Festival of Lights in Loon creates fusion and ethereal effect

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Festival of Lights in Loon creates fusion and ethereal effect

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Jassenie Mangaron is Miss Cebu Normal University 2015. Contributed Photo
Jassenie Mangaron is Miss Cebu Normal University 2015. Contributed Photo

There were little surprises last week that VRS could not help but smile.

Surprise No.  1:  Julmar Joseph Misa and Raclaire Stephan Trigo from the high school department were crowned Mr and Miss University of Bohol Personality 2015. They were also declared Mr and Miss Talent.  Take a bow, Sofila Lafuente Gantalao!

Surprise No. 2: High-ranking officials (HRO)  had witnessed a real life furious “lovers’ quarrel” during a seminar which was held somewhere in the haven. It involved a matured woman (MW) and her young beau (YB). Thinking they were watching #kalyeserye, there was no effort from HRO to quell the fight until the security guard approached them. The LQ ended at the police station. MW told VRS, “I learned my lesson now. Don’t trust a young heart. Sobrang mapusok! Now, I no longer believe in forever!”

Surprise No. 3: Matildi Magali, 56, mother of Pinoy boxer Carlo Magali: “Siyempre nalipay ko pero naguol sa nadangatan sa iyang kontra. Kay kung kita mahitabuan ingana dili sab lalim.”  Carlo, 29, won against Aussie boxer Davey Browne Jr  who died after the fight.

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Surprise No. 4:  Jassenie Mangaron was crowned Miss Cebu Normal University (CNU) 2015.  Jaseenie who hails from Loon town was Miss Bohol 2014 Miss Photogenic. She is a consistent honor student of  CNU taking up Education. She is a dog lover and big fan of the movie ‘Hachiko.”

Well, speaking of Loon, they had a unique festival of lights which was held recently.

Tourists visiting Loon town in the north-west side of Bohol province, can now look forward to witnessing a spectacular sound and light show, the SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights, which is held annually every first week of September in honor of the town’s patron saint, the Virgen de la Luz or Birhen sa Kasilak (Our Lady of Light).

This year’s festival was held for the first time inside the destroyed Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church (Our Lady of Light Church) or commonly known as Loon Church suffered total damage in the aftermath of the October 15, 2013 earthquake. Within the first 36 seconds of the 52-second quake, this national historical landmark and national cultural treasure was turned into rubble and powdery dust.  Three churchgoers were reportedly trapped inside the Church.

As people gathered to witness the festival, emotions poured in as they remembered the old church that stood very firmly in the town’s plaza, said to be Bohol’s biggest Catholic Church.

People witness the SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights in Loon town of Bohol province as participants dance and shine in darkness to create fusion of lights and ethereal effect inside the hallowed ground of the Our Lady of Light Church which turned into rubble and powdery dust during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 13, 2015. Photos by Liza Macalandag
People witness the SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights in Loon town of Bohol province as participants dance and shine in darkness to create fusion of lights and ethereal effect inside the hallowed ground of the Our Lady of Light Church which turned into rubble and powdery dust during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 13, 2015. Photos by Liza Macalandag

“I tend to experience goose bumps upon coming in as I remember a significant. And I think all us felt the same way. For the first time since October 15, 2013, this is my first to step inside the church,” said Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto.  He also said that Boholanos always recall that the structure was what Bohol was so proud of.

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Chatto also said that the festival of lights was a clear manifestation not only of the recovery of Loon from the ashes, not only for the recovery of Bohol for the great catastrophe that happened in the province, but  gathering symbolizes  the strength of the spirit of the Loonanons and the people of Bohol.

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“More strength to move on as we construct our church, as we construct our town and we construct of our lives,” Chatto said.

Started in 2000, the SidlaKasilak is one of its kind in the Philippines because the street-dancing is done at night.  The highlights of the event are the street- dancing presentation and Dance of Lights competition whose contest criteria revolve solely on the lights, choreography of lights such as movement, synchronization, formation and dynamics and quality of lights such as design, color harmony and brightness.

