Monday, January 6, 2014

Taken with Tagum City (Part 2)

Feasts and festivals form part of our culture. In good times and in bad, we always find some reason to dine, drink and dance. In various parts of the country, these celebrations are held come hell or high water. Regardless of size and income, every city, town or barangay has its own fiesta. Why, not even the recent spate of calamities that hit the country kept us from celebrating here, there and everywhere!

For us Pinoys, the Christmas season remains the most anticipated among all celebrations. As early as September, we decorate our homes with the ubiquitous parol, do house-to-house carolling, light up our Christmas trees, organize reunions, indulge in gift-hunting and giving, attend the simbang gabi, etc. All these culminate on Christmas Eve when families, friends and relatives gather for the Noche Buena feast.

The celebration of Christmas on a grand scale is a long-standing tradition dating back to Spanish times. Until now, we’re still holding on to that custom that lasts for more than just a day and with so much pomp and pageantry at that. No wonder, the country holds the distinction of having the longest Christmas celebration around the world, extending well not only into New Year’s Day but the Feast of the Three Kings!

When it comes to celebrations, Tagum City is one of the best places in this part of the country where you can experience the best of Pinoy pomp and pageantry, most especially during the holiday season. Why, the city is being dubbed by its drumbeaters as the City of Festivals, with fifteen (and still counting) fetes and feasts to boost! If only for that, Tagum is one great place to be during the Christmas season.

About a month ago, I decided to spend the two remaining days of 2013 in Tagum to say goodbye to a snaky year and welcome this new, horsey one. I had other options in mind but at the end of the day, I settled for the City of Festivals mainly because of its two attractions: the giant Christmas Tree and the grand fireworks display. Add to that is Tagum’s accessibility—it’s just an hour’s drive from my place.

Tagum's giant Christmas Tree

The lighting of the city’s giant Christmas Tree is one of the highly-anticipated events among TagumeƱos and visitors alike during the Christmas season. Too bad, I failed to witness the said event. That’s why I promised myself I would drop by Freedom Park (where the tree is being put on display) to see what’s in store for visitors who come to the city to spend the holidays. Tagum didn’t disappoint me. 

As I’ve expected, this year’s Christmas Tree was a visual treat! Rising some 24 meters (78 feet), it’s bedecked with hundreds of bright lights of varied shapes and sizes. The lofty tree was shimmering with decors that resembled birds, flowers, stars, angels, etc. The crowning glory of the tree, however, was the huge replica of the head of an eagle with matching wings—the very symbol of Tagum—placed at its tip!

The huge throngs that gravitated towards the park to have themselves snapped with the humungous tree kept me from taking photos at preferred angles. With patience and persistence, however, I was able to finally get what I wanted. I lingered there for almost an hour just to stare at and shoot what’s probably the most-photographed Christmas symbol in the whole city. Whew, what an awesome night!

Fountain at Tagum City Hall
Living in a city where all sorts of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic gadgets are banned during the holiday season, I’ve made it a point to go to other places if only to experience the thrill and excitement of bidding goodbye to the old year and saying hello to the new one—with so much fireworks and all! It’s a ritual I’ve been pursuing with so much gusto these past few years for it always completes my holiday vacay. 

If not for those travels, I’d have difficulty in distinguishing between the various noisemakers that I used to fiddle with during the holidays in the past—whistle bomb, Roman candle, triangle, fountain, skyrocket, Judas belt. LOL! Nope, I’m not after firing those explosives anymore. I’ve had enough of them when I was younger. The mere sight of those being blown into smithereens already pleases me no end.

Gazing at the pyrotechnic explosions on New Year’s Eve has always been cathartic for this world-weary traveller. As I watch them burst, I release all the negativities that are haunting me because I want to start the new year with a clean slate. Good riddance, I’d tell myself, as I let go of old wounds, past hurts, unwarranted woes and all other bygones that have become emotional burdens too heavy to carry.

This time, Tagum was my choice for witnessing the grand festivities unfolding on New Year’s Eve. For quite some time now, the city has gained a reputation for staging one of the most magnificent fireworks display this side of Mindanao. I have to be there when it happens. Never mind if I don’t get to light up any firecracker. Seeing the glittering extravaganza that night would be more than enough, I reasoned. 

Hundreds came to watch the fireworks display
As early as nine in the evening, revelers started trooping to the venue—the sprawling open arena adjacent to the new City Hall. In anticipation of the huge traffic, I went there ahead of schedule to get a prime spot. The lull proved to be providential as I managed to rub elbows with some Tagum-based bloggers and photography enthusiasts. Three of them, Edwin, Leo and Louie, were covering the affair for the city government.

Hundreds braved the threat of rain that night to have a glimpse of Tagum’s grand fireworks display. While waiting for the explosions, the revelers were entertained by local talents and guest bands which performed alternately on the two stages that were mounted by the organizers. A few seconds before midnight, the performances grounded to a halt as everyone joined the ten-second countdown to 2014.
There goes the opening salvo!

Then, as the giant clock at the venue struck twelve midnight, bright lights suddenly lit up Tagum’s dark sky. With clockwork precision, pyrotechnic explosions, bursting into a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors—red, green, violet, yellow, white, blue—filled the black canvass before disappearing into the night. The amazing fireworks display lasted for roughly twelve minutes. Geez, it was a veritable sight to behold! 


For me, there’s no affordable nor enjoyable way to celebrate the triumphs of the old year and the start of a promising new year than enjoying the most dazzling fireworks display in that side of Mindanao. Brimming with optimism, I bid goodbye to all the negative things that happened to me as 2013 exited and hoped for the best in all aspects of my life as 2014 entered. I bet many of the people there did the same.

Like the previous years, the recently concluded grandiose event drew not only local residents but also visitors coming from different parts of the Davao Region. I even saw a few foreigners in the audience who took pictures and covered the event using their mobile phones and video cameras. Whew, it felt awesome to be there! Suffice it to say, the fiery spectacle completed my New Year’s Eve celebration.

Tagum-based bloggers, photographers and enthusiasts
All told, the sweet escape to Tagum City turned out to be the wisest travel decision I’ve ever made this holiday season! Not only did I enjoy watching the giant Christmas Tree, I also relished witnessing the spectacular fireworks display that the city has been doing for a few years. More importantly, I had the chance to touch base with friends and  fellow bloggers I haven’t seen for quite some time. 

Truly, when it comes to fun and fanfare, the City of Festivals really delivers! Having witnessed all those things during the most wonderful time of the year, I’m once again taken with Tagum! :D