AMONG THE GIANTS. Artist John Alaban stands amid his ultra-size statues of Bornean datus or chieftains in this photo taken July 13, 2022. Juan Carlos Perlas, Antique Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs supervising administrative officer, said on Tuesday (Nov. 29, 2022) the sculptures will be installed at the Malandog Esplanade in Hamtic town. (Photo courtesy of Antique Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – The unveiling of the ultra-size statues of the 10 Bornean datus (chieftains) will be the highlight of Antique's month-long Binirayan Festival which is set to open on Thursday.

The festival commemorates the legend of the arrival of the 10 Bornean datus on the island of Aninipay now known as Panay.

"The statues of the 10 Bornean datus will serve as visual representations of the Antiquenos noble race that they could be proud of," said Juan Carlos Perlas, Antique Provincial Tourism Officer, said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The unveiling is set on Dec. 19.

On July 13, the initial five statues of Datus Sumakwel, Bangkaya, Dumalugdog, Lubay, and Puti were initially transported to the Malandog Esplanade in Hamtic town, where the sculptures will be installed.

The provincial government commissioned artist John Alaban to create the sculptors.

The town is still waiting for the arrival of statues of Datus Paiburong, Dumangsil, Balensusa, Paduhinogan, and Dumangsol.

The municipality was chosen to host the giant statues since it is where the chieftains' sailboats were believed to have first landed.

Antique Provincial Board Member Dante Beriong, Binirayan Festival chairman, in the same press conference said that the 10 Bornean datus, who became the first Malay ancestors in the country, established their first settlement in the province during the pre-Hispanic period.

"The 10 Bornean datus left Borneo away from their tyrannical ruler in search for peace and prosperity," Beriong said.

“Although, we lack written evidence about the first Malay settlement but there are oral stories that had been handed down to generations,” Beriong said.

He said there are still family names such as Paduhinog and Bangcaya to support the claim about the arrival of the datus in Antique.

The festival opening on Thursday will have several events including the switching of the Christmas lights at the EBJ Freedom Park, agricultural trade fair and Binirayan Turismo, where the municipalities in the province will put up a tableau to promote their culture and tourism attractions.

The Search for Miss Antique or Lin-ay kang Antique will be on Dec. 20 while the Malay Ati Competition or the tribe contest will be on Dec. 21, which will also be the last day of the provincial festival. (PNA)