MANDAUE CITY, Cebu — Most of the members of Omega de Salonera of Bucas Grande Island live by farming or fishing.
And they also excel in the performing arts.
Their secret? Discipline and their continued display of the bayanihan spirit.
Jey Rence Quilario, the group’s leader, said the Saloneras do not smoke and drink liquor or carbonated beverages. And they are always willing to extend help where help is needed.
“Nasilsil na gyud na sa among utok ang pagtinabangay, ang Bayanihan,” said Quidalgo, who prefers to be called by his screen name Senior Agila.
(Cooperation and Bayanihan have already been ingrained in our minds.)
Their discipline and “bayanihan” were the keys for their victory in this year’s Sinulog Festival Free Interpretation Category.
The group from Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte province also won the grand prize in the Street Dancing Competition and they placed second in the Best in Musicality and Best in Costume.
Omega de Salonera, a first time entry in the Sinulog Festival, brought home a total of P2.2 million.
Senior Agila said the cash prize that they won might not be enough to cover the cost of their travel to Cebu and other expenses, but he was just so happy that they were able to perform here and were appreciated by the crowd.
They have been wanting to come here to again perform on the streets of Cebu City and fulfill the dream of their founder, Inang Lauriana Solar, which is to reorganize the Saloneras that slowly disbanded after she died from sickness during World War II.
Senior Agila said that their Sinulog entry was also their offering to the Señor Sto. Niño, whom their elders believed was the one who led them to Bucas Grande Island after they fled Matalom in Leyte Province during the war.
After they won the grand prize in the Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival in Surigao City in September 2022, the group decided to come to Cebu and join Sinulog Festival 2023.
Senior Agila said they practiced in a clearing which they earlier made and converted into a basketball / volleyball court for the children in their community.
The area is located on top of a mountain and is overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
He recalled that the Saloneras took turns as they manually worked to level and later on cement the clearing. They also contributed whatever amount that they could afford to purchase the cement that they used.
They also used the same “bayanihan” as they prepared for their Sinulog entry.
“Nagapractice na man gyud mi og bayanihan, unya libre tanan,” Senior Agila told CDN Digital.
(We practiced bayanihan, and all our efforts were for free.)
Sitio Kapihan, a community that is occupied by about 5,000 Saloneras, has their own carpenters, artists, and sewers, among others. They have formed a group called Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., where Senior Agila is also the president.
Through their group, community members are able to help each other especially in times of sickness or death in the family.
Senior Agila said they also made personal contributions to purchase the materials for their contingents Sinulog costume and props.
“Ambag-ambag. Kinasing-kasing sa paghatag alang sa Sto. Niño,” he said.
(We contributed. We heartily gave for the Sto. Niño.)
“If deboto ka, dili gyod nimo balihon pila imong mahatag,” he added.
(If you are a devotee, you really would not care about how much you have contributed.)
He had a speaker system using a “trumpa” (a funnel like device that amplifies sound) installed in the middle of their community. He would use this to convey a message, to ask the help or to call the Salonera’s for their Sinulog practices.
Senior Agila said Saloneras worked together as a community to prepare their Sinulog costumes and props. It took them two months complete all their props including the giant golden eagle that wowed Sinulog 2023 spectators.
In a social media post, Ricky Ballesteros, former Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director, who was the one who invited the Salonera’s to join this year’s Sinulog, said that the group brought camote (sweet potato), kamoteng kahoy, banana and other root crops which they harvested from their farms during their travel to Cebu for their meals.
Fishermen in their community went out to fish near the waters of Bohol and Cebu provinces so they will have fish to also bring during their travel.
The contingent from Bucas Grande Island consisted of 100 dancers, 200 propsmen, 50 instrumentalists, and about a hundred support staff that included their cooks and assistants.