The small island of Cagbelete in Lamon Bay experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, and more and more tourists flocked to its beaches, hastening the development of tourism in Mauban, a quiet town in southeastern Luzon.
The town, in the province of Quezon just 157 kilometers southeast from Manila, was under the radar until news about its beaches spread on social media. Still, many visitors fail to notice that there is more to Mauban than the Cagbalate beaches. Around the town proper, which nestles on the southern foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range, a number of ancestral houses and other heritage sites invite exploration. One can also enjoy the flavors of Tagalog country cookery. In the interior barangays, women weave buri leaves into hats and baskets.
“It is a town that is blessed with so much cultural and natural heritage,” boasted Anabelle “Anie” M. Calleja, the town’s municipal tourism officer. “In the past years, this municipality has grown, thriving in narratives and artistic expressions. To be a Maubanin is to share in a culture that is rooted in its rich history, diverse practices and abundant topographical formations.”
The town’s culture and other aspects are showcased in its Maubanog Festival, established 16 years ago to promote the town and to gather and celebrate, just like most of the recently invented festivals in the Philippines. Almost all of the festivals stemmed from commemorations such as founding anniversaries or traditional fiestas. In Mauban, the festival precedes the town’s fiesta in honor of its patron saint, the Italian theologian and philosopher Bonaventure, celebrated every July 15.
“[Maubanog Festival] is celebrated annually for seven days from July 9 to15. It is a cultural extravaganza that unravels Mauban’s peculiar characteristics, a celebration of the town’s artistry and ingenuity…It is a celebration that speaks of the Maubanin’s fun-loving nature and rich culture and heritage,” Calleja explained. “Maubanog Festival’s accomplishment is getting remarkable as its progresses along with the growing tourism industry of the municipality.”
According to her, the name of the festival was coined by combining two words—Mauban and the Tagalog bangog, which means “in high spirits.”
“Mauban expresses in high spirit of joy in its thanksgiving to the Almighty for the bountiful harvest, honor and success of its sons and daughters,” Calleja said. “The festival speaks of Mauban’s identity. It speaks of who we are as Maubanins. It exhibits the way a true Maubanin celebrates in high spirit of thanksgiving.”
“Maubanog Festival was created in recognition of the 1987 Constitution, which gives importance to the development of Philippine tradition and culture. From then on, the local government of Mauban gives primary consideration and unwavering support to the development and the flowering of Maubanog Festival as one of its cultural endeavors. It features the town’s culture, arts, history and heritage in various forms and expressions,” she further said. “Immediately after its inception in 2003, Maubanog Festival had the opportunity to be showcased in WOW Philippines Parade of Festivals and was included in the DoT (Deprtment of Tourism) list of festivals. Very young then, it tried to follow the guidelines of the DoT when the Philippines as the Fiesta Island of Asia was launched during the presidency of Corazon Aquino in 1989. Fiesta Island of Asia aimed to promote Philippine natural wonders and heritage and the protection of Philippine indigenous peoples.”
Calleja admitted that the festival is still a work in progress, and they endeavored to make the festival more unique and reflective of their culture. But they already have developed a lineup of activities.
Unique expression of a town
This year, the festival started on July 9 with the Misa ng Pasasalamat or a thanksgiving mass at the Saint Bonaventure Parish Church. A trade fair opened in front of the municipal hall, showcasing native products, foods and farm produce. The opening day culminate with the Maningning na Gabi: Pagsisindi ng Ilawang Parol.
“It is a once-a-year opportunity to gather together in prayer for the eight pillars of the community—family, religion, governance, economy, education, science and technology, media and culture, arts and sports. An activity that signifies oneness and spirituality among the members of the Mauban community, this is to build Mauban on the foundation of prayers and thanksgiving, followed by the fun and joyful lighting of Ilawang Parol as a gesture of adoration and praises to the Almighty for keeping Mauban’s foundation strong for the whole year,” Calleja said.
School-based drum-and-lyre bands performed on July 13, while the Mauban Historico-Cultural and the Arts Council’s Theater Arts Group mounted the Gabi ng Kultura, where local history was portrayed through different art forms by young artists.
There were also different sports competitions. Interesting ones included local games such as tug-of-war, palo sebo, sack race, karera sa tsakad bao at kawayan, agawang biik and bangkarera. There was also a contest on buri weaving. An arch and bunting contest was held at eights stations in the poblacion area. The Gawad Dangal ni Gat Uban honored distinguished Maubanins.
The street-dancing parade, the Parada ng Sayaw, in the morning of July 12, remained to be the highlight, a much-anticipated spectacle.
Participating elementary and high school students performed the Mauban Nilala Dance, created through the assistance of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ National Committee on Dance. The steps were inspired by the movements while weaving Mauban’s buri hats. The book Nilala: Tradisyunal na Sining at Industriya ng mga Kababaihan ng Mauban, Quezon was used as a reference.
This year, nine groups competed in the Elementary Level, and eight in the High School Level. There was a special participation from the Dumagat community. In delightful and colorful costumes, most of them taking off from the traditional wear of baro’t saya and the kamisa de chino, the performers paraded through the town’s main thoroughfares, ending at the Mauban South Elementary School for a grand showdown.
The dances extolled country life, agriculture and fishing, education, traditional values and cultural heritage, especially the traditional craft of buri weaving. The performances of the Mauban South Elementary School group and the Cagbalete I Elementary School group earned third and second places, respectively, while the lively Mauban North Elementary School group was declared champion in the Elementary Level. Meanwhile, the contingent from Manuel S. Enverga Memorial School of Arts and Trades was judged third placer, and the group from Mother Perpetua Parochial School in Lual (Poblacion) was second-place winner. The Dr. Maria D. Pastrana National High School group clinched the first prize.
“After more than 15 years, we have proven that the event is worth visiting because this is a unique expression of a town that has chosen to grow and develop in the foundation of its own cultural heritage,” Calleja beamed. “Our highest aspiration is, through this festival, we will be able to showcase the best of our culture and traditions, and inspire our fellow Maubanins to appreciate the beauty of Mauban’s unique characteristics; through this festival, every Maubanin will continue and be a part of the preservation and development of our cultural heritage and will find expression in the different artistic forms.”