“If you like bright lights and a show, you’ll love this festival. The emphasis is on the lights on how to make it move and dance,” said Reigh Monreal, SidlaKasilak chairman.

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Monreal said that since the competition is held at night and is quite literally a festival of lights. “It will be dark enough to let the light shine through and you will experience light dancing in front of your very eyes,” he said.

The fusion of lights creates more drama and ethereal effect against the darkness of the night.

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Participants came from different schools of Loon. Some barangays (villages) joined the competition before but for the past years it became a competition for schools.

“I am joining this in honor of Our Lady of Light,” said Keisha Figuracion, 11, of Loon Sentral Elem. School, who joined the SidlaKasilak for the first time.  But for Princess Uy,11, she  joined the contest hoping to win the cash prize  for her school, Lintuan Elem. School. “Our school needs a new fence,” she said.

“It also expresses the enduring qualities of the town,” said Loon Mayor Lloyd Peter Lopez. He said the word SidlaKasilak is coined from the Visayan words “sidlak” which means to rise and “kasilak,” which means light. “It best describe the character of Loonanons as they conquer life’s adversities and make the best out of their inherent talents and capabilities,” he said.

SidlaKasilak was inspired by past religious processions in Loon when the faithful would light candles in colorful hand-held lanterns or “parow”, the local version of the “parol”.

During the first few years of the festival, the dancers brought traditional lanterns wrapped in Japanese paper.

“Candles, however, are no match to the wind made even stronger with every sway of the hands that held the lanterns. The Japanese paper, too, could not withstand too much heat nor could it resist the rain,” said Monreal.   He also said that candles were later replaced with permanent yet adjustable lights like flashlights, magic sticks, light-emitting diodes and others. Glazed paper, plastic wrap and cloth have been used instead of Japanese paper.

Last year, the SidlaKasilak was held in a school ground since piles of stones and debris clouded inside the church.   This year, after debris was finally cleared, a small “retablo” was constructed at the exact place where the Our Lady of Light was enthroned.  Searchlights were placed near the retablo to create three vertical columns of light as symbols of Our Lady of Light.

“The distinctive nature of SidlaKasilak is manifested in its being the only evening street dancing event in Bohol,” said Lopez.  He said the competition does not require lavish costumes and props that onlookers do not appreciate in the dark.

Chatto said that Loon’s lights festival is the brightest, so to speak, addition to the ever-growing tourist attractions of Bohol.

Fr. Ruel Tumangday, parish priest of Our Lady of Light, said that the Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church was established in 1753 by the Jesuits, and administered later by the Augustinian Recollects, the parish of the Birhen sa Kasilak constructed what was to become the biggest church in the province, and perhaps in the entire Visayas and Mindanao.

During the Filipino-American War in 1901, the Loon Church served as garrison of American soldiers and, in the Second World War, as refuge of Japanese forces wounded during the Battle of Moalong. Visited by ambassadors of the Holy See and relics of popular saints, this church, more appropriately called the Crowning Glory of Recollect Architecture in Bohol.

“In the ensuing years, this church figured prominently in the annals of Loon’s history outside of its being the main venue for holy masses and other Catholic rites and activities,” said Fr. Tumangday.

Fr. Tumangday also said that the festival was to honor the Virgin Mary.

“ Above all, we honor Mary, Mother of Christ, the Birhen sa Kasilak, who brought into this world the Greatest Light of All – – Jesus Christ who saves us from the agony of darkness in the abyss of sinfulness,” said Fr. Tumangday.

Lopez said that like the phoenix, however, “Loon will rise from these ruins, every good and godly way we can.”

“Collectively, SidlaKasilak expresses the Loonanons’ resilience amid challenges, hardships and suffering, and their ability to shine with their talents, capability and creativity,” said Lopez.

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