Friday, October 9, 2015

Festival of Lights in Loon creates fusion and ethereal effect

There were little surprises last week that VRS could not help but smile.
Surprise No.  1:  Julmar Joseph Misa and Raclaire Stephan Trigo from the high school department were crowned Mr and Miss University of Bohol Personality 2015. They were also declared Mr and Miss Talent.  Take a bow, Sofila Lafuente Gantalao!
Jassenie Mangaron is Miss Cebu
Normal University 2015. 
Contributed Photo
Surprise No. 2: High-ranking officials (HRO)  had witnessed a real life furious “lovers’ quarrel” during a seminar which was held somewhere in the haven. It involved a matured woman (MW) and her young beau (YB). Thinking they were watching #kalyeserye, there was no effort from HRO to quell the fight until the security guard approached them. The LQ ended at the police station. MW told VRS, “I learned my lesson now. Don’t trust a young heart. Sobrang mapusok! Now, I no longer believe in forever!”
Surprise No. 3: Matildi Magali, 56, mother of Pinoy boxer Carlo Magali: “Siyempre nalipay ko pero naguol sa nadangatan sa iyang kontra. Kay kung kita mahitabuan ingana dili sab lalim.”  Carlo, 29, won against Aussie boxer Davey Browne Jr  who died after the fight.
Surprise No. 4:  Jassenie Mangaron was crowned Miss Cebu Normal University (CNU) 2015.  Jaseenie who hails from Loon town was Miss Bohol 2014 Miss Photogenic. She is a consistent honor student of  CNU taking up Education. She is a dog lover and big fan of the movie ‘Hachiko.”
Well, speaking of Loon, they had a unique festival of lights which was held recently.
Tourists visiting Loon town in the north-west side of Bohol province, can now look forward to witnessing a spectacular sound and light show, the SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights, which is held annually every first week of September in honor of the town’s patron saint, the Virgen de la Luz or Birhen sa Kasilak (Our Lady of Light).
This year’s festival was held for the first time inside the destroyed Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church (Our Lady of Light Church) or commonly known as Loon Church suffered total damage in the aftermath of the October 15, 2013 earthquake. Within the first 36 seconds of the 52-second quake, this national historical landmark and national cultural treasure was turned into rubble and powdery dust.  Three churchgoers were reportedly trapped inside the Church.
As people gathered to witness the festival, emotions poured in as they remembered the old church that stood very firmly in the town’s plaza, said to be Bohol’s biggest Catholic Church.
“I tend to experience goose bumps upon coming in as I remember a significant. And I think all us felt the same way. For the first time since October 15, 2013, this is my first to step inside the church,” said Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto.  He also said that Boholanos always recall that the structure was what Bohol was so proud of.
Chatto also said that the festival of lights was a clear manifestation not only of the recovery of Loon from the ashes, not only for the recovery of Bohol for the great catastrophe that happened in the province, but  gathering symbolizes  the strength of the spirit of the Loonanons and the people of Bohol.
Mr and Miss UB Personality 2015 winners are
 Julmar Joseph Misa and Raclaire Stephan Trigo.  
Contributed Photo
“More strength to move on as we construct our church, as we construct our town and we construct of our lives,” Chatto said.
Started in 2000, the SidlaKasilak is one of its kind in the Philippines because the street-dancing is done at night.  The highlights of the event are the street- dancing presentation and Dance of Lights competition whose contest criteria revolve solely on the lights, choreography of lights such as movement, synchronization, formation and dynamics and quality of lights such as design, color harmony and brightness.
“If you like bright lights and a show, you’ll love this festival. The emphasis is on the lights on how to make it move and dance,” said Reigh Monreal, SidlaKasilak chairman.  
Monreal said that since the competition is held at night and is quite literally a festival of lights. “It will be dark enough to let the light shine through and you will experience light dancing in front of your very eyes,” he said.
The fusion of lights creates more drama and ethereal effect against the darkness of the night.
Participants came from different schools of Loon. Some barangays (villages) joined the competition before but for the past years it became a competition for schools.
“I am joining this in honor of Our Lady of Light,” said Keisha Figuracion, 11, of Loon Sentral Elem. School, who joined the SidlaKasilak for the first time.  But for Princess Uy,11, she  joined the contest hoping to win the cash prize  for her school, Lintuan Elem. School. “Our school needs a new fence,” she said.  
“It also expresses the enduring qualities of the town,” said Loon Mayor Lloyd Peter Lopez. He said the word SidlaKasilak is coined from the Visayan words "sidlak" which means to rise and "kasilak," which means light. “It best describe the character of Loonanons as they conquer life’s adversities and make the best out of their inherent talents and capabilities,” he said.  
SidlaKasilak was inspired by past religious processions in Loon when the faithful would light candles in colorful hand-held lanterns or “parow”, the local version of the “parol”.
During the first few years of the festival, the dancers brought traditional lanterns wrapped in Japanese paper.  
“Candles, however, are no match to the wind made even stronger with every sway of the hands that held the lanterns. The Japanese paper, too, could not withstand too much heat nor could it resist the rain,” said Monreal.   He also said that candles were later replaced with permanent yet adjustable lights like flashlights, magic sticks, light-emitting diodes and others. Glazed paper, plastic wrap and cloth have been used instead of Japanese paper.
People witness the SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights in Loon town of Bohol province as participants dance and shine in darkness to create fusion of lights and ethereal effect inside the hallowed ground of the Our Lady of Light Church which turned into rubble and powdery dust during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 13, 2015. Photos by Liza Macalandag

