CEBU CITY, Philippines – A few hours before they took the stage for their presentation at the Sinulog sa Barangay on Sunday, January 13, Banay Talambanon’s official choreographer Emerito “Carling” Custodio was faced with a major dilemma.
Twenty of the propsmen they hired as part of the contingent ran off without any word.
“Nag-ampo na lang ko ug niingon nga, ‘Ikaw nalang bahala Señor Santo Niño. I-offer ni namo nimo among sayaw, come what may’,” he said.
(I just prayed to Señor Santo Niño and told him, “I lift this up to you. We offer this dance to you, come what May.”)
It has been a challenging two months for Custodio, who is managing and training more than 200 performers – dancers, propsmen and instrumentalists – which compose Banay Talambanon.
Rehearsals started in early November 2018 using money from his personal account.
Since the focus shifted from school-based to barangay-based in 2017, Custodio said it has been a challenging journey for many choreographers like himself to put together a contingent.
“When it was still school-based, we had the assistance of teachers to help us raise funds. We also have a ready manpower because of the students,” he told CDN Digital.
A community-based team poses a major challenge on the choreographer and his team as they cannot force barangay residents to join the contingent.
The 20 propsmen, who ran off, before the presentation were not from Barangay Talamban.
They were recruited since the contingent lacked manpower. Custodio said they had to get individuals from other barangays to join the contingent.
For Custodio, it takes patience and creativity to gather people and encourage the youth to participate.
This is why he lauds the active role of the barangay’s Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders in helping form Banay Talambanon.
“This contingent is special to me because it was the SK officials who were very active. At their young age, they worked hard to help put these all together,” he said.
Custodio, a Physical Education instructor of Cebu Technological University (CTU) Moalboal Campus, said Banay Talambanon has around 200 performers composed of high school and college students and out-of-school youth.
The only criteria for being part of the contingent is the stamina to survive the long hours of practice.
“Sinulog sa Barangay accepts performers from all ages as long as they can survive the practices. There is no age limit. I do not have any criteria in choosing the dancers because we cannot force the residents to dance since we do not offer any incentives,” he said.
“Most of time, we cannot give snacks because of limited budget. Everybody is welcomed to dance as long as they are willing to offer the dance to Señor Santo Niño,” added Custodio.
Custodio said they received P400,000 subsidy from Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI).
But since the funds were not yet released in November when they started rehearsals, most of the time, the choreographers have to spend their own money or make promisory notes to establishments so they can order their props and costume materials.
Despite the challenges, Custodio said he is inspired to continue with the presentation because this is his way of giving thanks to the Holy Child for all the blessings bestowed upon him.
Custodio, 43, started his career as a choreographer in 2001 when he was still connected with the Divino Amore Academy in Mohon, Talisay.
In 2011, he was the choreographer of Talamban Elementary School, which was declared champion in the Sinulog sa Kabataan category.
He was also the choreographer of Tribu Lingganay from Alang-Alang, Leyte in 2012.
Tribu Lingganay earned the first place spot in the Free Interpretation Category that year. It also won the special awards of Best in Musicality and Best in Costume.
To mount a winning contingent, Custodio said it is important to have the financial backing and readily available manpower.
“Otherwise, lisod gyud (it is difficult). Pero nagpalasamat gihapon nga naka-present mi og naka-offer mi sa sayaw ni Señor Santo Niño (I remain thankful that we were able to present and offer our dance to Señor Santo Niño),” said Custodio.
Like a good soldier in times of battle, Custodio is not out to abandon his tribe no matter how difficult it has been.
Custodio said they have replaced the 20 “prodigal propsmen” with other volunteers and are now fine tuning their presentation for the Grand Parade.
Banay Talambanon’s concept revolves around the importance of cats in the ecosystem including preventing the spread of diseases carried by rats.
It sends the message that each creature plays a crucial role in the web of life.
For the Grand Parade on Sunday, January 20, Custodio said Banay Talambanon will maintain a modest presentation using the props and costumes they used during the Sinulog sa Barangay last January 13.
But they will dance with their heart and soul, and dedicate it to the One who really matters. /dcb