Discovering the Indigenous Side of Aklan: An Immersion with Aklanon Bukidnon Community in Panipiason, Madalag

By: Ritchel C. Cahilig

During our Aklan to Antique traverse through Mt. Madjaas, we were invited by Tay Herminio and Tay Roming, our guides from Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, to come back to their vibrant community to experience their fiesta called ‘Pistang Kristiyano’ in the coming weeks. Without hesitation, we said 'yes' to them.

True to our words, Richard and I traveled to Madalag on the eve of May 24. We went on our motorbike from Kalibo to the town proper. Initially, we planned to proceed to Panipiason. However, we were advised by the locals not to because the road is treacherous and the weather is bad. It's been raining cats and dogs the whole day. After securely parking our bike at the front of the town's municipal hall, we looked for a habal-habal to rent. It took us sometime to find one because drivers went home early for the bisperas. Luckily, someone volunteered to bring us there despite of the time and terrain condition. What we didn't expect was the experience of a death-defying ride that night. We had to drive over some rough, slippery, and winding terrain. The wheels slipped many times and we even fell down on a swamp only to find out that our driver has never been to Panipiason before. It was his first time!

The program just started when we arrived at the village at around 8:00 in the evening. We immediately looked for the house of Tay Herminio. We urged our habal-habal driver to spend the night with us in Panipiason instead of going back to the town proper because of the real danger on the road. He agreed with us and immediately informed his wife through a phone call that he can't be back home. Later, we bumped into Tay Roming at the plaza. People started to fill the area. After the preliminaries and speeches, the host announced that the most awaited part of the program has came. We focused our attention on the show. We got totally curious when we heard numerous folks saying, "Inagong eon!" and they started to gather closer to the stage. Clueless, we also made our way in front of the crowd. And voila! A unique dance matched with an equally unique sound was being performed. We were suprised to see the familiar faces of the people we met when we hiked Mt. Nausang (Mt. Maylomay) three weeks ago. They were the same people dancing with full of passion, energy, and enthusiasm. Tay Roming was one of them. Glancing at the crowd, we saw the delight in everyone's face. The sound of the gong overpowered the entire venue as it casted its magical spell on spectators who were in awe and struck by the outstanding performances of the local dancers. It was mesmerizing to witness a very rich culture unfolded before our eyes.

Inagong dance is a cultural dance of Aklanon Bukidnon, the indigenous people of Barangay Panipiason and Barangay Medina in Madalag, Aklan. They were able to preserve their colorful cultural traits and local traditions unaffected by the modern influences.The Inagong is usually performed on special festive occasions. It imitates the living creatures around them such as birds, butterflies, and animals like the monkey, they were able to create beautiful dance steps and elegant movements through the sound of a "GONG" and indigenous musical instruments like bamboo. 

The night ended with so much joy and fun in everyone's faces. It was an exhilarating experience for us. That night, we ate and slept at Tay Herminio's house. The next day, May 25, was the fiesta day so everyone was busy when we woke up. Tay Herminio brought us to his relative's house for us to meet Bobong and Recel. Bobong happens to live in a hut up in the Panipiason mountain and his brother, Recel, regularly visits him there to help him with his farm. We stayed a night in his hut during our traverse. They were very accommodating, genuine, and kind. Recel introduced us to his big family and even served us breakfast with coffee. The highlight of that day was when Bobong started to play his guitar and Tay Herminio sing komposo songs. Other members of the family also took turns in playing the guitar and singing their own komposo and harana pieces. I can't help but join them while Richard enjoyed himself taking videos of us. I chuckled and giggled at the sight of them serenading me. The house was filled with laughter and merry-making. We were like a complete family. For me, that was magical.


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