Festivals of Loboc are centered on Christian devotions or practices highlighted by music and dance which has become an intricate way of life of the people. The Lobocanons express their religiosity and spirituality through dance and music, which to them is a form of prayer or an offering to glorify the Almighty Father and His Saints. To them religion and music is two inseparable elements in their worship, both for self-expression and a lifetime search for salvation. It is not an individual undertaking but communal which found expression in Loboc through the Loboc Children’s Choir, the Adult choir, rondallas, music bands and a brass symphonic ensemble.
There are many feast days under the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church yet the major fiestas in Loboc are held on June 29, to honor its patron saint, St. Peter the Apostle, and on May 24, in dedication to Loboc’s beloved second patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The feasts of the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas) and of his death (Holy Week) are likewise big events in Loboc as well as that of the feast of St. Francis Xavier on December 3. The following are the festivals and feast dates celebrated by the Lobocanons based on the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.
Hugos which literally means “to hang” is the re-enactment of the meeting of Mary and Jesus at the dawn of Easter Sunday and the coming down of the Angel Gabriel to give the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. This practice is observed not only in Loboc but by all Boholanos with much reverence and adoration. From different starting points, all the women (led by the image of the Blessed Virgin) and all the men (led by the image of the Risen Christ) met at a designated place which is a raised open dais where small children garbed in an angel’s garment gathers. An angel who can sing is hanged by the waist and is lowered down while singing the Regina Coeli followed by the antiphonal singing between the other angels and the congregation present. A Latin psalm, the Una Sabatorum, is usually sung by two angels during the event. Holy Mass follows. In Bohol, a stone arc at the front of the church can be seen in all old churches with an opening in the center where the angel is lowered.
Flores de Mayo or the feast of the Flowers of May is another month-long feast observed by all Catholic faithful in Bohol. This practice is participated in by all. Every day, during the month of May, people throng to the church to offer novena prayers and flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Loboc, the celebration is made poignant by the singing of different Marian songs, not only by the “cantoras” but by all the people present. After the novena, the offering of flowers follows together with the procession of the different images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The priest, lay ministers down to the smallest child offer Mama Mary fresh flowers from their own gardens and put it in a basket placed near the altar. Children garbed in angel’s garment then toss and shower the image of the Virgin Mary with petals.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the second patron of Loboc, falls on May 24. Much loved and honoured by its constituents, a one-day celebration is considered not enough to show their devotion to the mother of our Lord. Nightly activities are held way back on the 15th of May sponsored by the different religious and civic organizations of the town to add gaiety to the solemn 9-days consecutive Novena Masses held prior to her feast day. Gozos or Praises which is after the novena are sung either in Spanish or Visayan. The Mass follows right after. The Sambat and the Bolibongkingking Festivals are activities that are part and parcel of the whole affair.
The Sambat refers to the fluvial parade done in the river of Loboc in honor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. The event is usually held at the eve of the feast where a big “balsa” or a big floating restaurant plays host to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe accompanied by the parish priest and other important figures of the church and government dignitaries. This “balsa” leads the fluvial parade followed by the other smaller boats which serve as the retinue of Our Lady. All boats, especially the main boat, are lavishly decorated with costs reaching the whopping price of a hundred thousand pesos which the sponsors gladly undertake due to their great love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The event culminates with fireworks and more music making.
Bolibongkingking Festival is an annual cultural community pageant where the different villages or barangays of Loboc compete in a dance drama rendition of the cultural history, folklore, and traditions of the Lobocanons. For three days, beginning from the day of the fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a ritual devotion of dance and music is executed to commemorate the miraculous healing of the people during a cholera outbreak which was attributed to her intercession. During the festival, the following indigenous instruments are used: the guimbao, the drum and the agong, the gong. The name Bolibong-Kingking was derived from the sound of the instruments: the sound of the drum (bolibong) and the sound of the gong (kingking).
Dancing to the beat of these instruments is believed to be a healing ritual wherein the faithful sway their bodies, especially the aching parts, in front of the image of the Blessed Virgin. Others participate in thanksgiving for previous petitions that were granted thru the Virgin’s intercession. Often you will see old women with handkerchiefs held aloft, mothers with infants, men waving their arms and teenagers dancing with gusto. Others feel inhibited, especially the first timers, but in the long run become the best dancers, carried away by the mesmerizing rhythm and beat of the music.
Feast of St. Peter the Apostle, Loboc’s main patron saint, is likewise celebrated with gusto and much fanfare. The 9-day novena Masses are a mainstay added by the nightly presentations which involve music and dancing. A sambat or fluvial parade is also held with preparations including the decorations done as lavishly as that of the Blessed Virgin.
The “altares” is performed during the feast of St. Peter during which the monstrance with the Holy Host is displayed in makeshift altars. The “altares” are carried out just before the Pontifical Mass wherein four small altars are set up outside the four doors of the church with the image of St. Peter, accompanied or not with the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Verses, oremus and hymns are then chanted by the “cantoras” together with the congregation accompanied by an orchestra and the brass band.
