The wind of cultural change in Biñan

According to National Geographic, there are five kinds of wind zone — polar easterlies, westerlies, trade winds, horse latitudes and the doldrums. But in the lakeside barangay of Malaban in Biñan, the fishermen can distinguish 10 types of wind, varying by weather, direction and time of the year.

Such intangible cultural heritage manifested when the Biñan’s Tourism Office began its cultural mapping, which has been going on since August of 2017.

According to National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), cultural mapping is “a research project to collect information and data on significant natural heritage and cultural properties in the different provinces in the country.”

NCCA and the city government of Biñan recently signed a memorandum of understanding for the research project. As of writing, the city has listed down more than 300 local heritage and cultural information, ranging from historical memorabilia, heirloom recipes to unbeknown natural wonders worth documenting — some of which can be transformed into tourist spots.

Some notable “discoveries” during the cultural mapping activity are the Tibagan Falls, a natural stream in Barangay Malamig; Prinza Dam in Barangay Timbao, a centuries-old dam constructed during the Spanish period; an original Biñan delicacy called matse, a kakanin similar to Japanese mochi; the church bells of San Isidro Labrador Parish and Dela Paz Parish dating back to the early 1800s; and intangible family practices of the poon caretakers during Semana Santa.

To engage local government units and make them appreciate and preserve their cultural heritage, the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) — a performance-based grant and award from the national government — recently added Tourism, Culture and the Arts to its criteria or indicators. For 2017 and 2018, the City of Biñan passed this indicator thus awarded the SGLG.

Puto Latik Festival: 9 years of bringing life to the City of Life

Topping the city’s list of heritage pieces is the Puto Latik Festival, a modernized celebration of the traditional feast of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers.

Started in 2011 by then mayor, Biñan City Rep. Marlyn Alonte-Naguiat, the nine-day festival used to be celebrated alongside Biñan’s cityhood and foundation anniversary in February. Vice Mayor Gel Alonte and the Sangguniang Panglungsod then institutionalized the celebration into May 15 — historically, the day when the traditional Maglalatik dance is held.

“We’re happy to see how Puto Latik Festival has evolved into a socially and culturally relevant event, inspiring Biñaneses to preserve their cultural heritage and become a strong, unified community. We thank Mayor Arman Dimaguila for continuing this initiative and for pushing the boundaries for the city’s tourism programs,” Naguiat says.

Puto Latik Festival was coined from Puto Biñan and the famous Maglalatik dance.

Few people know that the folkdance originated in Biñan, and whose the best dancers come from Barangay Zapote. Historically, during the town fiesta held every May, Maglalatik dancers would hop from house to house then move to the streets to join the religious procession as an offering to San Isidro de Labrador. The dance resembles the war between the early Christians and Moros.

Puto Biñan, meanwhile, is the city’s iconic steamed rice cake cooked in large, flat molds. Made of galapong (rice flour), the puto comes out textured and light brown, and served with a generous topping of grated cheese and salted egg.

Adding color to the festival are pageants, street dances, cultural shows, floats and costume parades. On May 23, Chinese families in the city will conclude the nine-day celebration with the Pistang Intsik, a longstanding tradition of thanksgiving for a year-round of blessings, to be capped by the much-awaited Santacruzan.

Beyond Puto Latik, the mother of all festivals in the city, Biñan takes pride in its increasing number of festivals in the barangay level. At present, the institutionalized local festivities comprise of Sorbetes Festival (Barangay Sto. Domingo), Sombrero Festival (Barangay Platero), Pinipig Festival (Barangay Canlalay), Puto at Kakanin Festival (Barangay San Vicente) and Managkiwa Festival (Barangay Langkiwa).

A model local government unit for culture-based governance, Biñan received the Best Tourism Event Festival (city level) for Puto Latik Festival at the ATOP-DOT Pearl Awards last year.

“One has to use one’s five senses to experience Biñan and to understand the meaning of its slogan, ‘City of Life’,” says Biñan City Tourism Officer Bryan Jayson Borja.

Biñan is a city that never sleeps. From the beautiful noise of the night market at the historical town plaza to the visibility of tourism efforts balancing the rustic golden past and today’s smart-city needs, Biñan characterizes a true City of Life.

Puto Latik Festival is happening until May 23. For inquiries, call Sentrong Pangkultura ng Biñan at (049) 511-8479 or email [email protected]. Follow binanchato on Facebook.