By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur -- Organizers of this year’s Naliyagan Festival are offering a grander celebration with lots of fanfare in the longer eight-day events especially that the province is commemorating its 50th founding anniversary and 25th year of lumad-inspired socio-cultural festivities.
The bigger celebration from June 10-17, however is coupled with extra tight security deploying hundreds of police and Army soldiers that will secure the four-hectare Datu Lipus Makapandong Cultural Center apart from CCTV cameras, K9 dogs and aerial drones that will be installed to thwart any attempts of violence in the wake of the imposition of martial rule in Mindanao.
Provincial board member Santiago Cane, chair of the Naliyagan Festival executive committee, said festival goers will be entertained with new and improved activities to make the celebration more special as a fitting tribute to the province’s golden anniversary and Naliyagan Festival’s silver year.
“This year’s celebration has been extended to eight days from the traditional six-days due to the insistent public demand asking for more exciting and enjoyable events,” Cane said.
He said new highlighted events like the traditional tribal wedding, horse show competition, pintahusay (on-the-spot painting contest, barn dance competition , outstanding Agusanon awards will add more excitement to the previous year’s crowd drawers like the bauto (banca) race, BMX bridge crossing challenge and the Naliyagan tribal street dancing competition.
The trade fair featuring local agricultural products , home-made delicacies and the inauguration of the provincial mini-museum are also significant events to showcase the province’s achievements .
Another come-on of the celebration is the Bai Naliyagan beauty contest which will parade the best bets from the 13 towns and the city of Bayugan to the coveted crown with former Miss Universe 2011 third runner up Shamcey Supsup-Lee hosting the pageant night.
The provincial government will give special treatment to the tribal leaders of the different tribes in the province who will kick off the celebration with the traditional panawagtawag (calling of the gods) ritual. They will be staying throughout the duration of the festival and will be billeted at the capitol’s guest house with VIP accommodation.
Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza will deliver his State-of-the-Province Address on the foundation day of Agusan del Sur on June 17 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall.
Manny Rosaut, president and CEO of Naliyagan Festival Stakeholders Foundation who is running the whole event, said at least 12 famous rock bands from Manila and several other popular show business personalities will perform the nightly concert before the spectacular fireworks display.
Rosaut said all of the performers are newcomers to make it special from the previous Naliyagan festivities. Among those who will perform will be Bamboo, Gloc 9, the Dawn, songstress Imelda Papin, homegrown popular folk singer Bayang Barrios and many others.
Malacanang officials who will grace the festival would be presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol. President Rodrigo Duterte was invited but Cane said he already made a prior commitment to attend the same 50th founding anniversary of neighboring Agusan del Norte province.
Supt. Bonifacio Estrella, overall security supervisor, said they will be very stringent on the entry of festival goers that they will require them to present valid IDs while checkpoints, choke points and plainclothes security personnel will be securing the entire vicinity in 24 hours.
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