Last year, the SidlaKasilak was held in a school ground since piles of stones and debris clouded inside the church.   This year, after debris was finally cleared, a small “retablo” was constructed at the exact place where the Our Lady of Light was enthroned.  Searchlights were placed near the retablo to create three vertical columns of light as symbols of Our Lady of Light.
“The distinctive nature of SidlaKasilak is manifested in its being the only evening street dancing event in Bohol,” said Lopez.  He said the competition does not require lavish costumes and props that onlookers do not appreciate in the dark.
Chatto said that Loon’s lights festival is the brightest, so to speak, addition to the ever-growing tourist attractions of Bohol.
Fr. Ruel Tumangday, parish priest of Our Lady of Light, said that the Nuestra Señora De La Luz Church was established in 1753 by the Jesuits, and administered later by the Augustinian Recollects, the parish of the Birhen sa Kasilak constructed what was to become the biggest church in the province, and perhaps in the entire Visayas and Mindanao.
During the Filipino-American War in 1901, the Loon Church served as garrison of American soldiers and, in the Second World War, as refuge of Japanese forces wounded during the Battle of Moalong. Visited by ambassadors of the Holy See and relics of popular saints, this church, more appropriately called the Crowning Glory of Recollect Architecture in Bohol.   
“In the ensuing years, this church figured prominently in the annals of Loon’s history outside of its being the main venue for holy masses and other Catholic rites and activities,” said Fr. Tumangday.  
Fr. Tumangday also said that the festival was to honor the Virgin Mary.
“ Above all, we honor Mary, Mother of Christ, the Birhen sa Kasilak, who brought into this world the Greatest Light of All - - Jesus Christ who saves us from the agony of darkness in the abyss of sinfulness,” said Fr. Tumangday. 
Lopez said that like the phoenix, however, “Loon will rise from these ruins, every good and godly way we can.”
“Collectively, SidlaKasilak expresses the Loonanons’ resilience amid challenges, hardships and suffering, and their ability to shine with their talents, capability and creativity,” said Lopez.
Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.

Miss U-New Zealand Top 20 enjoy Bohol trip • Boholano embracing adventure in Vietnam

