Tales from the Aliwan Fiesta

The plan was to meet at the Quirino Grandstand at 1pm to take portrait shots of the contingents. I have been sleeping in for the past couple of days, and when Saturday finally rolled in, I found myself still awake at 8:00 am. Hearing the household showly waking up, I got out of bed and joined my sister and her kids at the table for breakfast.

Aliwan Fiesta 2008 16
Flying high

After an hour, I resumed my attempts in getting some sleep. I finally did doze off — at 10:30 am. My alarm went off at 11:30. Stumbling out of bed, I went to the bathroom to wake myself fully with a cold, refreshing shower. Of course, a cold shower during summer in the Philippines can only do so much. A couple of minutes out in the sun waiting for a jeep, fx or a cab had me sweating.

Aliwan Fiesta 2008 19
These boots are made for dancing

I barely made it in time for our 1:00 pm meet. Eric was already at Quirino, taking pictures. We meet up at the food stalls across the Manila Ocean park entrance. After downing a glass of cold mango shakes, we headed off to take pictures before it got too dark.

Aliwan Fiesta 2008 17
Laoag’s prize winning float

We first went to the area where the floats are parked. You can really see the effort each contingent poured into their entry. Both the dancer’s costumes and the floats have been given a lot of attention, and were fine tuned to the last detail. After all, there was a Php500,000 prize for the best float.

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All smiles

Afterwards, we went out to the field where the dancers are assembled and waiting for the cue to start the parade to the Aliw Theatre. I overheard one dancer telling Eric that they put on their make ups as early as 10:00 am. That meant they were probably changing into their costumes at 9:00 am, and up at 7:00 am. They have been up for close to 8 hours at that point, yet you can still feel the energy emanating from them (and from the pile of empty energy drink bottles in the middle of the field).

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Waiting for the go signal inside one of the floats

They all look so young. There were kids as young as 8 or 9 years old, high school teens and probably some in their early 20’s. They were all dedicated to their craft, and you can just see how much they love their province and their heritage.

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You can clearly see the passion in their eyes, the pride in their hearts and the braces on their teeth

After shooting for close to two hours, Eric and I had a quick bathroom break, then we each bought a can of cold soda. Laguidly walking back to the area where the contingents are lined up, we were stopped by a barricade guarded by a bunch of burly men. We have to be authorized to enter the area, they said. We didn’t really mind; we had our pictures. Just as we were discussing whether to make our way to the Aliw Theater, where the performances will be, huge drops of rain started falling from the sky. Our decision was made: we’re riding a taxi to the CCP complex.

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Dahil saging lang ang may puso

Luckily, a cab just drove into the Quirino Grandstand, dropping off its passenger. We quickly got in, and told the driver to take us to Aliw Theatre. It started pouring in earnest, and we wondered what happened to the gorgeous floats and to the make up and body paints meticulously painted on each dancer.

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Another smile for another photographer

Understandably, the parade was delayed. To while away our time, we paid a Php 60 entrance fee to go inside Star City. A lot of people were there, waiting for the rain to let up, so all the restaurants facing the performance area was packed. We passed the time having heavy merienda and buying snacks, knowing that once we took at place at the press box, there would be no going out.

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With Sto. Niño, their patron saint

The rain finally let up around 6:00 pm. We eagerly went out and saw that several hundred other people had the same idea. The rain was definitely not in their agenda, and the organizers were doing all they can to drain the puddles (or mini rivers) that formed thanks to the sudden downpour. As the water slowly receeded, the rain started up again several times, though not as hard as it did earlier.

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Piyesta ng mga Photographers

Soaked with sweat and rain, feet squishing inside wet shoes, exhausted due to lack of sleep and tired from standing up for more than an hour, I was elated when the announcer said the first contingent were already in Vito Cruz. Finally at 8:00 pm, the program started.

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They never tire of smiling

It was amazing to see the groups perform. After hours spent baking in the sun, getting drenched by the rain, parading from Rizal Park to the CCP complex, they still have the energy to dance so beautifully during their performance. There aren’t any traces of fatigue in their eyes, only their dazzling smiles as they go through each step.

