A good festival is like literature -it is capable of blurring the line between truth and fiction; the grotesque and the beautiful. It effortlessly combines expression of faith and propensity for merry-making. Once there, you begin to forget time. Seconds are measured by drumbeats; Minutes by the number of emptied beer cans; and Hours by the distance you have covered from point A to point B considering that you are moving with thousands of other souls dancing their heart out. Dance, in this sense becomes a collective expression of happiness, gratitude, and hope – rendered with varying intensity from a simple repeating side step to uncontrolled gyrations.
“Viva! Viva!” the crowd shouted.
“Why did I wait for 25 years?” I asked myself. Kalibo is only about 2 hours away from home but it wasn’t until I was already working in Manila and had to take a one-hour plane ride that I first experienced the fun of sadsad in Ati-Atihan.
In this festival, you will probably start as a spectator – taking pictures and smiling at friendly faces you meet on the streets. But it is almost assured that the crowd’s infectious energy will draw you in, and in no time, find yourself also attracting other spectators.
This blurring of line between truth and fiction first occurred to me while waiting for my sister and her friends to arrive. I was standing in a long plant box taking pictures of interesting personalities dressed in colorful costumes when a group of teens started looking up and waving at my direction. I took this to mean as a request to have their pictures taken. I framed them in my viewfinder, pressed the button, smiled back and waved at them. Before I knew it, about ten people are already looking up to my direction; the group whose photo I took is still looking back. And then somebody directly below the plant box asked if it’s ok to have a picture with me. I obliged – not realizing that they have confused me with some relatively unknown TV personality. (haha. What alcohol can do to your senses! Oo, ako na!). Another two went up the plant box and did the same. I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know whether I should tell them I am nobody or just let them have fun and be doused with the bitter truth once they become sober. I stepped down to avoid complicating matters. I could hear them blaming each other why I moved away.
There goes the unapproachable pseudo-celebrity (lol).
I walked to the Cathedral, met my sister, had our face painted à la Bona Kid and joined the crowd. We had a few cans of beer, danced a little, danced some more…and while doing all these, I was already unknowingly blurring the line between truth and fiction. I was already becoming one with the festival; and the festival was becoming me. And just like that, I morphed into a character in literature.