• Miss U-New Zealand Top 20 enjoy Bohol trip
• Boholano embracing adventure in Vietnam
Fr. Leo Dalmao, CMF
Scene:  For the first time, a Filipino Catholic priest was elected to the new general government of the Claretians worldwide. Boholano priest Fr. Leo Dalmao, current provincial superior of Philippines, was elected consultor and Prefect of Formation. The election which was held last week in Rome coincided with their 25th General Chapter, bringing together representatives of more than 3,000 Claretians in 65 countries. A native of Tagbilaran City, Fr. Dalmao, 45, was ordained priest in May 1997.
Scene:  Primo, a popular music trio, is composed of Floyd Tena, James Uy, Laurence Mossman. For a long time the trio has charmed listeners and bar regulars with their unbeatable take on popular songs, Broadway, jazz and many, many more.  Being world-class, Primo is constantly performing in the United States, Europe and Asia. Catch Primo live in Bohol on Sept. 18 (Friday), 7:30 p.m. at the Bohol Cultural Center.  Tickets are: P500 (VIP), P300 (Patron) and P150 (general admission). For inquiries, call/text 09395977498.
Scene: Treat everyone with kindness and respect, said the roving VRS, who shared that an accounting staff (AS) in one of Bohol’s college where students can see the world free has terrible manners while inside the mall. “Since the counters were occupied, I went to the counter for senior citizen. While waiting for my turn since there were two ladies (not senior citizens) ahead of me, this AS suddenly rushed in with her alalay, a student who was still wearing his uniform of the see the world free, put her cart as if she was ahead of me,” narrated VRS.  AS didn’t smile, raised her eyebrows as if she had a stiff neck, according to VRS. AS’ alalay told VRS that “She is a senior citizen!”  So, VRS gave way…and looked for another counter. “She is rude! She could ask me politely. Saying please is by far one of the biggest issues with people these days,” VRS lamented. VRS also asked some friends about AS. Her colleagues shared terrible stories about her being ill-mannered. Giagwanta nalang namo na siya oi because she has two years more to go na to retire,” said Lady V.   Code? Children, let us sing together…Papaya, Papaya, fruit salad-salad.
Scene: For his works in empowering the local communities and helping the rehabilitation and recovery of Bohol after the killer quake, poet and community builder Nestor Maniebo Pestelos, has been selected by  Rappler’s Move Awards as one of 15 finalists. Move Awards was developed “to celebrate outstanding Filipinos who don’t let reality get in the way of their dreams: they look at the status quo and inspire others to change it with them for the better.” Pestelos is the president of Bohol Local Development Foundation (BLDF). To vote, visit
For Rachael Annear, a visit to the Philippines is a learning experience of people and culture.
"It's very important since New Zealand is multicultural," said Annear, one of the top 20 finalists in the Miss Universe- New Zealand competition.
Rachael Annear (with Analyn Pollenza-Arbilo 
of the Philippine Port Police), 
one of the top 20  finalists in 
Miss Universe-New Zealand, says
 Philippines is a country of 
hospitable and  warm people.  
And the Top 20 finalists of Miss 
Universe-New Zealand. 
 Photos by Leo Udtohan
Annear, who is in her final year of completing her bachelor of education studies at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute, said joining the Miss Universe-New Zealand is her opportunity to represent her place Tauranga, one of New Zealand’s fastest growing cities.
So when Annear and other contestants were here in the Philippines for a 10-day finalists retreat, she was overwhelmed.
“Oh my goodness! It’s been amazing,” Annear told VRS.
She said they have been travelling in the Philippines for many days and it has been a good experience. “I love the culture here. People have been very friendly, very welcoming,” she added.
On Tuesday, the candidates were warmly welcomed at the Tagbilaran port where students danced the ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines” theme song upon the arrival of the candidates. The candidates later joined the dancers.
 Bohol has been selected as one of the country’s choice destinations for their final leg of the retreat with last year's title holder Rachel Millns.
 “The candidates’ visit in Bohol will surely help the tourism of Bohol,” said Jaypee Orcullo of the Bohol Tourism.
The candidates had the chance to savor the natural and cultural heritage of Bohol in a guided tour.  They visited Panglao Island, Loboc River, tarsier and the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park.
Miss Universe New Zealand is not the first pageant to visit Bohol as part of its official pre- pageant activity. The top 10 finalists of Miss Czech Republic visited Bohol in 2013 for photo sessions.
Miss Universe New Zealand is a national pageant with the winner going on to the international competition.
The Miss Universe-New Zealand organization had taken its finalists to Thailand the last two years, but this year CEO Nigel Godfrey has decided to bring them to the Philippines upon the invitation of Bench owner Ben Chan, according to the pageant’s official page on Facebook.
The candidates visited the historic sites in Metro Manila such as Intramuros and Fort Santiago; shopping areas such as the Glorietta Mall in Makati City; and Tahan-tahanan in Quezon City to meet children with cancer. The top 20 presented gifts to the children, parents, medical staff and volunteers, while Miss Universe New Zealand presented a cheque for 30,000 pesos, the pageant’s official Facebook page said.
The candidates had visited Cebu last Monday for a sight-seeing. They also visited the Island Girl Philippines  and Alegre Guitars in Lapu-Lapu City.
The coronation night of Miss Universe New Zealand will be on October 24.
Jhoel Lim in Halong Bay 
There’s so much beauty in the world. One of my favorite Asian countries to visit is Vietnam.  Imagine Halong Bay where 2000 or more islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Then, there is Son Doong cave, the world's largest cave…  Sad to say my plan didn’t happen.   
Anyway, Jhoel Lim of the National Food Authority (NFA)-Bohol has just ticked Vietnam off his bucket list. He was in Cambodia and Vietnam last week together with his sister lawyer Jhella Lim of SSS-Bacolod to explore our Asian neighbors.
Vietnam is shedding its old look to become a tourism gem in Asia. Halong Bay, the jewel in Vietnam’s crown, remains an essential stop on any Vietnam tour.

