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Bicolano Pastores in dazzling display

By Rhaydz B. Barcia


In a vibrant showcase of Bicolano heritage, the time-honored tradition of Pastores once again graced the stage, unfolding the sacred tale of Jesus Christ’s birth through captivating song and dance. The rhythmic performance, harmonized with the resonant “Pastores-A-Belen,” set the tone for the eagerly awaited Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi.


The Pastores saga commenced with the entrancing kagharong, a poignant reenactment of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary’s pilgrimage from Egypt to Bethlehem. Seeking refuge on a chilly night in a cave, amidst farm animals, the Christ Child was born in a humble manger, embodying the spirit of the season.


Locally known as rokyaw, the Pastores participants personify the utmost reverence and love for Emmanuel within the rich tapestry of Bicolano culture. The Kagharong, a colorful celebration of the yuletide season, intricately depicts the challenges faced by the revered couple on that sacred Christmas Eve.


Herbie Aguas, Director of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol, underscored the commitment to preserving this cultural gem in collaboration with the provincial government of Albay and Legazpi City. Aguas emphasized the paramount importance of passing down the Pastores tradition to the upcoming generations.


The Legazpi City-hosted Pastores competition showcased the talents of 12 contingents from diverse provinces, each contributing to the vibrant mosaic of Bicolano Christmas festivities. From the Sarung Banggi Dance Troupe to Parau Pastores, the performances encapsulated the diverse essence of the tradition.


Albay Provincial Tourism Officer Dorothy Colle and Regional Director Herbie Agnas of the Dept of Tourism.


Adhering to stringent guidelines, Pastores performances featured a traditional Pastores-A-Belen song dance in Bicol, Spanish, or a fusion of both languages. Participants, aged 14 to 30, seamlessly blended traditional and modern choreography within the confines of an 8-minute performance limit.


Inspired by Mexican influences, the Pastores a Belen dance, introduced by the Spaniards and still resonating across the Philippines, narrates the nocturnal journey of shepherds to Bethlehem. The Bicol version uniquely intertwines vibrant skirts for girls and shawls for boys, embodying a fusion of Mexican and Bicolano aesthetics.


The climactic Bicol Pastores at Albay Astrodome saw the Sarung Banggi Dance Troupe clinch the grand prize, earning acclaim for street dance, costume, and musicality. Oas Pastores and Tanghal Kulturang CamNorteno Talisay Pastores secured the first and second runner-up positions, respectively.


Deeply rooted in Bicolano heritage, the Pastores celebration remains a captivating spectacle, ensuring the endurance of this cherished tradition for generations to come.


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