I was there when Anne Curtis was belting a la opera at the Capitol grounds on the Kaogma Festival. Sure, she’s no vocal diva; on the other hand, she could more than carry a tune. But the gig was undeniably comically fun. That same night, I remember the young provincial governor rap with the front act Manila based rappers. (Sorry, homeboys, I wish I could recall the name of the duo.) You got to give him credit. I was half-expecting a not so polished performance; but the provincial chief executive could spit some serious rhymes. Props to the Gov! If I remember right, the year before that, one of the main attractions was an Indonesian reggae band which I should admit was internationally good. I could have bogled while yelling “Irie, yeah man!”, if not for my then girlfriend’s mother just nearby. I remember it was Daniel Matsunaga and Erich Gonzales last year; and now, it’s JaDine. (Enter music: “Till I Met You”.) It’s certainly gone a long way. Before 2005, as a kid, I would pass by the trade fairs of Kaogma Festival at then contested Plaza Rizal, and it wasn’t so much of a festival. One would go like, “So, this is a festival?”
A Naga City public elementary school held a contest of decorating classrooms with Bicol festivals as themes. Classroom teachers drew lots; and as one would expect, Peñafrancia Festival would have decorations depicting the fluvial procession; Ibalong Festival would have the epic characters and mythical monsters, Pinyasan Festival would have pounds of pineapples, Rodeo Festival would have cowboys and horses, Tinagba Festival would have colorful agricultural produce; Kaogma Festival would have hmm… uhh… well… a picture of Anne Curtis?
Let us knock our senses back to the historical and cultural significance of Kaogma. “The Kaogma Festival marks the foundation day (May 27, 1579) of Camarines Sur in the Philippines.” (en.wikipedia.org) Sorry, the wiki page doesn’t say more about historical and cultural significance beyond that. “After years of research initiated by Governor Luis R. Villafuerte since his first term as Governor in local and national records and even up to the archives in Spain the official foundation date of the Province was finally confirmed to be May 27, 1579. Governor General Francisco Sande issued the Decree, which led to the establishment of a settlement in a place called Camarines where Spanish Colonists were urged to reside. In 1829, Parido de Camarines was divided into Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte. In 1854, the two provinces were united to form the Province of Ambos Camarines, but again separated in 1857 until 1893. Record showed that the two provinces jointly called Ambos Camarines underwent several fusions, annexations and repartitions and were finally separated into Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte with their present day boundaries by virtue of the Philippine Legislative Act No. 2711 of March 10, 1917.” (pia.gov.ph) So, shouldn’t we have a cosplay of Spanish conquistadores and pre-colonial defenders? (like…duh…) And shouldn’t we be commemorating March 10, 1917 as the actual foundation date of the province that we know today; because if we consider the 1579 foundation, it would include Camarines Norte and parts of Albay, and after all, it wasn’t Camarines Sur yet at that time. Oh, well… Does the Camarinense del Sur who goes to see the recently most popular love team, know of the historical background of this Kaogmahan? Or do we even care at all?
www.pep.ph calls it “the biggest and most colorful festival in the Bicol Region” Do they have a scientific survey for that or is that a promotional tagline? In some ways, it really does live up to its marketing moniker, “mardi gras”. Maybe not really so; maybe more a family-oriented Woodstock. As opposed to its era in Plaza Rizal, people have consistently really flock to the Provincial Capitol, with the whole family, until late at night. Aficionados even look forward to who or what is or are featured for the whole week or on specific nights or on the last night. “according to Ingrid Schneider, Director of the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, “Tourism has the opportunity to bring communities together and instill a sense of community pride and knowledge of their history,” I have to vouch on the “bringing” of communities together. Being in a Kaogma festival night, it feels like the whole province is present there. It does awaken a sense of “Camarines Sur” pride, spinning off a sense of excitement, elation and evocation. But, a sense of knowledge of history? Furthermore and probably obviously, “festivals attract visitors, which stimulates the growth of tourism and other businesses in a town or region.” (https://www.extension.umn.edu) We may have tossed the historical value of Kaogma on a blind spot; on the other hand, let’s just savor the sense of community.
“Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with… malice and evil, but with… sincerity and truth.”
1 Corinthians 5:8