Jhoel Lim shares that Vietnam is a dynamic and a beautiful place.  Contributed Photo
“People have compared that Halong Bay is like a giant natural museum,” said Jhoel Lim. “Once you are there, you feel lost in its attractive beauty.”
Jhoel has visited El Nido or Coron, but the mists that slowly drifting over Halong Bay and the majestic sunset made his experience far different. He also said he was enjoying moments of solitude in this world famous site.
“The sight of hundreds of limestones karsts rising up from the emerald water is unforgettable,” said Jhoel.
In Cambodia, its attractions are many and varied.  He said that Angkor Wat is a must-see jumping off point, but the best of Cambodia lies further afield.
“The ruins of Angkor Wat draw crowds of visitors—the temples are breathtaking,” added Jhoel.
Here is Jhoel on Halong Bay:
After a couple of days exploring the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, we headed to Hanoi, Vietnam to explore another popular tourist destination.  Vinh Ha Long which literally means “descending dragon bay” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located at Quang Ninh province which administratively belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and the part of Vân Đồn District.
From our hotel at Hanoi, we were picked-up by our driver and English speaking tour guide to begin our four hour journey East of Hanoi. En route, we passed by fields of busy workers farming their rice fields using traditional methods of cultivation. We also came to stop by various artisan shops showcasing Vietnam’s finest handicrafts to include embroidery, lacquer wares, jewelries, sculptures and some delicious “pasalubong” goodies. We also came to drop by at Ha Long Pearl Farm and Workshop where we had a guided tour on how they cultured various species of oysters for pearl production.
Upon arrival at Ha Long Bay’s Bai Chay Tourist Wharf, we boarded a private traditional junk as we set to sail around the magnificent bay and among thousands of karst limestone formations that jut out of the sea in various shapes and sizes. On board our private cruise, we were served with sumptuous local cuisine for lunch while enjoying the scenic view of the bay. The six-hour cruise travelled us further to
Hang Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises) which was discovered in 1901 and welcomed its first visitor in 1993. The entrance is high above the bay on Bo Hòn Island, one of the 1,969 limestone monolithic islands that are topped with thick jungle vegetation. We then continued our cruise to the southern part of the bay where we admired the view of many strange-shaped islands, visit floating village of local fishermen and go kayaking to a remote area of Ha Long Bay before we bid farewell and head back for another four hour travel back to Hanoi City.
What’s next on Jhoel’s bucketlist?
Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.

Remarkable talents in Mr and Miss UB searchs

Scene: Tonight, Sept. 6, is the 16th SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights in Loon town. Eight contingents from different schools will join the street- dancing parade and dance of lights competition in honor of the town’s patron saint the Virgen de la Luz (Our Lady of Light).  The SidlaKasilak is one of its kind 
Rovilson Fernandez
Photo: Ramil Duran
festival in the Philippines because the street-dancing is done at night with the emphasis on the lights.

