SPAIN - The gray skies in Barcelona, Spain are no match against the explosion of colors and revelry the two most popular Philippine festivals, Aklan’s Ati-atihan and Bacolod’s Masskara festivals are known for.
These festivals were part of the 116th Philippine Independence Day celebration in Barcelona which aimed to promote Filipino culture and commemorate independence from Spanish colonizers.
Ironically, there are approximately 25,000 Filipinos in Barcelona alone seeking greener pastures in Spain, while Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, a region seeking independence from Spain.
Even before members of Asociación Bisayan ug Mindanaoan en España (ABME) and Parish Youth Council-Migrant Filipino Youth Association started to perform Ati-Atihan and Masskara respectively, they were swarmed by Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike to take pictures of them in their costumes, complete with headdress and face paint.
The writer with an Ati-Atihan dancer in Barcelona.
Their dance numbers amused the crowd who thronged the grounds of Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
It took them almost a month to practice the dance steps and make their costumes. It was not an easy task as some materials had to be bought in the Philippines.
"Every weekend lang kami nagpa-practice dahil may mga trabaho at saka yung mga props namin ay gawa mula sa mga cartons, yung mga recycled lang yung ginagamit namin," said ABME president Arcille Napone.
The Masskara Festival seemed to be apt for the economic situation in Spain whose current president Mariano Rajoy claims that the country has already recovered from the eurozone crisis despite high unemployment rates.
"Kasi tayong mga Filipino kahit krisis na, makulay pa rin yung pamumuhay natin and then masayahin pa rin tayo kaya habang sumasayaw kami kahit nakamaskara, nakangiti kami," said Rochele Arellano of Parish Youth Council.
Catalans also had a surprise number as part of the celebration’s objective to showcase cultural integration.
A group called Falcons de Barcelona formed human figures that are typical in Catalonia.
"We’ve got this tradition to make human towers, which is called Castellers. But it’s not exactly the same as Castellers. Castellers make human towers and what we do is different kinds of figures. We’ve done eight different figures," Marta Vall.lovera of Falcons de Barcelona explained.
Vall.lovera added that the tradition came from Central Europe and has been practiced in Catalonia since the last century.
Filipino traditional wear was also displayed to the delight of spectators when various Filipinos wearing barong, terno, Igorot and Maranao costumes paraded in Joaquin Costa, where most migrants, especially Filipinos, live.
And like every year, the Independence Day Celebration served as stage for talents including rising Filipino-Spanish star Maria Sagana and other budding artists.