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National dance company researches Negrense culture

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Members of the Bayanihan Dance Company with Tourism consultant Ver Pacete and farm workers inside a sugarcane field in Silay City.*

The Bayanihan Dance Company, the country’s longest existing professional performing arts company, in collaboration with the Office of Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, visited several sites in Silay City as part of its continuing research and study of traditional dances, music and culture.

The Bayanihan Dance Company born in 1956, a multi-awarded dance troupe that showcases Filipino folk dance and music to audiences around the world, was declared in 1998, through Republic Act 8626 as the National Folk Dance Company of the Philippines.

Under the umbrella of the Bayanihan Folk Arts Foundation that was established in 1997, the Artistic Team, led by Executive Director Marielle Benitez Javellana were immersed in the indigenous people’s way of life, interacting with the Sibato Bukidnon Tribe in the upland Sitio Sibato, Barangay Guimbalaon in Silay on February 24, with the assistance of the office of Mayor Joedith Gallego and Silay Tourism Officer Gerle Sulmaca.

Sibato Tribe Chieftain Bienvenido Acse expressed his gratitude to Congressman Benitez, the City Government of Silay, and Bayanihan for the collective endeavor in helping to preserve their culture.

The Sibato Bukidnon Tribe traces its origins to the Sulod Bukidnon tribe of Panay. Their ancestors migrated to Negros in 1951 during the boom of the sugar industry.

A folktale tells of an adventurer named Agog and his binukot-wife Iska, who fled to the mountains of what is now Sitio Sibato, following the abduction of Iska by an encargado.

The community showcased their traditional Binanog dance and also their native food, hunting tools, courtship rituals, all part of the Sibato Tribe’s rich and unique culture that Bayanihan intends to bring to a larger audience.

“There has been a lot of learning for the Bayanihan and we hope to bring out your culture and traditions and share it with a bigger audience when Bayanihan gets to perform it,” Javellana said, as she thanked the Sibato Tribe for their hospitality.

In a statement, the office of Rep. Benitez said it will continue to support indigenous communities to help preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Third District of Negros Occidental.

The visit was joined by Silay City Tourism Officer Gerle Sulmaca, Tourism Consultant Ver Pacete, Guimbalaon Punong Barangay Maricar Caldera, and Principal Role Andrada of the Sibato Integrated School.

On Feb. 25, the Bayanihan Team also had a glimpse of life in a sugarcane farm, witnessing karga-tapas in Hacienda Adela, Barangay Lantad and interacting with the Adela community leaders together with Silay Councilor Ryan Gamboa and Tourism Consultant Ver Pacete.

A visit to Balay Negrense, the Hofileña Ancestral House, and Balay Puti provided a view of the opulent and idyllic life during the height of the sugar industry in Negros.

The El Ideal Bakery stop-over introduced Negrense sweets and a visit to the Magikland Theme Park capped the day’s research activity. Joining the Silay City Arts Month Culminating Program, held at the Silay City Civic Center in February 26, where the best local contemporary artistic talents were presented, completed the Silay cultural experience of the Bayanihan.*

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