Higalaay–friendship festival–premieres in Cagayan de Oro this week

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Cagayan de Oro embarks on a festival of friendship celebrating its multicultural complexity.

Artist Errol Balcos contemplates a face of history

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A month after the bombing at Limketkai Center, the city gears up to celebrate the feast day of St. Augustine on Aug. 28.

Says Eileen E. San Juan, chair of this year’s city fiesta committee: “Come what may, the fiesta will push through.”

But with a major difference. The fiesta committee, of which this writer is a member, is doing away with the usual float parade and ethnic-inspired street dancing hoopla.

This time, 14-ft representations of the city’s icons will be paraded along the city’s main streets starting at the Rodelsa Circle beside Cagayan de Oro River, to wind up at Limketkai Center.

To be called higala (friends), the giants will lead what used to be called the sociocivic parade the day before the fiesta proper.

The higala will be introduced by a narrative that will serve as a brief backgrounder to the city’s history and dynamics.

A higala under construction.

Some of the higala are sponsored by commercial establishments and business entities, such as SM City Cagayan de Oro and GMA 7.

All 18 icons were designed and produced by a team of artists led by the prizewinning visual artist Errol Balcos.

After the fiesta, the higala will be displayed at the premises of the sponsoring establishments. A higala trail will be issued by the City Tourism Council under Dorothy Jean B. Pabayo to promote domestic tourism.

“It’s educational!” says fiesta committee member Evans Yonson, who was inspired by the higante festivals in Spain, where he pursued his graduate studies.

The higante will represent the Higaonon male and female, Cagayan’s peace-loving foreparents; Datu Salangsang, who ruled a river-based community from which the city took root; his wife Bai Caransuli; Augustinian Recollect Fray Agustin de San Pedro, who established the town that became Cagayan de Oro; San Agustin, the first Doctor of the Church and the city’s patron; his mother, Santa Monica, patron saint of abused women; Tirso Neri, the first mayor; Col. Apolinar Velez, who fought in the Philippine-American War; Archbishop Santiago Hayes, SJ, who rebuilt Cagayan after World War II; Tiano brothers Ronaldo, Nestor and Apollo, who were war heroes;

Maximo Suniel, last municipal mayor and first city mayor; Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, who authored the city charter; farmer, “steward of the earth’s bounty”; and white-water rafter, representing the resilience of the people after the flood and ravages of “Sendong.”

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