January 13, 2018


ILONGGO artist Sabrec misses the old Dinagyang.

Leoniel “Sabrec” Cerbas shares that as a child he was amazed and mesmerized by the ornate costumes of the annual festival, drawn not only to their vivid details but also their inventive use of indigenous materials.

Now, very few people remember the Dinagyang of yesteryears. We’ve grown used to the bright feathered headdresses and shining baubles that evoke more the Mardi Gras of the west than the earthen colors of our tribal forbearers. We paint our tribesmen black and celebrate our unique local culture as our indigenous peoples are pushed further into the fringes.

Sang bata pa ko galantaw Dinagyang, na-amaze ko sa mga detalye sang mga costume kag taming and how they used indigenous materials in creative ways,” shares Sabrec.

Subong fluorescent colors, sanag-sanag daw nadula ang dating nga local tribes,” he adds.

Sabrec comes from an underprivileged family, spending his childhood living in a settlement in Ortiz. Sabrec, through his first solo show “Precious Memories” mounted at the Casa Real Gallery last year, told the story of taking on numerous odd jobs at a very young age – pedicab driver, warehouse laborer, and scrap collector among others – to help provide for his family.

He eventually found his passion and calling in art. Dinagyang’s annual spectacle of dance, culture and form arguably one of his earlier introductions to the medium.

Sabrec shares that he’s been involved with the craftsmanship and designs of the Dinagyang Festival for almost ten years now, recruited by his fellow artists almost a decade ago. Starting out as a props man and a painter of backdrops, he had worked with several different tribes before making a mark with Tribu Panayanon and the Iloilo City National High School in 2013 as part of its costume design team.

In 2014, Tribu Panayanon claimed the “Best in Costume” and “Best Costume Designer” plums as well as the coveted Dinagyang Ati Tribe championship.

Sabrec and the Team Panayanon team once again took home the “Best in Costume” and “Best Costume Designer” awards in 2016, as well as the “Best Headdress” citation.

Ang dati nga Dinagyang showcased native products, sa mga costumes ka Panayanon gusto ko i-highlight ang local materials,” he shares. “Nakita ko nga lubid kag kalat ang ila ginagamit sang una, dira ko nakuha ang daku ko gid nga inspirasyon.”

In 2016’s tribes competition, Sabrec’s award-winning designs were inspired by the myth of Lambunao’s Tinagong Dagat. He shares that he designed two sets of costumes for the warriors to represent warring tribes, sculpting and shaping kalat and lubid to form intricate patterns and small sculptures mounted onto shields and headdresses.

The finale battle-gear bore wooden beads – sparse of the vivid feathers usually overpowering the designs of Dinagyang costumes – and an imposing figure resembling anito busts made of entwined rope.

The 2017 reincarnation of Tribu Panayanon traced back to the true origin of the Dinagyang Festival, by paying tribute to our ati ancestors and their vibrant culture.

“Ang amun nga story ga-revolve siya sa ati nga characters kag ang ila pang-adlaw-adlaw within sa ila community,” Sabrec related. “Ga-focus sa pagpangabuhi nila, paano sila mag-hunt, mag-harvest kag mag-merry making”

“Very important sa akun and material, gusto ko magbalik sa daan nga indigenous materials, dira ko gina gakuha inspiration,” he shares. “It should embody more the earth-inspired colors of our local tribes, but also focus on the craftsmanship and how it looks during the performance and movement”

Sabrec feels that by celebrating the true colors and essence of the annual Ilonggo tradition, and embracing local, Panayanon can reclaim the crown. (maverhick.blogspot.com/PN)

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