Scene: Asia’s Got Talent host and model Rovilson Fernandez on Bohol International Marathon 2015: “One more thing about the Bohol International Marathon. It's all about the details when it comes to throwing a race. Especially looking out for the comfort, safety and overall experience of the runners. Water stations strategically placed every few Km's, ambulances and medical teams aplenty, encouraging marshals, nary a pothole on Bohol's 4-lane wide roads, bananas, crackers, Pocari Sweat, etc. Oh and this: at the 21K turnaround, there's a table filled with food! Like real legitimate pick-me up snacks(hotdogs, tinapay, BBQ on a stick, etc). Who does that!? Haha Well Played Bohol, well played...”
Scene: The 86th birthday of Ma'am Hermogena "Nene" Lungay, matriarch of Bol-anon Visual Arts on Sept. 2.
The University of Bohol (UB) will celebrate its annual University Days on September 11-18. Various activities are lined-up for the occasion like athletic games, cheer dance and dance sport competitions, battle of brains, battle of the bands and the search for Mr and Miss UB Personality, the oldest campus pageant in the province.
Hermogena "Nene" Lungay with friends
and fellow artists. 
Photo courtesy: Liza Macalandag
Every year, we are looking forward to watch the search for beauty and brawn; and the remarkable talents of the candidates. Those who impressed the crowd with their talents through the years were Cromwell Besmark Cortes, Julie Mae Bigcal Fatima Hencianos, Jepsy Cajegas, Joan Canuto, Jesel Canuto, Cheryl Lyn Busano, Marjorie Patac, Moises Mari Lacierda, Floressa Cadiz, Joel Magno, Lupe McDonald Manug, John Torralba and Layell Mae Cartegenas.
However, there is one piece I can’t forget, the Genesis Reverse for its strong message about man and the environment. The piece was delivered by Beryl Elizabeth Lupot who represented the high school department. Here it is:
In the beginning was the earth.
It was beautiful and man lived upon the earth.
And man said:
“Let us build skyscrapers and expressways”.
And man covered the earth with steel and concrete.
And man said: “It is good”.
On the second day.
Man look upon the clear blue waters of the earth.
And man said: “Let us dump sewage and waste into the water”.
And man did.
The waters become dark and murky.
And man said: “It is good”
On the third day.
Man gazed at the forest on the earth.
They were tall and green.
And man said:
"Let us cut the trees and build things for ourselves.
And man did. And the forest grew thin.
And man said: “It is good”.
On the fourth day.
Man saw animals leaping in the fields and playing in the sun.
And man said: “
"Let us trap the animals for money and shoot them for sport.
And man did. And animals become scarce.
And man said: “It is good”.
On the fifth day.
Man felt the cool breeze in his nostrils.
And man said: Let us burn our refuse and let the wind blow away the smoke and debris.
And man did. And the air becomes dense with smoke and carbon.
And man said: “It is good”.
On the sixth day.
Man saw many kinds of people on the earth.
Different races, color and creed. And man feared and said:
“Let us make bombs and missiles in case misunderstanding arise”.
And man did. And missiles site and bomb dumps checkered the landscape.
And man said: “It is good”
On the seventh day.
Man rested. And the earth was quiet and deathly still.
For men and women are no more!
No more. And it is good.
Why do people shout in anger? Let me share with you one of the most beautiful stories I ever came across.
A Hindu saint and his disciples were visiting the Ganges river, where they found a group of family members on the banks shouting in anger at each other. Turning to his disciples, the saint smiled and asked, 'Why do people in anger shout at each other?’

His disciples thought for a while. One of them finally said, ‘Because when we lose our calm, we shout.’

'But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you?' countered the saint. 'You can just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.' His disciples thought about it some more, but could not come up with a satisfactory answer.
Finally the saint explained: 'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other, in order to cover that great distance. 

But what happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but instead talk very softly because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small. And when they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only need to look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other. 

So when you argue, do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’
Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.