April 16, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

FESTIVAL DANCE CHAMPIONS — Members of the Tribu Rizal of Rizal, Kalinga was declared champion in the festival dance category of the Panagbenga 2024 street dancing with their impressive depiction of the life cycle of a child from infancy to growing up being cared for in the old Kalinga village (More images on LIFE page ). — Ofelia Empian

For the first time, Lucban Elementary School took home the coveted championship spot in the drum and lyre competition during the street dancing competition of the 28th Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga on Feb. 24.

The closest the school got was second place, around 20 years ago according to Melissa Ferrer, the school coordinator, who was overjoyed with the student performers upon hearing the news. 

“This is the first na nanalo kami as champion. Di ko na mabilang kung ilang taon na din kaming pumapasok sa top three,” she said, during an interview just after the announcement of winners.

Ferrer was one of the first batches of drum and lyre students who joined the parade back in the 2000’s and now actively helping in preparing the students for every Panagbenga.

Composed of 113 musicians and dancers and six coaches, she said Lucban ES has been preparing since November last year for the annual competition.

It was the dedication of the students, teachers, coaches and parents through the years that led them in finally winning as the grand champion.

“This year we are very thankful. Every year gusto ng mga bata sumali pero this year worth it talaga ang pagod. It’s our dedication at dahil mahal na mahal namin ang drum and lyre at Panagbenga,” she said.

Tribu Rizal, meanwhile, elevated one step higher to get to the top spot after joining the competition last year and settling for second place in the open category. 

The group, hailing from Rizal, Kalinga, championed the festival dance category depicting the life cycle of a child from infancy to growing up being cared for in the old Kalinga village.

The main character then experienced conflict from unseen elements that tried to harm him growing up, and through the healing ritual conducted by the mandadawak (Kalinga healer), the teen became well, leading to a celebratory ending with the sound of gongs and graceful dance of the iKalingas.  

Their skillful depiction led the group to also win the special award for Innovation in Musical Arrangement, Special Award for Excellence in Festival Dance Costume, and the Festival Dance Choreography.     

Dance director Ryan Greg Solsoloy said together with the 135 student performers from Rizal National School of Arts and Trades (RNSAT), they practiced for a week after their stint at the Bodong Festival, which celebrates Kalinga’s foundation anniversary. 

“The student performers are part of the Special Program in the Arts in school; when it comes to the music, the dance, the props composition and visual arts iyon po lahat ang program namin sa school and we showcased it here sa Panagbenga,” Solsoloy, who is also the Special Program in the Arts Coordinator of RNSAT, said.

Winning second place in the drum and lyre competition is Tuba Central School, followed by Manuel Roxas ES.

In the festival dance category, Narvacan Naisangsangayan took the second spot followed by Baguio City National High School Special Program for the Arts on third place. 

This year’s Panagbenga Festival is with the theme, “Celebrating traditions, embracing innovations”.