Mabalacat City’s 1st Balacat Festival a major hit

MABALACAT CITY — The final night of this city’s first ever Balacat Festival was a major hit with a combined estimate of more than 15,000 people flooding the streets of MacArthur Highway and filling the 3-hectare Balacat Village to witness the street dance and free dance interpretation competitions last March 3.

Unlike the usual one-themed streetdance competition of other festivals, Balacat Fest wowed its audience as it featured the different chapters of the city’s history from pre-historic aborigines to Spanish colonization, American occupation, World War II, martial law, Pinatubo eruption, the COVID-19 pandemic era and the city’s march to progress and modernization.

According to Professor Robby Tantingco of the Center for Kapampangan Studies, the Mabalacat City Government displayed a brilliant detail in the brand-new festival.

“This is the first festival that did not depend solely on a beauty pageant and other competitions but on civic-duty activities like tree-planting, job fairs and medical missions, and it’s the first festival that featured not just ati-atihan street dancing but the chapters of the city’s history,” Tantingco added.

The crowd also lauded the colorful and eco-friendly costumes of the participants as well as the Balacat Festival song, which was written by Alex Castro, a renowned historian, pertaining to the rich history of Mabalacat and its progress. 

A total of 10 clustered schools from the 27 barangays contended in the dance competition. Among the contenders, Contingent #5, which consists of elementary and high schools in barangays Dau, Duquit and Lakandula, bagged the Best in Costume and Props and Best in Free Interpretative Dance while Contingent #7, which consist of elementary schools from barangays Dapdap, Paralayunan and Sta. Maria and HS and Senior HS in Madapdap, won as the overall champion with Best in Street Dance, Best in Choreography and Best in Musicality awards.

The panel of judges, who were served with the signature delicacy of Mabalacat, Putong Babi, also consisted of prominent personalities in the industry including Marichu Tellano, Deputy Executive Director of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts and an Aliw Awardee of Special Recognition For Outstanding Cultural Leadership, Armando Sta. Ana, Artistic Director of Barsoain Kalinangan Foundation INC. National Company, Shirley Halili Cruz, Chairperson of the NCAA – National Committee on Dance who also founded the Sayaw Pinoy Touring Concert, Richard Eusebio, A Fellow of the Asian Cultural Council in Newyork USA, and currently the Department Manager for Cultural Center of the Phils. Founder Facilitator of the CCP Kaisa sa Sining Regional Arts Center, and Lino L. Dizon, PHD, Commissioner of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

Mayor Crisostomo Garbo, who was a crowd favorite received rockstar treatment from his constituents as they took turns taking selfies with the local chief executive. He then extended his gratitude to the city council headed by Vice Mayor Gerald Guttrie Aquino for their support, and the barangay officials who did not just comply but wholeheartedly participated in the activities. MCG also praised the Balacat Festival committee headed by Tourism Officer Arwin Lingat for a job well done, and thanked the support of all the Mabalaquenians for making all the activities successful. 

Apart from the street and free dance competitions, the city also awarded the best Pavilions. The Best Night Look Pavilion was won by Brgy Sta.Ines; Best Daylight Pavilion,Brgy San Francisco; Excellence in Sales and Marketing award, Brgy Sapang Balen; Eco-friendly Pavilion, Brgy Sta.Maria; and Best in Trick Star, Brgy Bical.

Each of these barangays won a trophy and Php10,000 cash while the rest of the non-winning barangays received Php5,000 consolation prize in addition to their Php20,000 subsidy from the local government. The Pavilion of Brgy. Sta. Maria was hailed the grand winner of the competition.

Newly crowned Miss Mabalacat 2023 Stacey David from Brgy. San Francisco, 1st runner up – Czarina Mae Cuevas from Brgy. Dau, 2nd runner up – Kyla Mae Regala from Brgy. Dapdap; 3rd runner up – Bianca Marie Garcia from Brgy. Sapang Biyabas and 4th runner up – Fiona Balmedina from Brgy. Marcos Village, also brightened the night with their presence. The Miss Mabalacat pageant as well received praises and commendations for its unique integration of cultural practices such as magdarame (penitents) and Lubenas (religious procession) in its programs.

The night ended with a grand fireworks display at the Balacat Village with thousands of people still flocking and celebrating the success of Mabalacat city’s first ever Balacat Festival.