Tagbilaran, Monday, 14 March 2011 00:58:28
The hills are alive with the sound of music,
With songs they have sung for a thousand years,
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music,
My heart wants to sing every song it hears...
And that's what I did - happy at the top of the hill - when the energetic and approachable Carmen Mayor Conchita "Che" Toribio-Delos Reyes invited us (including Carmen Gatal, Jerameel Decasa, Segundo Casiano and Mary Jean Anunciado) to witness the Chocolate Hills Street Dancing Festival 2011 last March 5.
What a revelry it was! It's been a week since the festivity and I still can't get over the celebration either. I couldn't resist the temptation of those throbbing drums pounding loud and hard in the land of the famous Chocolate Hills making the hills (1,247 cone-shaped hills which turn brown in the hot summer making it look like Hershey's Chocolate Kisses) alive!
The Chocolate Hills Street Dancing Festival 2011 was the culmination activity for the 142nd Foundation Day Anniversary of Carmen. During the foundation week, an agro-fair, mass civil wedding and sky diving exhibition were held that the people were looking forward fervently to these activities successfully implemented and more exciting due largely to the incredible efforts of its first-time Mayor Che.
According to the festival chair, Vicente "Jojo" Buaya, Jr., there was a street dancing competition before in Carmen but Mayor Che has revived the festival naming it "Chocolate Hills Festival" in honor of town's tourist attraction. "By the beat of the music and interpretative dance, the contingents showcase a myriad of cultural topics that is incorporated in every Carmenanon, from history to current events," said Jojo.
Bohol's most popular choreographer par excellence Alexis Cadeliña, the festival vice chair, said the good mayor succeeds in all fronts because she doesn't lose sight of her priorities even in activities that are seemingly for fun. When she revived the street dancing festival, she checked everything: from food, costume, transpo to accommodation.
Isabel Gujol High School takes home the grand prize during the Chocolate Hills Festival 2011. Photo by Jeraamel Decasa
Mayor Che's hands-on approach makes her a real prime. She not only oversees every aspect of every activity, but entertains all people, making them feel welcome, added Jojo.
In the afternoon, the streets were starting to feel the throbbing beat of the drums, as if Carmen's core was a heart. As the sun was brightly shining in this central part of Bohol, the crowd gradually increased to witness and enjoy the ChocoHills Festival.
In her welcome speech, Mayor Che said she is happy to join the people of Carmen in celebrating the ChocoHills festival "as it unites the people of Carmen." Wearing a golden Filipiniana gown, she danced during the opening of the street dancing showdown with the LGU–Carmen dancers as thrilled locals and tourists looked on.
There were seven contingents that joined in this year's ChocoHills festival from the different high schools of Carmen. The Ambassador Pablo Suarez High School, Policronio S. Dano High School, Saint Anthony's Academy, Katipunan National High School Main, Francisco Adlaon High School, Katipunan National High School Annex and Isabel Gujol High School competed for the cash prizes at stake (P20,000 and P50,000 worth of development projects for first; P15,000 and P30,000 worth of development projects for second; and P10,000 and P20,000 worth of development projects for third).
The contingents showcased the ingenuity and artistry of the Carmenanons, with colorful costumes and choreography made more exciting by the sound of drums and bugles, and flexibility of the dancers. Street dancing had a thrilling whirl and swirl of colors and choreography, motion and commotion. The dancers executed their moves in swift and sometimes unpredictable dance. There was intense energy and emotions outpouring each and every presentation.
The choreographers show their dance prowess and skills. Photo by Jeraamel Decasa
One contingent had a barrio fiesta motif complete with bahay kubo and baskets full of pineapples and watermelons abundantly found in barangay Bicao. Other contingents breathed life into the elements of the verdant rice field and farmers tilling the land in thanksgiving. Their dancing was crisp and unpredictable, sharp and techno and modern. "This is how we celebrate" was how the participants must have felt - with all that body and soul -while looking on the dance dramas.
The contestants were super-anad that the board of judges had a hard time deliberating. While waiting for the final results, a showdown of the choreographers delighted the crowd with their sense of humor and showmanship.
The winners: best in street dancing: Isabel Gujol High School; best instrumentalist: Policronio S. Dano High School; best in costume: Policronio S. Dano High School; best in choreography: Isabel Gujol High School; most disciplined: Saint Anthony's Academy; best in ground performance: Policronio S. Dano High School; 2nd runner-up: Saint Anthony's Academy; 1st runner-up: Policronio S. Dano High School; and champion: Isabel Gujol High School.
I've been to the Chocolate Hills Complex many times and I have witnessed the evolving changes on the tourist attraction. Lately, a renovation has been done to accommodate more tourists. "A park will soon rise," said one municipal employee.
But wait... Carmen does not only boast of the world renowned Chocolate Hills and Christmas capital of Bohol (where Christmas lanterns are displayed throughout the year). It has still other attractions worth mentioning such as the Church of St. Anthony Abad, the Fatima Hill, springs (Cabasi Spring) and caves (Kokok and Nueva Vida Sur Caves).
Take a bow, Mayor Che! Indeed, Carmen has nowhere to go but up.
Take a bow, Jojo and Alexis!
As we left Carmen,
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music,
And I'll sing once more...
Leo P. Udtohan