By Pet S. Melliza
Four persons, including a police officer, died; four others were injured in a shootout in Jaro district, Iloilo City during the “bikini open”, an activity lined-up in its annual fiesta celebration.
That’s not an isolated case in the country where fiestas are celebrated in the name of angels and saints, god almighty even, but end up in lives lost or hearts broken.
That is expected when the supposed religious event is mixed up with bacchanalia and social titillation.
That happens, too, during the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City where the spirits of the heavens and of the bottles mix up, where the spiritual realm is foisted to license street consumption of booze that turns downtown Iloilo City into a single biggest latrine for a week.
Organizers of fiesta events, given the benefit of doubt that they promote art and culture, also hold “food fairs” to showcase a locale’s culinary excellence. However, like the fiesta to which they are tune-up events, food fairs feature the ordinary and banal – pork and factory chicken BBQ, unhealthy food which can be prepared with eyes closed and sold to the top purveyors of Ilonggo culture, the beer guzzlers.
Food fair is synonymous to cholesterol and alcohol.
We are not trying to be “kill joy” and neither do we propose the scrapping of food fair and bikini open (the latter is done by organized troupes hopping from one barangay fiesta to the next, exhibiting on the ramp similar casts of young girls in two-piece swim gear to attract beer drinking inside a perimeter that lets in anybody to include minors so long as they pay the entrance fee).
Instead, why don’t we put more stress on trade fairs where the stars are the community’s most intelligent and diligent farmer-entrepreneurs exhibiting the best of their produce and craft. Instead of exposing young girls’ torsos, we can have women to show their best handicrafts.
We miss that. Instead of exhibiting Iloilo’s best and biggest mangoes, bananas, ube, bangus, pantat, tilapia, cattle, goat, hog, poultry, pets and what-not, we rather treat trade fairs as exclusive for ornamental plants and cut-flowers as what happened at the Semana sg Iloilo.
Iloilo has craftspeople and entrepreneurs like those who pioneer in solar energy, our province has inventors who fabricate one of the Philippines’ best and cheapest hand tractors, “turtle power” tillers, threshers and windmills, but this sector is often left out in trade fairs as in the recent Semana sg Iloilo last April which purveyed the impression that bougainvilleas were more urgent.
That tendency of trying to be culturally cute also afflicts the upcoming event dubbed by Iloilo City mayor Jedd Patrick Mabilog “international river summit”.
Iloilo City has been awarded by an innocuous overseas organization for being one of the “most livable communities” for an imaginary achievement that it has cleaned up the Iloilo River.
Mabilog and company are now sprucing up the Iloilo River for the summit, a program that began with a P76 million grant in 2011 to construct an “esplanade” and P300 million to relocate informal settlers from river banks to a “model” relocation site replete with access roads, electrical and water facilities.
What we see so far are only the works for the esplanade and the P10,000 compensation to each family whose bamboo fish traps were uprooted. We have yet to see the much touted relocation site.
We do not see a clean river; what we have are still the more than 300 establishments, let alone residential homes, spewing untreated solid and liquid wastes into the river which, actually, is an arm of the sea.
We see a river destined to be a tourism hub, thus, straying from its historic past as heart of the city, ex-home to fleets of fishing, cargo and passenger ships, ex-hub of commerce and industry that were shown by rows of warehouses, ship building and dry dock facilities, automobile and tire assembly plants, and canneries that made Iloilo City deserving of its ex-title “Queen of the South”.
The last faded away in 2011 from government’s “touristic” fantasia. The last fishing fleet, bodega and ice plant disappeared from the new edition of bikini open. The fishing fleet owner moved it to Roxas City in disgust.