Pandang Gitab, Oriental Mindoro's 'unique' festival of lights

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

April 30, 2019, 9:10 am

MANILA -- The Pandang Gitab Festival, coined from the Filipino folk dance Pandango sa Ilaw (Dance of Lights), is a far cry from the loud, usual drummed beats of older and much famous festivals in the Philippines. But for the people of Oriental Mindoro, that unique aspect adds to the annual festival's allure.

Set at night, the event lit up the streets of Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro province last Saturday, with the melodious Pandango sa Ilaw composition of National Artist for Music Col. Antonino Buenaventura serenading fiesta-goers.

Street dancers donning colorful and glittery garbs inspired from the traditional baro't saya twirled and swayed with the rural, lively tune of Pandango to relive the old and simple living of fisherfolk in the island.

Dancers wear headdresses adorned with lights as they dance on the streets of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro during the Pandang Gitab Festival. 

According to the book "Ramon Obusan, Philippine Folkdance, and Me" authored by Kanami Namiki, the word "Pandango" descended from Spanish Fandango. It is danced with various properties such as sa ilaw (with light) in Mindoro, sa sambalilo (with hat) in Bulacan, and other regional and local variations.

The Pandango sa Ilaw, similar to that of Pangasinan province, originated from Lubang Island, Mindoro.

It is also described in the book that Pandango sa Ilaw is "a dance made up of two dances using lights, one from Mindoro where dancers balance oil lamps on their head and on their palms, and the other from Pangasinan, which uses lamps wrapped in dark-pink scarves to provide a beacon for fishermen coming from the sea".

The wives from the coastal community of Mindoro accompany their husbands with oil lamps and its burning wisps light the way to the shore. Part of this practice is a ritual dance for a safe voyage and bountiful catch.

The Pandang Gitab, a nod to this tradition, came to being as a street dance and an activity at the 51st founding anniversary of Oriental Mindoro in 2001. It was held as an annual affair since then.

Pandang Gitab streetdance parade participants from the municipality of Baco (Photo by Ian Soriano/DOT)

For Don Stephenson Calda, Oriental Mindoro tourism officer, this still nascent festival has a "big potential" to attract foreign and domestic tourists outside the province.

"We want to promote Pandang Gitab not only in Calapan area but also to other provinces and foreigners. As you notice, the influx of spectators are limited, usually it's only from Calapan and Baco area," he said.

At present, Oriental Mindoro has Puerto Galera, known for its dive sites and beaches, as its main tourist draw.

Calda said aside from Puerto Galera, the agriculture-oriented province has a lot more to offer since it is teeming with vibrant traditions from locals.

He said they wanted to boost tourism in the province through cultural events such as Pandang Gitab, and the promotion of Oriental Mindoro's different tourism products per town.

Dr. Jay Mark Atienza, choreographer for the Baco delegation, the 2019 Pandang Gitab Dance Parade Competition champion, said the festival is unique from the other well-known Philippine festivals and expressed optimism it would catch the attention of fiesta revelers nationwide.

"This is unique from others, it's festive (in interpretation) yet it fully captures the culture and tradition of Mindoro. Yes, it has a lot of potential," he said in Filipino. "I think this is what will make Oriental Mindoro popular in the future." (PNA)