flights a day from Manila to Dumaguete City; By Boat – Vessels from Cokaliong Shipping Lines and George & Peter Lines regularly ply direct from Cebu City to Dumaguete City via Tagbilaran City.
Where to Stay: Bliss Pension House, 43 Mabini St, Bayawan City