By Jules Vivas
“When the fields are green and the grains are golden; when the machines work well and all business prosper; when the birds in the sky chirp freely and men on earth are peacefully happy; in Bikol, it is Kasanggayahan, meaning a life of prosperity,” Rev. Fr. Jose Ofracio said sometime during the 1900s described Sorsogon with this short verse, dubbing the province as the Land of Kasanggayahan. Believed to be the counterpart of the Tagalog kasaganahan, the old Bikol word perfectly captures the image of the province as a bountiful verdant land with golden fields, blessed with flamboyant and fun-loving natives, and a vibrant environment rich in agricultural and marine biodiversity. Arguably one of the most underrated tourist destinations in the country, Sorsogon’s landscape is incredibly diverse scattered with beaches, natural springs, rice fields, volcanoes, and mountains. You can easily see the stunning topography of the locale as you hover above Bicol Peninsula if you so choose to travel by air. Two ways to get to Sorsogon is through a gruelling 12-hour drive from Metro Manila or a plane ride anywhere from Luzon to Legazpi City in Albay that usually only takes an hour, followed by another hour drive to the province. Except for the landlocked Irosin, all towns lie along the coast, and are connected by concrete and asphalt roads. Meanwhile, mountains sprawl over the northeast, southeast, and western parts. In Oct. 17, 1894, Sorsogon adopted its name after attaining independence from Albay. This autonomy is commemorated yearly every October, with a province-wide fete called Kasanggayahan Festival that showcases the best the province can offer. While there is no exact translation for the term that could mean anything from kasiyahan to kagandahan, it conveys one important thing—a positive and optimistic celebration of life in peaceful Sorsogon.
This year, led by Governor Chiz Escudero, the occasion themed “Kada Sorsoganon Magdanon (Each Sorsoganon shall help)” was observed for the entire month, and featured a multitude of cultural, historical, religious, agro-industrial and economic activities—32 official events to be exact. One of the highlights of the festival is the Miss Kasanggayahan 2019, a pageant that gathered representatives from the 14 municipalities and one city of Sorsogon to parade the unique beauty of each town’s identity and, of course, the whole province. This enriching activity was made possible by the local government together with the Provincial Tourism Office.
Each of the participants exuded a charm similar to that of Sorsogon, a kind of allure that strongly appeals, but does not impose. Among the contenders, five emerged as queens on the fateful coronation night of Oct. 27, at the Sorsogon National Highschool Covered Court. Sta. Magdalena is the smallest town in Sorsogon both in population and size. It is bound by Irosin, Bulusan, and Matnog. In the past, it was called busaingan, meaning “water breakers,” or the place where sea water smash. The name implies what adventures await one in this humble yet lovely place. Sort of like the underdog of the pageant, Danica Jane Blancada of Sta. Magdalena, managed to penetrate the top five, and even came out as the second runner up.
Karen Grace Lasala, made her hometown of Juban proud as she got hold of the first runner up title. Juban is known for its beautifully-preserved bahay na bato or ancestral homes that can be found along the National Highway.
There are 31 places in the world named after Barcelona, the Spanish city famed for its medieval treasures. Seven of them are in the Philippines, and Sorsogon’s Barcelona is the most, if not one of the most popular in the Pacific.
Miss Kasanggayahan Kalikasan 2019, Justine Joy Bornel, hails from the municipality that some say got its name because of its semblance to the Catalonian city. People usually come here to visit the Church of St. Joseph and the Presidencia ruins and to take quick photo-ops at the marquee. Midway during the long gown segment of the pageant, the 19-year-old took a bad fall, but did her best to maintain poise. She rose up and continued striding on stage as if nothing happened.
Miss Kasanggayahan Turismo 2019, Jaynalyn Malto, comes from Pilar, one of the largest towns in Sorsogon. It is home to one of the most scenic locations in the province, the Panumbagan Sandbar, and is also the secondary spot next to Donsol when it comes to whale shark interaction. Aside from the wonderful news that over a hundred new young butandings (whale sharks) were sighted in the waters of Donsol this year, the municipality’s representative Jannel Mendee Calleja took home the title of Miss Kasanggayahan 2019. Her gracefulness won her the crown, answering the dreaded final question and answer portion, in which the final five were asked, “If you hear or read a basher saying something negative about Sorsogon, how would you react?” with “I think that smile is the best response to any negative comment or thought. Smile is something we should all have as Sorsoganons. As a Sorsoganon, I only see (prosperity), and we should only live a life of prosperity.” Jannel, an 18-year-old college student, radiates a simple yet very natural beauty much like Donsol, a top destination for people trying to connect with
nature. A leading spot for sustainable tourism, Donsol has become synonymous with whale sharks as the world’s largest congregation of the gentle giants are found here. A few days after the beauty pageant, Sorsogon makes it to the Guinness Book of World Record after achieving the largest Folk dance in the whole world. The inimitable Pantomina sa Tinampo (pantomime in the streets) is a traditional Bikol dance, known as a dance of love and courtship. The Pantomina imitates through dance the courtship and mating of doves. It is only in Sorsogon where this is danced on the streets, or tinampo, by droves of eager dancers wearing colorful native attire, while they cajole and coax tourists and onlookers to join in the fun and merrymaking, as they swing and sway and do their love dance.