I like non-commercial festivals like the Agal-agal Festival in Tawi-tawi. They are refreshing and different. Unlike popular festivals that honors the Sto Niño, Agal-Agal Festival celebrates the way of life of the Sama people. From harvesting agal-agal (seaweeds), courtships, and even the supernatural. I was excited to see the Agal-Agal Festival 2017 since I enjoyed witnessing it the first time three years ago in Bongao. This year, the 44th Kamahardikaan Festival is hosted by the municipality of Languyan.
Kamahardikaan in Languyan
The Agal-Agal Festival is part of the 5-day Kamahardikaan Festival held every September. I wrote extensively on their origins and meaning of this festival on my 2014 post. So my focus this time around is this year’s festivity. Tawi-tawi decided to rotate the hosting chores through their 11 municipalities. This year, the municipality of Languyan was the host venue. Languyan, which is propelled by mining, shot up to a first class municipality. Despite its status, it is still far from the development of Bongao. It’s current state looks barren from the quarrying activities. So visitors and participants had to contend with poor conditions here of dusty roads, half-built infrastructure, limited water supply and the somewhat lack of coordination on the event. It was a challenging coverage though the festive spirit shone through.
Agal-Agal Festival 2017
Of the 11-municipalities of Tawi-tawi, only nine participated at the recent Agal-Agal Festival 2017. Panglima Sugala and Turtle Islands excluded themselves this year. The street dancing part was interesting as we get to see a glimpse of Languyan as well. What stood out for me in the street dancing were the hypnotic pangalay dance of Languyan contingent and the lively and colorful sequence from Sibutu.
For the main competition, groups were given 10 minutes each to perform. I thought that was rather long and could result to some boring repetitive sequences. I guess the challenge was to keep us captivated throughout. Among the 9, the standouts for me were Sapa-Sapa, Bongao, Simunul, Languyan and Sibutu.
My Favorites and the Winners
As the long grand champion, I had high expectations from Sapa-Sapa. Their sequence were good but I thought their 2014 performance was stronger. I enjoyed Languyan’s street dance sequence but their pangalay sequence couldn’t sustain the energy for 10 min. Sibutu had an interesting start with the weave intro but I got a bit lost in too much props. Simunul was a surprise, their sequence was clean and captivating all throughout. Bongao also have great moments, they excelled on those elevated bamboo stick dances.
The winners were announced on the final night of Kamahardikaan at September 27, 2017. The Agal-agal Festival 2017 winners were Sapa-sapa, Simunul and Bongao in sequence. So Sapa-sapa still held on the championship but if it was me, Simunul would take the top spot. It doesn’t matter though as the ranking is just bragging rights as the top 3 winners would be taking home a whopping P1-million each! All of them winners then.
Next year’s Kamahardikaan Festival host would be Sitangkai. A place where the most number of agal-agal production is found in the province. A place I haven’t been to yet. I hope the celebration would be grander and better.
Check out more of the Agal-agal Festival 2017 photos in my Facebook Page album.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.