A FULL force of over 100 colorful dancing giants figuratively “invaded” Angono as the town referred to as the country’s Arts Capital celebrated its annual Higantes Festival showcasing its rich cultural heritage.
According to Mayor Jeri Mae Calderon, Angono finally managed to get its tourism glitters back to its old form -- courtesy of the papier-mâché giants which made what she described as the grandest display of choreographs on the streets of Angono
The town’s ‘giants’ swayed and danced to the beat of the drums as the giant mascots, made of aluminum body and papier-mâché heads, passed by the rows of residents who lined-up by the roadside to take photos.
Giant versions of prominent personalities like President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Vice President Sara Duterte, and Dr. Jose Rizal were among the “higantes” that joined the festival parade.
Calderon led local officials in the grand parade that ended on ML Quezon Street in front of the municipal hall.
Angono Arts Academy
Senator Francis Tolentino was among the guests who graced the occasion and greeted the residents in the month-long festivity attended by hundreds of thousands of local and foreign tourists wanting a glimpse of the town where two national artists – Carlos Botong Francisco (for visual arts) and Maestro Lucio San Pedro (for music) come from.
"Ang Higantes Festival ay pagpapakita na bumabangon na ang turismo, pagtatampok ng talento at pagtitiyaga ng mga taga-Angono," Tolentino said during his speech at the festival Grand Parade.
He likewise praised the creativity of Angono residents as reflected on the Higantes, the giant papier-mache puppets, street dance, and the entire conduct of the festival.
Tolentino also made an announcement to the delight of local artists in attendance – the construction of the much-awaited Angono Arts Academy by the middle of next year.
"Next year, sisimulan po natin ang Angono Art Center. Ito po ay pagpapakita sa buong Pilipinas na ang Angono, Rizal ay sentro ng kultura at ng mga malikhaing Pilipino," the Senator remarked.
Private Sector Support
Tourism is big business, says the local chief executive, who cited the need to create a harmonious relationship with the local government and the business sector in boosting what she described as a significant economic force.
According to Calderon, this year’s Higantes Festival would not have been successful if not for the support of the local businesses and sponsorships of big companies which include TNT-Smart, SM Savemore and SM Center Angono.
“We all are aware about the struggles of small businesses, for which the local government decided to make a little push by way of endorsing them via social media,” she noted, adding that small business is the backbone of the local economy and tourism remains a pivotal contributor to small business success.
Closer Look at Angono
Located 15 minutes away east of Metro Manila, Angono is one of the few remaining localities where heritage, culture, tradition and arts are harmoniously co-existing.
According to homegrown visionary Gerardo Calderon, the man behind the title (Art Capital of the Philippines), Angono has so far been doing good in maintaining its economic position even without the destructive industries in their locality as the town embarks on an economic policy anchored on calibrated tourism and sustainable development.
Calderon, who served as mayor of the locality for quite some time, said that Angono is reaping much from its two major assets — the artists and nature, for which tourists visit their town. He added that Angono maintains an equilibrium embarking on calibrated tourism and preservation of the environment.
“We would not gamble our environment for a few more bucks coming in the form of taxes to be paid by investors behind environmentally destructive industries. Our artistry alone will take us to the global map, and it’s in progress,” said Calderon in an interview.
Cradle for Artists
According to Calderon, there is actually more beyond the two pillars (Ka Botong and Maestro Lucio), but what seemed striking is the big community of artists that they have developed during their prime. artistry has become a passion of local folks from all walks of life and ages.
In fact, renowned modern-day artist Nemesio Miranda, who uses a moniker of Nemiranda, remains an active conduit in promoting art among the younger generation. He has even transformed his own home into a gallery and art school in one. He personally shares his crafts to young turks.
Aside from Nemiranda’s art school, aspiring artists paint on canvas under the shade of trees, playgrounds, open parks, church patio, barangay halls and basically anywhere they could find a subject worth the color and their canvass.
As it is, artists now come in abundance in Angono, pre-occupied doing one masterpiece after another, in basically all places in the town, compelling the local government to provide a sanctuary just for them— Angono Arts Center, located at the town’s Lakeside Eco Park.
Home of Higantes
Another form of artistry that thrives in Angono is the art of papier-mâché, says Calderon who attributed the art of making paper dolls as the very reason why they have the world-renowned Higantes Festival.
There are many stories behind the Higantes of Angono. One popular theory about the origin of the Higantes Festival is that it was originally a form of mockery or protest by the locals against despicable landlords or hacienda owners during the waning years of the Spanish colonial rule. This is allegedly why the Higantes are traditionally created with their hands on their waist and their faces seeming to make commands.
According to Angono's official website, a study conducted by Far Eastern University professor James Owen Saguinsin, revealed that the giant puppet paraded during the festival actually depicts a tall katiwala or hacienda caretaker named Karias Tangkad, whom the people wanted to take revenge (higanti) on.
Moreover, the study showed that the Higantes Festival only began after World War II when Filipino artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco asked Artemio Tajan, the first higantes maker, to create the giant papier-mache puppet to make Angono's fiesta celebration livelier and more festive.
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