Monday, July 15, 2013

Saving the Bohol Sandugo Festival


The Bohol Sandugo Celebration or Sandugo Festival, also known as the Blood Compact Commemoration, is an annual historical event that takes place every year in the island province of Bohol, Philippines. 

This festival commemorates the treaty of friendship between two people of different races, culture, religion and civilization: between Datu Sikatuna, a native chieftain and the Spanish conquistador, Miguel L√≥pez de Legazpi, representing the king of Spain. 

Each had his own reason for acceding to the pact not realizing its impact and significance on their respective countries' history. 

It was essentially a pact that would establish goodwill and cordial ties between the two countries. 

For Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, it was the pivotal point in a chain of events that would result in a decisive conquest of neighboring Cebu in order to convert the natives to Catholicism and to request them to recognize the king of Spain as sovereign in exchange for protection from invaders and the establishment of trade between the Spaniards and Filipinos

For Rajah Sikatuna, he unwittingly became the first Filipino ambassador of goodwill when he accepted the pact of friendship from Legaspi. 

Perhaps, he was aware already of the consequences if he rejected the peace offering. 

Of course, with the event taking place hundreds of years ago, we can only speculate and infer on what might have been or could have been

Phil National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva 
immortalized the Blood Compact with this bronze marker
Bool, Tagbilaran City 
Regardless, the treaty of friendship that occurred on March 16, 1565 through a blood compact is considered as the first international treaty of friendship between Filipinos and Spaniards and is known today as "Sandugo", meaning "One Blood". 


In honor of this occasion, the late Philippine President Elpidio Quirino established the Order of Sikatuna, a presidential decoration conferred upon diplomats.

 The Order of Sikatuna: Rank of Raja, the highest recognition 
awarded by the Philippine govt for diplomatic & 
foreign relations and named after 
Boholano chieftain Raja Sikatuna

US President Ike Eisenhower & Phil Pres. Carlos P. Garcia
It was a very proud moment for Boholanos when Philippine Pres. Carlos P. Garcia of Talibon, Bohol conferred the Order of Sikatuna to visiting US President Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower during his state visit to the Philippines in June 1960

It was a symbolic showcase of the Boholanos' warmth, hospitality and friendship to the rest of the world and who else would be more perfect for the job than a Boholano himself who conferred it to the leader of the world's most powerful nation 


When the the highly- esteemed Filipino diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, a former President of the United Nations General Assembly graced the Blood Compact Commemoration here in Bohol in March 1981, he gave the ultimate tribute to the blood compact when he said in his keynote speech that the   
 "seeds of the United Nations" were planted here in Bohol a long long time ago through the skillful diplomatic maneuvers of a Boholano named Rajah Sikatuna  who knew the power of peace over violence"

This year's Sandugo Festival commenced with Tagbilaran City's Charter Day Commemoration and will culminate with the 2013 Street Dancing Presentation on Sunday, July 28. 

The Provincial Government of Bohol, together with the city officials, has lined up activities that are geared towards the enhancement of local talents and agro-industrial products with the ever present search for the 2013 Miss Bohol Sandugo Pageant and the street dancing highlighting the festivities.


Dubbed as the mother of all fiestas, the Sandugo Festival is a month long celebration every July. The highlight of this momentous occasion is the street dancing participated in by various groups of performers. 

The competition is quite stiff in this area with the contestants preparing for this challenge a few months before the fiesta. 

The natives of Bohol, even those who have been living somewhere else are expected to come home and take part in the festivity. 

The street dancing competition is usually participated in by schools, the city and municipal governments, Boholano organizations abroad, and even contingents from other provinces. 

The competition starts at noon at the City Pier, passes through the city's major streets, and culminates at the Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Sports Complex where a Sandugo Re-enactment is held. 

The final judging of the competition will be held at the Complex where the participants will again perform for the audience.

The street dancing competition is held in Tagbilaran City where each local high school develops its own dance custom with special costumes and choreography. A small marching band follows each group of dancers to provide the music. 

The bands consist only of xylophones, drums, and trumpets. 

