Alongside celebrations of Bohol’s Sandugo Festival and its 156th founding anniversary, the province has another reason to celebrate: its recognition as the ASEAN Culture Capital for the month of July. Bohol is the fifth province to be granted this recognition, succeeding Batangas, Capiz, Isabela, and Pampanga.
The community and various stakeholders gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion held last July 22 at the Bohol Cultural Center in Tagbilaran City.
UNESCO commissioner Cecile Guidote Alvarez remarks that this is a significant celebration for all Boholanos since it recognizes and appreciates Bohol’s wealth and bio-cultural diversity. The province has existing efforts to preserve its historical and cultural treasures, and commits to nourish the artistic talents of its people, at the same time linking the national community to the rest of the world.
Its declaration as the 5th ASEAN Culture Capital is in line with the celebration of the Philippines being the first ASEAN Culture Capital for the years 2010 and 2011. “This is a unique opportunity to harvest and showcase the diverse wealth of our country.” Alvarez says.
As a representation of this declaration, the ASEAN flag was turned over to the province of Bohol from the province of Batangas. A ceremonial handing of the key of the province of Bohol was also held as a representation of opened doors of the province for the rest of ASEAN region to see and visit. This key was symbolically handed over to Dr. Hubert Gizjen, UNESCO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
According to Gizjen, “We hope to use this key to unlock the wealth of cultural and natural heritage of Bohol and show it to the rest of the world!”
The celebration also marked the regional launch of the international celebration of the Dia del Galleon, the commemoration of the impact of the Galleon trade in our country, which stirred globalization, thus our intercultural link with the riches and influences of our neighboring continents such as in Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
“I am particularly pleased that the Philippine proposal of the commemoration of the Galleon trade was unanimously approved during the 35th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris last year. The Manila-Acapulco Galleons served not only as carriers of trade but as transmitters of culture. In this regard, we would like to encourage and support all initiatives to be taken at the regional, national, and international levels”
Also present in the celebration of the 156th Bohol Foundation Day were Vietnam Embassy Representative Tran Tong Doan and Department of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim.
Launching of Teatro Abatan
The day’s celebration also became an opportunity to launch the Teatro Abatan, the concept of which was borne out of the possibility to use an area near the Abatan Cruise Pavilion in Cortes as a creative space for performances done by cultural collectives from the municipalities of Balilihan, Cortes, Antequera, Maribojoc, and Catigbian. These five municipalities linked by the Abatan River.
Teatro Abatan is conceptualized to become an open-air theatre on the river at the Cortes Pavilion where the staging area is on the river and the audience is located at the docking area up to the main pavilion stage. This will be the theater home base of the Abatan River Cultural Groups and Collectives performing for the Abatan Community Life Tour, thus a venue for bringing artists and their performances together at one space. The performances and presentations that can be viewed here will range from drama, dance, concert, film showings, concerts, rituals, spectacles, and ceremonies.
Its launching marked the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement that recognizes the cooperation of various stakeholders, and the commitment to continuously nurture the Abatan River Program and the implementation of its projects. This is an MOA among the provincial government of Bohol, the Abatan River Development Management Council, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the UNESCO International Theatre Institute.
Aside from this, it brought to light performances of the different cultural collectives from the five municipalities and a solemn tribute to the Abatan River. This featured the “heroes on boats”, or the symbolic sailing of the higantes or giant puppets representing the shaman warrior Tamblot, Francisco Dagohoy, and Datu Sikatuna who made a significant contribution in the history of the Bohol province.