The “fiesta ni San Pedro” as called by the local folks, comes with sumptuous preparations compared to the simpler feast of the Blessed Virgin which centers more on the spirituality of the affair. Here the fattened cows, pigs, whatever, are butchered and elegantly prepared for expected guests such as friends and relatives from other towns who come to attend the church ceremonies then partake of the food offered. As all fiestas are in Bohol, almost all of the Lobocanons prepare a feast (some even going into debt just to enable them to prepare one) and everybody is welcome to partake of the food and drinks, that is, until supply lasts.
Feast of St. Francis Xavier is celebrated every 3rd day of December. The saint is Loboc’s adopted secondary patron saint who serves as the protector of the people from flood and alligators. The river of Loboc is said to overflow its banks every 8 to 9 years as based on historical facts. It overflowed on November 26, 1876 – the first flood that inflicted so much destruction to properties and human lives. It flooded in 1847, on November 21, 1955 and November 19-20, 1964. Believing St. Francis to be the patron saint of floods, the people invoke his aid so that the flooding would stop. Aside from the novena masses, a fluvial parade is done on the Loboc River in his honor.
Christmas is a joyous occasion for young and old alike and is the central focus of all Christian celebrations in Loboc. During the 9-day novena, the “Misa de Gallo” or dawn masses are celebrated with a Pontifical Mass where the cantoras and cantores sing Latin songs usually accompanied with an organ. “Misa Pastorela”, a Latin Mass, is celebrated on the vesper of Christmas and is sung with the accompaniment of the band and the orchestra. Spanish songs are also performed to a large extent during this occasion. These are Villancicos (Spanish songs) like En Belen, Id a Belen, Alegres, Vamos Pastorcillos (in 2 voices) and Vamos Pastorcitos and the gozo of the dawn mass "Bendito Sea El Niño Que Dios."
The “Calenda” follows, which is a musical tradition wherein the “Januarii Octavo Calenda” is sung entirely in the plainsong tradition of the Visayan language by a male teenager. The ritual is a “rite of passage” of this teenager to be accepted formally as a member of the Loboc Band. The song relates of the history of the world, from creation to the coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve. This song has been handed down from generation to generation; believed to begin around the 1870’s and continuously performed. The Loboc Band was established sometime in 1871.
Suroy sa Musikero is a Loboc tradition of caroling wherein the Loboc Band accompanied with the cantoras, cantores and tiples, “suroy” or go around to the different houses which were already permanently assigned in the different barangays of the town. The group performs and sings a mixture of Spanish, Latin and Visayan songs, not limited to Christmas songs, but also any song that the host may request from them.
Songs may include the Hay Que Celebrar if someone is celebrating his or her birthday on that date and even the Liberame, which is a requiem or a song for the dead which the host may request as a form of prayer for a departed loved one. If a statue of the Blessed Virgin is inside the house and the host wants to honor it with a song, the Salve Regina of Echegoyen or Prado is sung; and if the Señor is on the altar, the Sagaliejos is rendered.
Before all else, the Toquina is played before the altar of the host’s house upon entering it; the Que Bibo de Amor before the group partake of any of the food on the table; and the OIC, a farewell song before the band leaves the house. The Coradang, a courtship dance while accompanied by the band is also performed while in the house for additional entertainment.
After the band plays the OIC, the tiples (or children studying solfeggio and music under the band members) and who serve as their assistants in this event, performs the “Pastores” which is a play portraying the nativity wherein they then solicit money from the owner of the house.
Owners of the houses where the musicians are to perform are to prepare food good for the members of the band as well as visitors from other towns that graces the event. This is an expensive practice since, aside from the food and drinks to prepare; the host has to give monetary gifts to the musicians as well.
The “suroy” starts in the morning of December 25 and goes on until February 2, a total of 40 days. Band members take a leave from their work and concentrate all time and talent on this musical activity. Who would not want to be a part of this revelry when for forty straight days one is feasting and given monetary reward besides?
In addition to all these big-time activities, all barangay chapels in Loboc celebrate their own feast days. Some celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, the wedding of Mary and Joseph called the Disposorio, the feast of the Virgen de Patrocinio, the feasts of San Vicente and San Roque, and the feast of the Inahan sa Kanunayng Panabang. During these affairs, the gozos or praises are sung in Spanish. During the feast of the Santo Niño every 2nd week of January, a fluvial parade is held aside from the novena masses. And yet the Lobocanons are not satiated with all these activities. Every Saturday, after the 6pm mass, they practice the singing of the Salve Regina and of Joseph Fili David.
The Loboc Cantorales: A Link to a Continuing Hispanic Musical Tradition
by: Ma. Alexandra Iñigo Chua, Centre for Intercultural Studies/Conservatory of Music, University of Santo Tomas; www.lobocboholtourism.com