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Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to revive me. I mustered up the energy to watch four groups, but gave up afterwards. I wanted to at least watch up to contingent number 9, but I really couldn’t take it anymore. Stumbling from the pressbox and squeezing through the crowds, the only exit I found required one to go under the bleachers and stepping through a rather high rail. What an experience! Can’t wait for next year :D

RELATED:   Mermaids at the Manila Ocean Park

Bonus picture: Bloggers Da Who!

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Da Who itong blogger na na-ispotan namin sa Aliwan Fiesta na nag papapicture kasama ang isang hybrid na zebra/baka?

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 20 Comments
  1. Baklang AJ says:

    hindi naman si Eric yang dawho mo no? Lolz.

  2. nina says:

    Benj: Actually most of the dancers there had braces or retainers. Para siguro in the coming years perfect na talaga ang smiles nila lol

    AJ: Haha, not unless he shaved his head while i wasn’t looking and grew his hair again in 30 seconds XD

  3. Ferdz says:

    Amazing portraits and pictures! Ganda talaga ng mga kulay sa festivals. Sayang bigla akong tinamad ng umula at nahila kaming manood ng ironman. Hahaha

    I think the last guy is Abe. I saw his Aliwan shots in his blog.

  4. Fritz says:

    Naguluhan ako sa da who mong tanong kung which is which. :D

  5. eric says:

    the pride in their hearts and the braces on their teeth — NATAWA AKO DITO!!!

  6. nina says:

    Ferdz: Coming from you, that’s a huge compliment, thanks! :D Katakot takot na pag-crop ang ginawa ko dyan sa mga photos na yan. Nasanay na kasi akong nag picture ng mga 4″ dolls XD And you win! Si Abe nga yan :D

    Fritz: Ano daw? Naguluhan ako ha XD

    Eric: Di ba? Winner ang braces nila lol

  7. boracay says:

    wow, very colorful and nice angle shots. It seems like you can almost see the festivals in person.

  8. Such happy smiles! Beautiful photos!

  9. tahn says:

    Love the pictures. Shows the beauty of the Philippines. :)

    Care to exchange links? :)

  10. nina says:

    Photowalker: Thanks!

    Boracay: Salamat! I actually wasn’t satisfied with the photos straight from the cam. What a wonder a little cropping can do XD

    David: Thanks! I’ve always find it hard to photograph people, specially people I don’t know personally. So I’m pretty satisfied I was able to capture some good ones :D

    Tahn: I’m happy I was able to be a part of this festival, even with my non-stop stream of complaints. It’s great that they’ve organized this in Manila, so we Manileños would be able to witness the festivals without having to leave Manila. Thanks for the compliments!

  11. Tiffy says:

    I love your shots. Super ganda talaga. Esp liked the 1st and 2nd shot!

  12. Chell says:

    Nice shots! great blog!

  13. Chell says:

    Btw, I came over (from GTbloggers) to join your contest, but found it was over already, ahehehe. What a freeloader! :)

    It was worth my while

  14. nina says:

    Thanks Tiffy and Chell :)

  15. freeze says:

    ang cute ng pony! ;) nice pics!

  16. […] took Miiko and Athena with me to the Aliwan Fiesta, held last May 3 at the Quirino Grandstand and the Aliw Theater. It was sweltering hot during the […]

  17. kris says:

    nice shots! sana kinunan mo ng mrmi ang tribung halad ng cotabato…gusto ko ang customes nila..very colorful!!

  18. Christine says:

    Ms. Nina Fuentes, this is Christine de Asis. I am the senior contributing editor of the Makati Science Vision, a campus newspaper of Makati Science High School. We will feature the Aliwan Fiesta 2008 and I was asked to gather data and information. I would like to request an interview with you and if possible some of your colleague who covered or witnessed the event.If you happen to know someone who participated, judged or witnessed the said event and could forward to us contact information of such people, it would be greatly appreciated. Please contact me in my e-mail address if you agree to the interview, so that we may be able to set a date and time that would be most comfortable in your line of work. Please consider our proposal. Having an interview with you ma’am would be a very great help! Thank you very much!

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