MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 February)- The provincial government of Bukidnon opened Friday its annual Kaamulan festival dedicated to the province’s seven hill tribes with a five-contingent drum and lyre competition drawing a big crowd.
The grand opening, coming three days after the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked pineapple producer Del Monte Philippines, Inc., (DMPI), started with a ritual dubbed “Kaamulan ha Pangampu” at 6 a.m. at the provincial capitol grounds.
In his opening remarks, Gov. Alex Calingasan cited the need to go ahead with the competition amidst the cloudy and rainy day, and lauded the participants for their zeal in joining the activity.
Only two of the five high schools and three of the five elementary schools invited to the competition joined the contest.
Meanwhile, the annual Kaamulan street dancing competition is tentatively scheduled on March 2, with seven local government units expected to participate.
Kaamulan is an annual provincial celebration to honor the customs and traditions of the seven tribal groups in Bukidnon namely the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon.
In his opening message, Calingasan did not mention the impact of the February 19 NPA attack to the Kaamulan celebration.
But in a conference with the Bukidnon Press Club in the afternoon, he appealed in dispelling the “rumors of alleged continuing terror and violence in many parts of the province.”
“The threat is over,” he said, slamming text messages telling people to keep watch on the alleged threats by the NPA to launch another attack.
“Red Alert: Last night, 200 NPA members entered Malaybalay City. They have a plan to bring trouble especially in the opening of the festival,” one of the text messages circulating in the town said. It even cited the specific points in the city targeted for attacks.
The governor belied the text messages, saying ”the senders only want to discredit his administration.”
Calingasan assured the public that the NPA, as he “knew” them, “will not hurt the civilians.”
He noted the rebels even apologized for the death of the security guard during their attack on the plantation of DMPI last Tuesday. Two other security guards were wounded in the attack.
The rebels burned three heavy equipment units and a company bus in the Del Monte truck yard.
In a statement, lawyer Ramon Velez, a DMPI senior manager, said that the rebels also attempted to torch other heavy equipment parked at Del Monte’s nearby plantation office. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)