The Town of Oas, Part 2 of 6
With Albay’s extensive focus on tourism, Oas cannot just lie quiet in the background. True, not all places were equally gifted with resources. Not all places were born to become cities or great travel destinations that attract troops of visitors. Certainly not a town a few “first class” attached to its name like first class municipality and first class income but lacks the facilities to support good life. Quiet as it is, however, Oas also has a rich culture, unique cuisine, and a thriving cottage industry that can be tapped to jumpstart tourism in the town.
In December, the town is serenaded by carolers known as the Pastores or pastora. Clad in colorful costumes made of local materials, the performers reenact through songs and dances the visit of the shepherds to Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. The dancers bring their elaborately designed arko (an arch of flowers) and sing Christmas carols from house to house. A group of local musikero accompanies them as they do the rounds in town.
This tradition started in the Spanish times, which explains the lyrics of the song.
Pastores a Belén, vamos con alegría,
a ver a nuestro bien, al Hijo de Maria.
Allí, allí, nos espera Jesús.
Pastores entrad, entrad zagales también.
Vamos a ver al recién nacido,
vamos a ver al Niño Emmanuel.
(Shepherds to Bethlehem
We are going with happiness,
To see, to our good, the Son of Mary.
There, Jesus waits for us.
Shepherds enter; lads also.
Let us go to see the newborn,
Let us go to see the Boy, God with us.)
A fiesta is another event to look forward to.The whole year round, villages take turn celebrating feasts in honor of their saints. The merry making is marked with traditional games, singing contests and local pageants, basketball tournaments, parades, a disco night, and of course, a grand banquet. In fact, these fiesta is one of the main reasons people go home. Other celebrated events are the Holy Week, All Souls Day, and Christmas.
Himoloan Festival, a thanksgiving festival in honor of the town’s patron saint has also been running for about 17 years. From the Bicol word “himoloan” which means tithe, the festival focuses on offering and thanksgiving for the blessings and harvest. The celebration is highlighted by a street presentation.