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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:25:00 01/26/2009

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Leisure

THE Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc, built in 1796 by the Augustinian Recollects, has long been the symbol of protection for the locals in this westernmost area of Bohol.

The story goes that the tower was built as part of the local defense system against marauding sea pirates. This was named Castillo de San Vicente, after St. Vincent Ferrer, a very popular Dominican saint. It is a triangular-based watchtower with a hexagonal second level. The inscription, “Castillo de nuestro Señor San Vicente y nuestro Señor Santa Cruz,” is written over the entrance, while the walls feature the Spanish coat-of-arms.

Based on folklore, the statue of St. Vincent Ferrer was originally placed at a designated niche inside the watchtower before being moved to the Maribojoc church. It is believed the statue visits the watchtower every once in a while, as husks would be found, as locals claimed, at St. Vincent’s robes. This fits the description of the patron saint as he is best known in hagiography for bilocation, or being in two places at the same time.

A few meters from the tower, toward the sea’s edge, is a time-weathered cross that might as well have been a gift from the waters. It is said a group of fishermen found a straight piece of wood caught in their nets. They threw it away but when they cast their nets once more, the same piece of wood was caught again.

Eight-year old actor Raymart Colestines portrays a child who dared challenge the invaders.

The fishermen brought it back to land and they noticed the piece of wood was clean of moss, as if it had just been newly drifted from a nearby area. There was also a cut at about two-thirds length from one end, as if somebody purposely did it so another piece of wood could be fitted to form a cross.

Upon learning of the find, the captain of the town requested the people to make a cross out of it, which was then planted at the tip of the cape.

The cross has since protected the town through its “miracles.” One such involved the drowning of Moro buccaneers who would land on the island of Bohol to kidnap women and children and subject them to slavery.

When these pirates made their way to Maribojoc Bay, the sea would recede, revealing a large tract of dry land. The invaders would then set out to flee but not before the water returned and drowned them.

These colorful stories give Maribojoc its character. But these are stories that, Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco bemoaned, not all the locals know.

Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. introduces with pride the community theater collective and its maiden production as part of the town's local tourism initiative.

“The watchtower is a mute witness to the ravenous slave market and it would be great if the people of Maribojoc knew its story,” Evasco said. “So that when visitors arrive and ask about the history of Punta Cruz, the locals can provide them with the complete story.”

Thus, the Punta Cruz Cultural Collective was created. It is a community theater put together to become a major attraction in the Building Livelihoods and Enterprises in Support of Sustainable Ecotourism Development (Blessed) Maribojoc Program, an ecological-cultural tourism initiative by the Punta Cruz Environment Organization (PCEO).

Composed of out-of-school youth and the PCEO, the Cultural Collective was conceptualized by award-winning film-music scorer Lutgardo Labad and Glenn Labrado, former executive director of the local NGO group Bangon.

Theater members are trained with the help of Labad’s Teatro Bol-anon. Their task is to mount dramatic and cultural presentations of the colorful mythology and history of Punta Cruz and Bohol during the slave-trade period.

Lead raider Orang Kadya, played by Gerardo Calle Jr. rationalizes in a dramatic monologue using Pangalay dance language the economic and political motives behind the maritime raiding in the Visayas.

“They will carry on the task of presenting cultural performances, based on the mythology of events in Punta Cruz and Bohol during the slave-trade period, including training, research and organization,” Labad said. “The members have dedicated themselves to caring for each other like a family wherein decisions and responsibilities are collectively discussed and shared. It will not function as a business corporation and revenues will be shared and reinvested for future developmental work.”


The Cultural Collective’s form of expression fuses modern dance and the Pangalay (Sanskrit for “temple of dance”), a pre-Islamic and pre-Christian dance style in the Philippines. It is a living link to dance cultures in Asia where sensitivity is the key to mastering traditional dances. Its intricate postures and gestures, combined with artistry and sophistication, are kin to other Asian dance forms.

Of all the ethnic dances in the Philippines, Pangalay has the richest movement vocabulary. Although it requires strong technique, it can be danced by anyone at any age, as proven by the youngest, 8-year-old Raymart Colestines, and elders Juanita Cristal and Teresita Anquillano.

During the recent soft launching, nobody in the audience would have thought the Cultural Collective members had never had prior experience in the performing arts as they presented “Tawag sa Bantayan,” a theatrical portrayal of the historical events leading to the construction of the watchtower as well as other watchtowers in the Visayas.

The monologues were in the local language. To help nonlocals understand, a screen with narration in English was set up in the background.

Costumes by Cebu designer Rudy Aviles and the stage design by Teatro Bol-anon artist Francis Sarmiento were also something to admire, as well as the effects by Jerahmeel Decasa during the latter part of the show when St. Vincent Ferrer emerged from the watchtower.

Childhood friends played by Maribojoc youth Marianne Nicholee Miflores and Kristel Kyle Empleo depict their anguish in monologue with pangalay choreography and how they were separated forever when they were captured in a sudden attack.

Choreography was by Labad and executed by Alfonso Ponky Corbeta, who had just trained with the Sofia Zobel Dance Studio STEPS as a scholar of Bea Zobel Jr.

Labad said he wanted the Cultural Collective to be sustainable and to train more talents as this would develop a creative and heritage-based cultural program that would foster the town’s pride of place, communal synergy, and cultural identity. The Cultural Collective, he added, should be ready for its grand launching during the National Arts Month or Philippine International Arts Festival in February.

Major sponsors of the initiative include the Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program-Focal Community Assistance Scheme (Pacap-Focas); Bangon Bohol Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations; Maribojoc local government; National Commission for Culture and the Arts; provincial government of Bohol under Gov. Erico Aumentado through the Center for Culture and Arts Development; Teatro Bol-anon and Bach Council; and Boholanos in the United States.

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