The country’s widely-practiced tradition of bayanihan is probably the most celebrated tradition among the many notable customs and traits we have as a nation. This practice has spread out all over the archipelago and the world regarded it as one great trademark of the Filipino race. But in the islands of Siargao in the northern part of Mindanao, bayanihan is not just a common tradition. It is a communal way of life deeply rooted from a glorious past. This extraordinary tradition is called tinabangay. Home to this is the island town of Socorro in the province of Surigao Del Norte. And the celebration of this remarkable tradition is called the Tinabangay Festival.
More popularly known as the Bucas Grande Islands, Socorro is an island municipality in the island group of Siargao. The island town is home to CARAGA’s pristine beaches, unspoiled coves and enchanted lagoons that is fast becoming a major tourist destination in the region. Two of these most prized attractions are the Sohoton National Park and the Jellyfish Kingdom. But not known to all, Socorro is not just about eco-tourism destinations. Its people, culture and way of life are among those that made up one beautiful reason why must travel and experience Socorro in different way. Tinabangay Festival sums up all that is good about Socorro and the Socorrohons.
Like bayanihan which refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation, the term tinabangay is derived from word “tabang” which mean help and tinabangay in the real sense means “helping one another” – as group or as a community. In Socorro, tinabangay has been practiced since the very early days and their amazing stories of collective heroism were told from generations to generations.
This started in 1920 when the people of then Sitio Bunga responded and saved Spanish missionaries from drowning while on mission sailing bound to island. The sailboat was battered and ravaged by the gigantic waves of the Pacific and was on the verge of capsizing but the people of Sitio Bunbga came to the rescue. Everyone was spared including the Spanish priest who was overwhelmed by the goodness of the people. He then called them Socorrohon and the place Socorro. Socorro in Spanish means help and so Socorronhon means helpful people. It was the start of how Socorronhons came to fame as helpful individuals among its neighboring island towns.
In 1924 during American occupation in the Philippines, Socorronhons fought as one community against the US Constabulary Forces when they were attacked and suspected as members of “Colorum” or unregistered society founded to rebel against the government. Many Socorronhons perished. Their lives and livelihood were greatly affected. Many lost hope. But despite all these, Socorronhons stood up, helped one another and braved to start all over. That was the start of tinabangay – one community, one goal, one Socorro.
Today tinabangay has remained the most important tradition in Socorro and being matinabangon (helpful) is the greatest trait of every citizen of this island town. Widely practiced, tinabangay is often done during the month of July and August through collective house building, farming and other communal activities. Socorronhons would leave the comforts of their homes to offer their labor services for free in the construction of houses and collective farming activities with the house or farm owners shouldering the food and material costs. This usually lasts for 30 days. The first day of the volunteer work is called “intrada” and the last day is called “last trip”.
When the work is done after the long tiring days of tinabangay, the house/farm owners will then call for a modest celebration locally called “paglipay-lipay” as a way of gratitude to all those who help him build his house or toil his farm. This is also a great way to celebrate the burning spirit of unity and volunteerism in them that lead the way to achieve their goals. It is then a celebration of joys, efforts, pains and feat of tinabangay. In the early days, paglipay-lipay comes with merry-making and dancing. This where a local dance called “collegiate” or “sayaw Socorro” was born. Today, this traditional dance is still performed by the locals even the young generations.
Because of such invaluable significance of this tradition that defines the truest meaning of Filipino’s Bayanihan culture, it paved way to the birth of the annual celebration of Tinabangay Festival celebrated during the Foundation Day of Socorro which falls every 22nd of February.
The creation of Tinabangay Festival is aimed to make this bayanihan tradition known outside Socorro. It is also meant to inspire the rest of the country and the world with its living legacy widely practiced even to this date.
As a colorful festival filled with lively music and spectacular dances, Tinabangay Festival promises to attract tourists to come to Socorro and take part of this rich living legacy that depicts the goodness of the Filipino people.
And just like the previous staging of this event, this year’s Tinabangay Festival was a grand showcase of Socorro’s rich heritage portrayed in the much awaited performances of the six contingents from the different clustered barangays of this island town.
The dances and choreography performed by each contingent project the concept and practices of tinabangay. Each storyline behind choreographed presentation portrays the pains, joys and triumphs exerted and made during tinabangay.
Like the famous scene of bayanihan where neighbors work together to carry a house to its new place, the performances showcased during the stationary presentation centered on the communal practices of tinabangay – neighbors helping neighbors build their houses, communal fishing using bobo, a fishing tool made of bamboo, and farmers planting and harvesting rice together. These are actually pictures of our great culture as Filipinos practiced not only on the country but even those Filipino communities scattered around the globe.
There are ample of festivals in the Philippines that reflect the rich and colorful culture of our country but Tinabangay Festival of Socorro is simply distinctive. It is something that every Filipino wherever he may be in the world can relate. Tinabangay or bayanihan is a universal culture practiced and shared among us.
In the times of great calamity, of great catastrophic disaster, Filipino spirit of bayanihan is felt – tinabangay is made to alleviate the burdens of our fellowmen even if we are not there. This is one of our traits that made us a strong nation. In fact we are admired by many nations for being such compassionate and caring citizens of the world. Socorro’s Tinabangay Festival mirrors that compassionate and matinabangon in us.
GLAD TO BE PART OF THIS YEAR’S TINABANGAY FEST. It means so much to me. I am deeply honored.
TINABANGAY FESTIVAL 2014
*****My heartfelt gratitude to the LGU of Socorro headed by their beautiful Mayor Denia Florano and Vice Mayor Dominador Taruc for inviting this blogger along with other friends in the media to witness this very spectacular event. 🙂 To Mr. Edelito Sangco who initiated this Media Tour, my depest gratitude. I am looking forward to come to your beautiful islands! CONGRATULATIONS Socorronhons!*****