PHOTOS: Batobalani Festival

MANILA, Philippines - Viva! Pit Senyor! 

This chant echoed in the quiet town of Bato, Leyte, in celebration of the Batobalani Festival on January 25. 

The Batobalani Festival is regarded as a "festival of festivals" showcasing different festivities in Leyte. It’s also Bato’s version of Sinulog, Dinagyang, and Ati-Atihan — minus the huge crowds and celebrities but with the same revelry.  

Locals and balikbayans danced as if in a trance as they held the image of the Holy Child.

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],” said Thelma Bibera, Bato Municipal Tourism officer.

Unlike other festivals which have inter-school competitions, the Batobalani Festival, conceived in 2006, is an "inter-festival among municipalities," added Ronnie Gesurem, administrative assistant of the Municipality of Bato.

“Every year, the champions of each municipality perform here in Bato giving diverse presentations,” said Gesurem.

United in honoring Senyor Sto. Nino, contingents from Hindang, Dawahanon (Island Barangay of Bato), and Malitbog converged to the Bato School of Fisheries on January 25.

Participants grooved to the music of the drum, lyre, wooden flute, and trumpets to the delight of hundreds.

The flawless and energetic performance of the Tribu Merrymakers of Malitbog Concepcion National High School won them Php 80,000 as the 2013 Batobalani Free Interpretation Dance Competition Grand Winner. Aside from the grand prize, they also bagged the special award for Best in Costume.

The Child Jesus-bearing dancer from the Tribu Merrymakers of Malitbog Concepcion National High School

“I just told them that this is our way of thanking Sto. Nino. ‘Yung mga bata ay hindi lang nagpapakita ng talento. Sincere ‘yung pagsasayaw nila (The students not only showed their talents but also their sincerity),” said Kobe Aris, choreographer of the Concepcion National High School.

The students of Concepcion National High School, who started practicing in November 2012, were also the champions in their town’s Sinumalig Festival.

Bontoc National High School of Hindang placed second while Sta. Cruz National Highschool of Malitbog got 3rd place.

Here are more photos from the Batobalani Festival:

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- Rappler.com