Long before the extravagant and grandiose-themed street dancing that we know today, there’s the Bandoreal— the traditional community-based street parade held in barrios of Zamboanga City that began in 80s. The formal documentation of this practice is yet to be written.
Talking to some of my friends who were at the event, the roots of the Bandoreal can be traced in Barangay Tumaga, Zamboanga City. The mix of different religions, cultures, and ethnicities makes the Bandoreal uniquely Zamboanguenio.
The Bandoreal is a far different from the elaborately choreographed Sinulog/Ati-Atihan/Kadayawan themed street dances that we know today. Unlike mainstream street dancing, the Bandoreal has a rural feel. Colorful costumes are made of simple materials that a community can raise. The props may not equal the details and intricacies of what we see in big festivals but they never fail to be entertaining and amazing.
Most street dances in the Philippines are performed during town fiestas celebrating Catholic patron Saints. The Bandoreal in Zamboanga is participated by people from all walks of life and different religions
—Christians, Muslims and Lumads unite to perform in the parade. The central theme of the parade is the triumph of good over evil. Performances vary in each barangay, some can be very comical, and others have a more serious feel to it.
The Bandoreal is more than a street parade as it also unites communities. People from all walks of life in the community participate— men dress up in drag, children dress up as angels, teenage boys paint their body black to portray monsters, old men play as fools, some people portray as superheroes, and so many other whimsical characters. A tableau of the battle between good and evil is the highlight of the routine.
It was the side stories of the Bandoreal that entertained me a lot. The unity of the participating communities can be seen in the eyes of stage mothers fixing the make-up of their children, supportive barangay officials taking care of the snacks of the performers, local choreographers walking beside the performers making sure that they perform the routine perfectly, and the dancers who endure the heat of the sun to perform as if it was their last.
The Bandoreal became part of the Hermosa Festival for the first time this year. Groups from different barangays participated in the two day affair, one legislative district each day. The winners of the parade will perform at the City Hall during the Opening Salvo of the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival on October 3, 2015. The Bandoreal is proudly Zamboanguenio, it is tradition that proves that there can be unity in the midst of diversity.
(Disclaimer: the origin of the Bandoreal is not yet formally documented. The accuracy of the facts in this article may still be corrected.) Credits: many thanks to Ced Zabala, City Mayors office, City Information Office, Joshua Mark Dalupang