Words and Photos by Camille Ong
Niyogyugan is a provincial festival that combines all of Quezon’s 39 municipalities and 2 cities into one. The name comes from niyog (coconut) and yugyog (to shake). A coconut dancing to a lively beat comes to mind. Actually, the festival itself isn’t too far off from this description: everything is coconut-themed and the Niyogyugan song that plays on a loop in the festival is perfect to shake or dance to.
Why all this focus on coconuts? It’s the main produce of Quezon province, that’s why.
Even though this Festival has been happening in Lucena, my hometown, for years now, attending this is a first time for me. It’s a week-long festival with numerous events and I was able to walk around the park where the booths were at and watch the triathlon.
The booths are the main attraction since they’re there for the whole duration of the festival. Each booth depicts each municipality based on their culture and livelihood. You can buy their very own pasalubong inside, depending on what food or product they specialize in. The way they decorated their booths really gives you a feel of what’s it like in their town. They really tried to work around the requirement of coconuts.
The municipality of Calauag, for example, specializes in sea products. Katang (mud crab) is one of the main sources of income for their fishermen. To showcase this bountiful marine resource, they put a giant crab on top of their booth.
Infanta’s booth focuses greatly on coconut production. It has a giant coconut on top and smoke coming out from the roof every minute or so, which is an indication of how copra, the dried meat of the coconut, can be made through smoke-drying.
Candelaria was a bit different from the other two I mentioned because instead of focusing on an agriculture produce, they showcased Torre del Valle, a landmark in their municipality. The tower is said to be built in 1922 and is part of an ancestral mansion.
Another interesting booth is Pitogo’s. Since their main source of livelihood is fishing, their booth is designed to look like a boat. Aside from coconut products, they also sell a lot of fish.
Even though most of the booths I mentioned didn’t make the coconut as their main attraction, the structure of their booth is still made out of coconut materials. It’s too dark to see but the exterior walls of the booths are usually inlaid with polished coconut husks and coconut fibre. It was really interesting to see how they decided to make use of the coconut in the making of their booths.
The morning after I went to see the booths was the triathlon event. Last year, they made the triathletes carry a coconut to the finish line but this year they decided to leave that part out because it was too heavy. They retained the coconut costume contest though and this year they encouraged the triathletes to wear a superhero inspired coconut costume. They were really ingenious with their designs.
My favorite of all of them was this thing. When I saw this thing (I’m assuming this is the Thing from Fantastic Four) running towards me, I had to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating because I didn’t expect to see this on a busy street. You wouldn’t notice the coconut in this orange bodysuit but it’s inlaid with coconut husks and then painted over to blend in.
After the triathletes crossed the finish line, they were greeted with a whole coconut for refreshment and habhab (a kind of pancit that is local to Quezon) served on a banana leaf for nourishment.
I applaud the triathletes who competed in their superhero-inspired coconut costume because it’s no easy feat to run with the weight of their costumes. Running is hard enough without all those adornments.
There are more events lined up for the remaining days of the week. The Niyogyugan Festival can be found at Perez Park in Lucena, right in front of Quezon’s provincial capitol. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to gather round and get a feel of the entirety of Quezon without actually visiting each municipality or city!
Niyogyugan has been ongoing since August 9 and will end on August 20, where they will award the booth competition winners. May the best booth win!