by: Romulo A. Faz Sr.

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Banton's Fiesta, A Cultural Heritage

Since 1978, the ninth day of September each year has been a much-awaited day in Banton, Romblon. It marks the feast day in Patron Saint Nicholas of Tolentino. A vesperas of town fiesta, its moment is dedicated to a colorful presentation of the island’s rich culture and the people’s disappearing traditions-their old way of life.

Early in the morning of the day, one is surprisingly awakened by the roaring sounds of drums and cans, sweet and beautiful music. On the Poblacion’s streets are seen different tribes of native Christians and Moro pirates playing their respective role in the day’s affair. Garbed in myriad costumes, reminiscent of the olden time attire, they parade gallantly and march jubilantly in shining armor. Each participant firmly holds a spear. Tucked closely to his waist in a sheath of sparking bolo. On his side slide a slingshot. And on his shoulder is a set of bow and arrow. The women are in attractive native dresses while the soldiers are in their gala uniforms. This affair has becomes Banton’s gift to prosperity. It is popular know as Hanrumanan. This was presented during the town fiesta of Banton since 1978 until 1985

What is hanrumanan? It is a local term for remembrance, a memory, a relieving of the noble past of Banton. It is the whole day pageantry of the way of life of the primitive islanders during their persistent struggle for life, safety, and liberty. It is a showcase of their customs and traditions:

Punagapong, paypay, bawi, pahinis, patikyar, pabunsor,, pasunson, pakabadi, pabughat, pakasay, and many more. It is a portrayal of Banton’s paani, tipanan, harana, pabugas, pasaknong, pasug-ot, ayadon, ayaw, pamintana, sirbe, and ritritan. It eloquently dramatizes the tragic and fatal encounter between the personified native Christians and Moro pirates of yesteryears. It vividly depicts the Bantoanon’s innate search for peace, freedom and identity. It is the embodiment of the fine and sterling qualities of true Bantoanons – diligent, patient, humble, considerate, brave, cooperative, religious, honest, faithful, ambitious, resourceful, thrifty, helpful, dependable, intelligent and hospitable. It is also show on parade the various occupations and industries of our ancestors.

A brainchild of the late Rev. Fr. Jacinto Orillos, former parish of Banton, the idea that gave life to Hanrumanan was first of hatched in a very lively gathering of social and religious leader in the community. The priest determined as ever to revive the rich cultural heritage of the island, visited some of the dependable parishioners and his friends in their homes and sold them the idea. He once told this writer that Moriones made Marinduque nation, Ati-atihan gave a good name to Aklan and Halaran bought fame to Capiz. According to him, if this place could have such cultural festivals, Banton could possibly have and hold one to equal if not to outshine their presentations. "Who knows," the priest added " if our presentation is excellently done, it may catch the attention of the media and be given wide publicity in the papers.

The idea caught fire when the youthful 1978 president de festijo, Mr. Abraham Fabicon, called meeting of his board of directors. The idea of having cultural presentation was presented and was unanimously approved by the board. The body, however, failed to agree what name to call the cultural activity.

To start the affair, Mr. Fabicon and his fellow teachers at Banton High School assembled their student physical education and organized them into groups. Half of the students acted as native Christians, and the rest played the role of the Moro pirates. A few days before the fiesta, each tribe has its thorough practice in marching, cadence, timing and rhythm.

How does the hanrumanan came into play? It starts in the few hours of September 9 when the bells in the impregnable Catholic Church and by imagination those of the watcher towers on Onti and Campanario keep ringing to warn the native Christians of approaching Moro vintas.

At this instance, the native Christians prepare themselves for the expected event. They march bravely in dancing steps to the seashore to face the fierce pirates. As they form their lines along the gigantic and kilometric seawall, terrible sounds from the buccaneer’s bazookas rent the air. And what an atmosphere of real battle! Each tribe becomes more boisterous and belligerent and is ready to fire and strike at any moment’s notice.

On the waters fronting the Poblacion, one sees the Moro vintas consisting of motorboats and bancas with red flaglets. As the island’s defenders wait for the landing of their toes, the Moro pirate participants keeps on traversing the stretch form Point Matagar to Point Catarman. Few minutes later, the vintas drop anchor at sitio Tan-ag of barangay Hambi-an. The Moro combatants get down from their vintas and land at Tampos. From there, they march toward the town’s plaza where the defensive force waits for them.

Both warring camps ready, the real fight begins. The natives fight to the last. And what a demonstration of fighting spirit and strong faith of the natives in their well-venerated Saint. Some of them take sanctuary inside the great walls of Banton because of the superior arms of the intruders. But in the end, the natives triumphantly win the battle.

The Moro chief, realizing that the natives have the profuse spiritual assistance of the Patron Saint, arranges for a cease-fire. A peaceful talk is then held and the man from both camp lay their arms befriend with each other. To mark the occasion, a cultural presentation follows. Each tribe proves its own wares in various contests like singing, dancing, and playing. The public plaza is then turned imaginatively from battlefield to a stage where the town’s culture and tradition are colorfully presented.

Taking the scene left by the Comedia of several years ago, the hanrumanan comes at Banton’s legacy to the present and future. It is gift to prosperity and the town’s contribution to the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Presented to the general public few hours before and immediately after the religious procession and fluvial parade in honor of Patron Saint Nicholas of

Tolentino…the hanrumanan is past fiesta celebration in homeland Banton, there was no hanrumanan presentation because the presidente de festijo did not exert much efforts for it. In the next Balik-Banton, this rich cultural heritage will be gloriously revived to the delight, reminiscence, and memory of Banton’s present generation of their birthland’s grand long past.

That is it. Let no one mistake the hanrumanan for the Ati-atihan. The hanrumanan is an original cultural presentation of Banton. And its importance and essence will be better understood if one is able to see such colorful presentation.

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Volume 1 No 3