December 11, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Aliwan Fiesta: The mother of all festivals

FROM Maguindanao’s Meguyaya to Muntinlupa City’s Banyahan, the country’s various festivals convene once again in the annual Aliwan Fiesta on April 20-22 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex.

While the fiesta has always highlighted the country’s street dance culture, it is now also gearing toward becoming a tourism promotion event, Ruperto S. Nicdao, Jr., president of the Manila Broadcasting Co. (MBC), told BusinessWorld at a press conference on April 19.

MBC and the CCP, in partnership with the cities of Pasay and Manila, organize the annual mother of all fiestas, which is now on its 15th year.

“The slant has always been about our culture. This year, we are supposed to promote it as a tourism event, but unfortunately, the TPB (Tourism Promotions Board) got in some kind of controversy and we had to abort,” said Mr. Nicdao, referring to the recent allegations of mismanagement and corruption thrown at actor Cesar Montano, the newly appointed chief operating officer of the TPB, an attached Department of Tourism agency.

Among the aborted plans were the participation in the fiesta of Manila’s tourist destinations like Intramuros, but Mr. Nicdao is hopeful that the plan to package Aliwan Fiesta as an annual tourism-promoting cultural event will push through next year. He said the festival last year attracted an audience of 80,000 to 100,000, both local and foreign tourists, during the event’s final parade presentation. This year, they estimate that the parade will draw an audience of 100,000.

The three-day celebration usually ends with a parade of floats and a street dance competition. This year, 13 dance groups and 18 floats representing fiestas from around the country will vie for the grand prize title, where winners will receive P1 million and P500,000, respectively. The runner-ups will also receive prizes.

Complementing the dance competition, but held as a separate contest is the Tugtugan ng Aliwan on April 20, 6 p.m. This is a rhythm competition among the music ensembles of the 13 dance contingents.

Meanwhile, 20 young Filipinas who have won in their respective provincial beauty contests will vie to be the Reyna ng Aliwan on April 21, 6 p.m. The beauty contest has produced two Binibining Pilipinas and two Miss Earth winners in the past.

Mr. Nicdao said one of the motivations behind the women joining the beauty competition is the promotion of their region or town’s festival and other tourist attractions, “especially those coming from Mindanao regions,” he said. But he admitted that Aliwan Fiesta organizers have not really monitored to see if there was a significant increase in the tourist arrivals per region after the audience watched the beauty competition.

Aliwan Fiesta sends invitations to all regions in the country to send contingents to participate, but the challenge is financing the travel and accommodations of the participants. Mr. Nicdao said a contingent requires at least P3 million in funding to participate.

The Aliwan Fiesta committee members also turn down festivals that would like to join the contest if they see that they are not yet ready for this big event -- if, for example, their float or dance is not polished or elaborate enough. “But this only encourages them to make it better next time,” said Mr. Nicdao. He added that the Aliwan Fiesta conducts workshops.

The three-day fiesta also holds a shoppers bazaar where native goods from all over the country are sold at affordable prices. -- Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

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