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Batobalani Festival in Bato, Leyte: Let’s Celebrate the Batobalani Way!
Batobalani Festival, conceptualized way back 2006, has been considered the mini version of Cebu City’s Sinulog Festival, concept and festivity wise. It's an inter-festival among municipalities, wherein champions from neighboring towns perform not only for the prize, but more importantly to give their heartfelt gratitude to Sr. Sto. Nino.
But why Batobalani? What is Batobalani? According to Thelma Bibera, Bato Municipal Tourism officer, “Batobalani means magnet. Senyor Sto. Nino is the magnet that brings other municipalities from the northern and southern parts of Leyte to gather here in Bato, which is the center [of the province].”
The Opening Salvo
Batohanons (people from Bato, Leyte) celebrate the Batobalani Festival annually on the 25th day of January. However, celebration begins on the 16th of the month through which they have their Opening Salvo. The Opening Salvo is usually composed of a novena and pontifical mass, which serves as the opening mark of the festivity.
This is followed by a colorful school parade joined by the leading academic institutions in Bato, which ends at the Bato Parish church. At this juncture, each of the school band performs in honor of their patron saint, Sr. Sto. Nino. In the coming days, a Misa Novena is conducted, which lasts up until the 24th day of January.
A striking photo from Batobalani Festival opening salvo.
Bato, Leyte Opening Salvo 2012
The Fluvial Procession
One of the highlights of the Batobalani Festival is its annual fluvial procession on the 24th of January. A parade is typically made mainly at Bato Proper then heading to the pier where colorful and decorated pump boats await.
The image of Sr. Sto Nino is placed on a ship and together with a few pump boats around, they travel towards Matalom going to Hilongos Leyte and then back to Bato Pier. And of course, to make the fluvial procession religiously festive, a school band comes with the water parade.
Big or small they gather together for the most Holy Child.
Bato,Leyte Fluvial Parade 2015 (Part 1)
Bato,Leyte Fluvial Parade 2015 (Part 2)
Bato,Leyte Fluvial Parade 2015 (Part 3)
The Sinulog Dance
On the 25th, Bato holds a Sinulog free interpretation contest at the Bato School of Fisheries ground and is usually participated by 4-5 contingents coming from the different neighboring towns including Baybay, Hindang, Hilongos, Matalom, and Malitbog. Bato School of Fisheries is actually the flagship public secondary school of Bato, Leyte.
Prior to the contest proper, the tribes join a city parade as they showcase their street dancing skills in order to maintain the festive mood all throughout the event until the battle begins. It is during the parade that you see the majestic props and colorful costumes of each contingent.
This is also the best time to take a picture with their respective beautiful queens. Looking around, you will be amazed to see big smiles, happy faces, from the locals and spectators. There are people who also dance to the rhythm of the drums as they cheer their favorite contingent.
The colorful costumes and expressions on the streets give joy and amazement to all spectators.
The Contest Proper
After the street dancing, they have their respective presentation. Each tribe gives their best performance as they hit their strident drums, sway their bodies, wave their hands and sing their praises to the most Holy Child.
Their jovial rituals usually paint big smiles not only in the lips but also in the eyes of the locals and tourists. They are judged based on a specific criteria, which includes costume, audience participation, and choreography.
At this moment, you will see families busy capturing the performance by phone or camera. Being part of the festival is actually big deal to them. And since the dancers are from Bato and other neighboring towns, it is not new to use families loudly cheering for their blood relatives.
Viva! Viva! Sr. Sto. Nino!
The point is.....
While there are street parties in the evening, most of the parishioners flock together to the Holy Child Parish Church to have their Sinulog. They dance to the sinulog beat, wave the candles in their hand and sing their desires and gratitude to Sr. Sto. Nino.
Truly, the Batohanons do have their own unique way of celebrating their town fiesta. Viva Pit Senior! Viva Batobalani!