Ilocos Norte’s Tan-Ok festival and its stories of greatness

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A LITTLE boy is eager to wear a colorful costume for the first time; a new mother who recently returned as a festival dancer, is dedicating her performance to her daughter; and last year’s best female performer from Badoc hopes to bag the same award for a second consecutive year. They have been preparing their routines, props, and costumes since November, and rehearsing along with 49 other performers for a month.

In November 2011, the province of Ilocos Norte celebrated its first Tan-Ok ni Ilocano (The Greatness of the Ilocano) festival as a way for Ilocanos to take pride in their history, traditions, faith, livelihood, and culture. In 2018, the festival was moved to coincide with the harvest season in February and in line with the bicentennial founding of the province.

The province celebrated the festival’s eight year through a showcase of narrative dances on Feb. 2 at Laoag City.

“It’s really about retracing and celebrating and having an appreciation and understanding for the Ilocano,” provincial tourism officer Ianree B. Raquel told BusinessWorld prior to the festival program.

“We wanted to use this festival to build a place of pride and encourage the young to learn and appreciate more their culture,” Mr. Raquel added.

During the festival, the various contingents were tasked to perform narrative dances about their town or municipality’s history, culture, or local festivals. This year, 22 participating contingents — from one city and 21 towns — showcased their talents at the Ferdinand E. Marcos Memorial Stadium.




The municipality of Nueva Era was awarded as this year’s festival champion with a performance on the life and culture of Tinggian tribe. It also bagged special awards for Best in Production Design, Best Festival Music, and Best in Choreography and Direction. The town took home a trophy and a cash prize of P350,000.

The participants from the city of Badoc, who performed the story their city patron La Virgen Milagrosa, and participants from the city of Batac, who showcased how to prepare the empanada (a savory fried pastry), were named second and third prize winners, respectively.

Other special awards were given to the City of Batac for Best Digital Design; Cedie Cainglit from the municipality of Badoc named was named Best Male performer; while Judilia Pucan from the City of Batac was named Best Female Performer.

FUTURE PLANS
“We’re looking at institutionalizing this festival through local ordinances. Hopefully, we can make a foundation that will support the festival and expand its functions to include cultural education, heritage education, and research. In that way, it becomes long term,” Mr. Raquel said.

“In terms of audience, we really want to focus on good products such as the show that we have, so that it can be it can be as popular as other big festivals [in the country].”

In terms of tourism, the festival is an avenue for guests to experience Ilocano culture.

“In Ilocos Norte, every quarter, we have big events. This is one of them. Aside from viewing a well-designed production, [visitors] learn and experience a lot about Ilocano culture,” he said, adding that the province plans to further enhance the festival activities to include food and tours. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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