Ibong Dayo Festival 2018
by Rache Go
I’ve always heard of Balanga, Bataan from other members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on there except for birds plus festival. I remembered being shown some photos of 10th Philippine Bird Festival held in Balanga, Bataan. This was way back 2015.
When Mike Lu announced an invite for Balanga’s Ibong Dayo Festival, I immediately volunteered to go despite being swamped with photos to be post-processed for Manila Biennale. I needed a break, even for just 48 hours, so
I packed my overnight bag, my tripod, and my camera. I would be documenting the whole festival and would go straight to Intramuros the next day. It sounds crazy to go straight to work after coming from a festival… but it was worth the travel.
Mike fetched me at Escolta at around 2PM and then WBCP President, Willem Van de Ven at Rizal Avenue half an hour later. We then started our journey to Balanga, Bataan.
I have never set foot anywhere in Bataan my whole life, nor do I know anything about the place… well, except facts about history that took place there. After we exited North Luzon Expressway, I was clueless about where we were. I sat quietly inside the car throwing a question for Mike and Willem to answer every now and then while I stared out the window like a kid on a roadtrip.
We arrived in Balanga, Bataan before sundown. No traffic after we got past A. Bonifacio before NLEX. Before we headed to the hotel, we visited the Balanga Wetland Park while everyone was busy with the preparations for the next day. Entering Brgy. Tortugas, I realized why the other birders were raving about this place. It was clean and everyone cooperated with the local government. The residents helped out with the decorations as the parade will pass through that area. There were giant birds, colorful signages, and banners as we entered the vicinity.
Next stop was a nearby fish pond behind a cemetery. It was almost sundown, but we managed to see some egrets, night herons, Little Grebes, Black-winged Stilts, and Whiskered Terns to mention a few. We didn’t photograph the birds. We used our binoculars instead, enjoying the sunset while Willem counted the birds in the area. We left shortly before it got dark.
We checked in for the night at The Plaza. The hotel was facing the Balanga Cathedral. To the left side of the hotel was a mall and to the right was the Balanga City Hall. According to Ms. Del Rosario, the parade will start at 6:30am… well, it’s a good thing we just needed to step out of the hotel the next day since the parade will begin in front of the hotel.
After leaving our bags in our rooms, we headed out for dinner. As I am not familiar with the area, my radar was of no use. We finally decided to dine at “Espada Grill”. The restaurant had a rolled up tarp for a menu. While waiting for our orders, we noticed their group meals… and this one made me snicker. I will leave it to your imagination to conclude why it’s called like that.
We went back to the hotel to take a few photos of the plaza from the rooftop. The hotel wasn’t that high but was enough to give us a good vantage point of the church and city hall.
After about half an hour, we went to the local cafe to meet with Mrs. Isabel Garcia. She was very gracious and accommodating. We chatted till the coffee shop closed and headed back to our rooms to get some rest.
After a quick breakfast, the three of us stepped out of the cafe to where the plaza is. We headed for the city hall to meet up with Balanga City Mayor, Francis Garcia and his wife, Raquel Garcia before the festivities started. Since I was documenting the festival, I could not join Mike and Willem on the float with the mayor and his wife. City Administrator Rudy de Mesa arranged for another vehicle similar to a trike (I honestly forgot what it was called!) so I can get in, get out, and get past the crowd as I documented the parade. The city hall was about 3.5 kilometers away from the Balanga Nature and Wetland Park.
The parade from the city plaza was participated by students dancing in bird costumes. They were dancing despite the heat of the sun. There was a group of cyclists in front of the dancing kids too! The energy was high and I was pretty sure the jingle playing during the parade will leave me with LSS (last song syndrome).
After I got footage and photos of the parade, I headed straight for the wetland park. In Barangay Tortugas where the Balanga Wetland Park is located, the houses were decorated colorfully with bird designs. I think they were entries, probably to a competition because of the numbers beside them.
The programs began when Mayor Francis Garcia arrived at the park followed by the parade. Both Mayor Francis Garcia and Congressman Joet Garcia gave speeches before the performances began.
The festival is now on its 8th year and has won the Hall of Fame in the Best Festival – City Category (first place winner three times) nationwide in the Department of Tourism – Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) awards. After what I had experienced today at the Ibong Dayo festival, there’s no room to even question the award. 🙂
Here are more photos from the Ibong Dayo festival: