Lumad Basakanon’s story of devotion, perseverance

Rona Joyce T. Fernandez

AS AN established veteran of the Sinulog ritual showdown, the Lumad Basakanon is known for its finesse, precision, charm and fluidity.

But more than the sharpness and caliber of a top performer, it is the passion and tight bond among its members that have paved the way for the team from Barangay Basak San Nicolas, Cebu City to become a lead cultural contender.

While they may have come a long way, contingent head Barangay Captain Norman Navarro said they remain as humble as the day they were proclaimed the first Sinulog barangay division champion in 1990.

“I always tell our team to keep their feet on the ground. We will all perish, but the feast of Señor Sto. Niño will live on. If we don’t keep humility in our hearts, then there will be no legacy for Lumad,” Navarro told SunStar Cebu.

Navarro and his brother, Lumad Basakanon choreographer Dennis, have been with the team since it first joined the Sinulog.

The village chief recalled how they started with only basic moves and the simplest costumes made with tulle and alpha gina cloth sold at P6 per meter three decades ago.

The festival, which had its first parade in 1980, was fairly young at that time.

Contingents then only consisted of schools before it was opened to barangays so that the festival could gain more participants and grow.

“It was the first Sinulog barangay division, but we won as champion. Our first cash prize was only P10,000. Today, prizes are at least P1 million. Our moves and costumes may have evolved, but our faith and devotion remain,” Navarro said.

After clinching their first feat, then barangay captain George Rama did not have plans to defend their title.

But it was the eagerness of the village to participate that propelled the group into the Lumad Basakanon that it is today.

Since it was formed, the group has witnessed three generations of dancers.

Among those that have spent their youth with their “second” family is Lumad Basakanon festival queen Maria Rose Jane

Arreza. It was the beat of the drums that encouraged the then 16-year-old Arreza to join the team in 1998.

Twenty-two years later, Arreza is still with the team while balancing a family life and career as a junior high school teacher.

Arreza has carried the image of the Holy Child Jesus as festival queen for 17 years.

Navarro said the biggest obstacle they always have to hurdle is budgetary constraints since they rely only on barangay funds.

But the years of earning a name in the cultural scene have led to countless invitations and gigs for Lumad Basakanon, giving them the opportunity to earn and save up for their next Sinulog stage.

“Costumes are our priority. We never go for large-scale production filled with props. I believe that the story is delivered better when the choreography and costume are in sync,” Navarro said.

This direction had led to Lumad Basakanon clinching the best in costume awards in countless Sinulog ritual showdowns.

The Sinulog festivities are held every January, but planning for Lumad Basakanon starts as early as June.

From the seamstress to the support team, the entire village contributes to the pride brought by Lumad Basakanon.

Lumad Basakanon has not only swept the Sinulog stage in numerous ritual showdowns, it also holds a Hall of Fame title in the Aliwan Festival for bagging three consecutive wins from 2006 to 2008.

In 2017, Lumad Basakanon gained international recognition after it placed third out of 200 teams in the World Wonju Dynamic Dance Festival in Wonju, South Korea.

The group was the only contingent to compete from the Philippines, and was the only foreign delegation to land a spot in the top 3.

Its most recent feat was reaping all the awards at the Sinulog Tribu sa Kabataan last Jan. 12.

As they vie for another win in the free interpretation category of the Sinulog grand parade Sunday, Navarro said the pressure will remain.