Miss Bohol Sandugo 2012 winners

Lately, the number of participating contingents has been dwindling mainly because of the sheer logistical requirements  needed to gather and train a competitive team. 

Behind those charming faces, beaming smiles and dazzling costumes and choreography are a host of perennial problems that have beset the organizing committee.

Aside from recruiting and training the team for nearly a month, the towns have to scramble to secure the services of the best choreographers and trainors. 

Have I mentioned how difficult it is to acquire the costumes? How about the meals, the travel and training allowances of the team members? 


But then, it would always boil down to the mindset, attitude and priorities of the elected and appointed officials of the local government units and this is exactly the reason why I take my hats off to those local govt. officials who respond to the invitation of the Bohol Sandugo Foundation, Inc to participate in at least one Sandugo official activity like the Miss Bohol Sandugo, the street- dancing competition, the agro- fair trade & exhibits despite budgetary constraints and lack of preparation time

But isn't the Sandugo Festival one perfect avenue to showcase our much- vaunted warmth, hospitality and friendly nature? 

Why can't we set aside our politics, rise above our differences and shake off the seemingly apathetic attitude towards the event during the entire period of the celebration  


 iconic Blood Compact reenactment , Sandugo 2001
The late Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado as Rajah Sikatuna and former Tagbilaran City Mayor Jose V. Torralba as Legaspi. Lending her star presence as Sikatuna's wife was the lovely Elizabeth Oropesa 

Another exciting portion of the Fiesta is the reenactment of the blood compact which features many actors, singers, and dancers. 


On the other hand, the Sandugo Festival, according to some jaded observers, doubting historians and cynical patriots, is a romanticized celebration on what is allegedly the start of the Philippines' subjugation by a foreign power

Regardless, from a small and low- budgeted commemoration devoid of the usual fanfare program that was organized by a motley crew of visionary leaders and a ragtag team of enthusiastic Boholano believers and supporters, the Sandugo has grown into an annual spectacle of color and rhythm, a cacophony of visual delights and spectacular highlights


MEET MAYOR BABA YAP:  Taking his oath of office before Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto, Mayor Yap is shown with wife Jane Cajes (in green) and his parents Mr. John Yap (partly hidden) and Mrs. Geesnell Yap

This year, newly- elected Tagbilaran City Mayor Baba Yap and his creative think tank have already incorporated some exciting additions to the list of activities to ensure a more fun and more memorable experience for the revelers and merrymakers. 

In fact, there will be a Sandugo Street Party scheduled on July 26 at the City Square replete with musical showdowns and performances and nonstop revelry

This is good news and I enjoin every Boholano to support Mayor Yap and the rest of the Bohol Sandugo Foundation, Inc to ensure the event's success, longevity and continuity.    


The past few years, Boholanons have shied away from the celebrations and only show up for the Street Dancing culmination. 

Perhaps, we have become so used to the annual event that we have become blase and indifferent to it.

It is a challenge therefore not only for the public and private sector officials but also for all of us ordinary Boholanos who have to join hands together and become living and breathing symbols for enduring friendship and comradeship

By going back to the basics and reflecting on the festival's reason for being, the celebration can actually become an exhilarating experience to be enjoyed and reflected on by Boholanos and non- Boholanos alike. 

Most importantly, if we can actually inject the fun element into the celebration, the Sandugo Festival would truly be one festive occasion where every guest, visitor and tourist would be exclaiming 

 " I had so much fun with the Sandugo Festival! I want to come back and hopefully, bring along some friends and family with me so they can also enjoy the marvelous experience that I had with the festival!"

Now, when I get to hear that with my own ears, I would then be fully convinced that the Sandugo Festival, just like the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City, Sinulog in Cebu, Ati- atihan in Kalibo, Dinagyang in Iloilo, Kadayawan in Davao and Pinagbenga in Baguio, has finally arrived as a major festival! 

So before you leave, check out the full schedule of the 2013 Sandugo Festival Schedule of Activities shown below and attend at least one event as a show of support

Photo Credits:

Chrismael Caldo
Roger Gatal 

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