By By Ramonfelipe A. Sarmiento
Pantomina Catanduanes
posted 17-Apr-2010  ·  
11,413 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Part 1

1.1 Background of the Study

The Bicol Region is home to the Pantomina, a dance widely popular in every town of Catanduanes. Pantomina is Spanish for pantomime, movements imitating the courtship movements of the rooster and the hen. Pantomina Catanduanes shows the ardent pursuit of a lover of his beloved. According to Mr. Ramon Obusan, director-choreographer of the world-famous Obusan Folkloric Group, Pantomina Catanduanes is the best Pantomina version he has witnessed so far in the Bicol region.

A folkdance is a rhythmic body movement made up of steps that are repeated to form a pattern of routines. These are performed as part of ceremonies, rituals or merrymaking and have become part of the activities in the community. There are no known specific choreographers. The folks just learn them as they grow up and dance them on specific occasions. Then the dance is passed on from generation to the next.

Online Encyclopedia (2000) mentions two kinds of dances – folkdance as a part of community activities and folkdance for recreation or entertainment. A dance is a body movement in time with a rhythm or music. Organisms use it as a form of nonverbal communication used for many purposes (Online Encyclopedia, 2000).

As culture is life and dance is part of culture, it is expected to grow and evolve with time. In the process of evolution, we hope that the new shoots will emanate from the ancient roots to be assured that these new growths (changes) stay rooted to the past and retain its cultural essence.

We hope to keep alive for the future generations this ancient root.


.2 Research Framework, Aims and Objectives

The main objective of this research is to establish Pantomina Catanduanes as a dance for our own benefit and for the benefit of our nation as a whole. We want to make a concrete evidence of our contribution on the richness of our culture through this documentary. At the same time, we want to keep track of its evolution as a dance while trying to preserve and promote the dance for the future generations.

Through time, we have seen how this dance is slowly being relegated to the sidelines. People no longer feel honored to be asked to perform it. As a result, even the old folks have forgotten the movements. We need to know why.

Specifically, this study aims to find the answers to the following questions: (1) What is Pantomina Catanduanes? (2) What characteristics set Pantomina Catanduanes apart from other versions? (3) What role does it play in the community? (4) How does it evolve?

1.3 Methods

In order to establish the dance and ensure its continuity as an art form and a cultural expression, it needs to be documented. In this particular study, the following methods were used to document the dance – taking pictures, videotaping performances, dance notation, and as participant-observer. In order to confirm information, triangulation was employed using interview.

Way back in the 1970s, during the inauguration of the Virac Public Market which coincided with the Bicol Meet held in the island, I had the chance to watch other Bicolanos dance the Pantomina. Beyond the grace and terpsichorean talents of the dancers, there wasn’t much in the interpretations of the paso, binanog, and engaño apart from what are already written in the book by F. R. Aquino (1926).

The study was started in 1998 during the first Catandungan Festival titled Padadyao sa Tinampo (showing off our best on the streets) which featured Pantomina Catanduanes. Movements of different municipalities were observed as they showed off their best in front of the judges seated outside under the canopied entrance of the main capitol building. Donned in their antique styles of dressing, each town tried to outdo each other with unique interpretations of the paso, binanog, kuyas, sigay and bukod. The first two terms are commonly used. The last three terms are names given by the researchers based on their movements.

The formal interview and readings were started, however, as a project of my daughter Amie Monica for her Social Science class at UPLB under Miss Asuncion. The research spanned ten years but more recent insights make up most of the research results as the study became more and more serious. What started as a documentary became a full blown search for what the dance really is as some people started to question the veracity of the claim of originality of this dance.

One source is Ramon Obusan himself who said that he has seen many versions from all over the Bicol Region. We took as a proof his intention to translate the dance into a staged version for the international repertoire of his company, the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Dance Troupe, as a proof.

Pantomina Catanduanes was brought to Orgulyong Bicol at Makati and to the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga. Operating on a meager budget, the performers wore a very simple white native kimona made of transparent organdy material bought from the Chinese traders and danced to the music that came from a small tape recorder energized with 6 batteries. It was supposed to be tearful set against the blaring sound system mounted on a small pick up truck for the other provinces. However, cheered on along the way by onlookers, the performers danced with flare and passion even when they could no longer hear the music. We had to change the batteries three times.

The main sources, however, are the town people themselves, the performers of this dance as observed by the researcher from childhood to the present. Informal interviews of other people confirmed the observations. Dancers of performing groups – public officials, old folks, teachers, students – were interviewed. An analysis of their direct discourse shows their concept of what Pantomina is and the performances they consider as model of how the dance should be.

In 2004, when the CCHI (Center for Catandungan Heritage, Inc.) was organized, the dance notation was written, the rhythms experimented with to come up with a street and stage performance of Pantomina Catanduanes for WOW Philippines at Intramuros, Manila. We grabbed it as a chance to show off the best of who and what we are (this typhoon-beaten island) through the show aptly titled Sarimagyo. The show was a great success based on the reactions of the crowd and the owners of the stalls who claimed that ours was the most applauded and well attended show.

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