DAGUPAN CITY – Amid scorching heat, a crowd whose excitement could not be hidden behind the masks were all going in the direction of the city’s central business district and on Saturday noon which was closed to vehicular traffic for the occasion.
Then the familiar beat of drums to the tune of Gilon La (harvest time) and the colorful costumes of dancers and finally, the symbolic lighting of the grills -- the Bangus Festival is back.
After two years of hiatus due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the city government pushed the celebration with thanksgiving and even returned the festivity to its original venue.
The highlight of the event was the Kalutan ed Dalan street party wherein over 4,500 kilos of bangus (milkfish) were grilled along the streets of the central business district.
Residents of Dagupan and other neighboring towns and cities of Pangasinan and even tourists from other provinces and regions were entertained by several national artists or bands, while they enjoyed the delicious Dagupan bangus and the company of each other.
Master rapper Andrew E. was the first to entertain the crowd during the opening ceremony of the Kalutan ed Dalan.
The city has set up seven stages, where the bands or artists such as KMKZ, I Belong to the Zoo, Bandang Lapis, Rico Blanco, The Juans, Banda ni Kleggy, This Band, Allmost, Agsunta, Julian Trono and Ella Cruz, Pricetag X JP Bacallan, Jellie Aw, and Arra Gunio performed.
“Nakakatuwa (This is so exciting). It has been a while since we had this event. (It feels like) everything is going back to normal. It’s a very good opportunity to mingle and move like normal people, very similar to what we had two years ago. It’s a breath of fresh air for everybody. It just shows that the Philippines is healing,” said Rainier del Rosario from Pampanga in an interview.
Employees of a famous restaurant shared the excitement that even their managing director from the central office has joined the Kalutan Ed Dalan.
“We are so happy that we have this event once again,” said Julius de Vera from Tarlac, and Myla Liwanag from north Luzon.
Roel Maluwag, the chief administrative officer of the Region 1 Medical Center, said the occasion gave the nurses and hospital staff an opportunity to celebrate and unwind amid their hard work during this pandemic.
Marietta Calimlim of Barangay Bonuan Boquig here said her long wait for the return of the festival was finally answered.
“Pinakamasaya dahil matagal hinintay. Gustung-gusto naming dito sa downtown kasi sanay na tao dito. Original dito (This is the happiest because we waited for a long time for this. We prefer that it is held here in the downtown (central business district) because people are used to doing it here. This is the original venue),” she said.
A vendor, Rexsor Estenar, said he was glad that the activity was resumed as it gave him an opportunity to earn more.
The Bangus Festival was formally launched in 2002 by then-Mayor Benjamin Lim.
It was organized not only as a marketing tool for Dagupan’s bangus product but also to establish the city’s own festival.
The festival practically paved the way for other towns and cities in the province of Pangasinan to establish their own local festivals.
Dagupan City got the World's Longest Barbecue record from the Guinness World Records in 2003 during the holding of the Kalutan ed Dalan where 10,000 pieces of bangus were grilled on the longest barbecue grill measuring 1,007.56 meters long.
The opening of the Kalutan ed Daan was graced by vice presidential candidate, first daughter, Sara Duterte, who was well-received by the people.
“Mahalaga ang festival napag-uusapan natin ang bangus at nakakapagsaya at nakakapag celebrate tayo (The festival is important as it gave an avenue to talk about the milkfish product (of the city) and at the same time to celebrate),” she said.
Duterte also took the opportunity to thank the Dagupeños and Pangasinenses for their support of her family.
“Ang aking pamilya ay may malaking utang na loob sa pagmamahal at suporta na ibinigay ninyo sa amin. Sa pagtatapos ng kanyang termino (President Rodrigo Duterte) ay nasa puso niya ang pasasalamat sa inyo (My family owes a lot from you for all the love and support you have given us. At the end of his term, he is giving his wholehearted thanks to all of you),” she said.
Mayor Marc Brian Lim said the Bangus Festival 2022 was not just a celebration but also a thanksgiving.
“It is a kind of thanksgiving to the Lord Almighty that He has guided us through this entire pandemic and we are all here face-to-face ready to celebrate. This is an opportunity for us to thank God for all the challenges we have overcome and those we will overcome in the future,” he said.
The festival began on April 18 with the unveiling of the festival logo and the Guinness Book of World Records marker.
The other activities for this year’s Bangus Festival were Pisasalamat ed Ilog (Thanksgiving for the river) on April 19, cycling event on April 24, Dagupan youth festival on April 26, mass wedding on April 27, and Bangus Rodeo on April 28. (PNA)