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Professors Santamaria and Cañete Examine Igal, Pulilan Carabao Festival in Folk Art Conference in Bangkok

Posted in News @ UP Asian Center

Two professors of the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman, presented their papers at an international conference, “The Folk Performing Arts in ASEAN” held from 4 to 6 September at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, Thailand. 

Professor MCM Santamaria discussed “Reconfiguring Folk Performance in Intercultural Theater: The Igal of the Sama-Bajau in Southern Philippines,” an abstract of which follows: 

“Sintang Dalisay (Pure Love), an intercultural production based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and a Filipino metrical romance written in 1901 by anonymous poet G.D. Roke, deployed the igal, a dance tradition of the Sama-Bajau, a Muslim community in Southern Philippines as its movement motif. The use of this motif dictated other production elements as well, chiefly in the kind of music to be used, in the decision to relocated the play in a Muslim community, in the design of costumes, and in the change of character names to more local appellations. Aware of critical discourses in the conduct of intercultural theatre, the production veered away from notions of hegemonic appropriation of a folk form in the staging of classical Western drama and employed a more collaborative approach consistent with the notion of the new interculturalism. Local dance masters and musicians were invited to teach the dance to actors and were asked to verify if the reconfiguring of the dance for theatrical purposes was consistent with community traditions; they were also encouraged to suggest stage actions that were aligned to local expectations. The result of this collaborative effort, laudable to many audiences, local and international, and including Muslim audiences, also met with resistance from several fronts. This paper assesses the reception of the work, and finds that intercultural theater works, though cosmopolitan in practice, must still contend with other issues of cultural and political representation.”

Professor Reuben Ramas Cañete, Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman, presented a paper “Performing Faith, Celebrating Plenty, Conserving Tradition: The Case of the Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan, Philippines.” Below is the abstract of his paper:

“A beast of burden in traditional wet-rice cultivation, the Philippine water buffalo, called carabao, is at the center of Catholic religious festivities in the agricultural society of Pulilan, 42 kilometers north of Manila. Dedicated to the Spanish saint San Isidro Labrador, the Carabao Festival is a premodern-origin harvest festival that focuses on the thanksgiving if farmers for a year’s agricultural produce. Paraded through the center of the town, the farmers and their carabaos celebrate the fertility of the land via various buntings and décor, and perform religious rituals through the rehearsed act of genuflecting in front of the church. Instrumentalized by the Philippine state through the Department of Tourism (DOT) as a tourism event, the Pulilan Carabao Festival now draws tens of thousands of local and foreign tourists during its performance on May 14, as well as its more traditional public of farmer-devotees. Changes to agriculture and the local economy have impacted upon this festival and its performance practices, and has resulted in conflicts over the introduction of modern traditional customs and ritual objects. This paper looks at the Pulilan Carabao Festival as a manifestation of folk performance in constructing and maintain the identities of its participants as farmers and Catholic devotees; while simultaneously problematizing the representation of folk performance through the display and execution of performance and “staging” objects, as enunciated by practitioners and local cultural preservationists, all of which occurs under the glare of global tourism, and the modern instrumentation of mechanized farming and suburban real estate development that threatens to permanently alter the objects, culture and belief system of the Carabao festival’s public.”

The conference was organized as part of “The Celebrations on the Auspicious Occasion of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary 2nd April 2015. “ the conference aimed to “create a platform on which the local people in this region (ASEAN) can demonstrate their own identity through folk performance.” Learn more about the conference.

Professor MCM Santamaria is a graduate of Doctor of Law in Political Science at the Kyoto University in Japan where he also completed his Master of Law in Political Science. Professor Santamaria is one of the Philippines most prominent scholars on Philippine and Asian dance. His research interests include Performance Studies, Politics, Japan and Southeast Asia, and Sama-Bajau studies. He also teaches several graduate courses at the UP Asian Center including Japanese Culture and Society, Philippine Artistic Expressions, Southeast Asian Culture and Society, and Theater and Society in East Asia, among others. View his faculty profile.

Professor Reuben Ramas Cañete has a Ph.D. in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He specializes in Museum Studies, Visual Anthropology, Cultural Policy, Political Aesthetics, Intercultural Studies, and Contemporary Asian and Diasporic Cultures. Professor Cañete also handles several graduate courses at the UP Asian Center including Philippine Language and Culture, Aesthetic and Art Theories in Ancient and Modern Cultures, Collections Management, and Filipino Intercultural Encounters, among others. View his faculty profile.

Both Professors Santamaria and Cañete are UP Artists. 


The Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. For an overview of these graduate programs, click here. The Asian Center also publishes Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia, the latest issue of which can be downloaded at the journal's website. View recent and upcoming Lectures & Conferences and read other News & Announcements. Join our mailing list to receive invitations to lectures, conferences, etc.   

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