Let us look back at a beautiful tradition that we share with the rest of the Christian world.
In Bohol, the practice is called Pagpanaygon, Daygon being the local word for “praise”. It traces its origins to the Nativity plays of medieval Europe, community pageantry that portrays the events leading to and around the birth of Jesus Christ.
Undoubtedly, this tradition was introduced to the Philippines as a tool for the evangelization of the local population.
In certain places, the tradition is called Pastores where the performance portrays the tribulations faced by the shepherds in order to find their way to the newborn Messiah.
Centuries on, the practice of the Daygon and the Pastores survived into the 20th century in several towns of Bohol, most notably in Maribojoc, Antequera, and Baclayon where it is called “Igue-Igue” or Daygon sa Pagkatawo”.
The phrase “Daygon sa Pagkatawo” literally means “Praise for the Birth” while the term “Igue-igue” means “to drive away” in reference to the challenge faced by Mary and Joseph in finding a place to stay on the night of the first Christmas.
Local cultural advocate and researcher, Mr. Cooper Resabal, had documented this community musical theater tradition in his village in Toril, Maribojoc. He summarizes the features of this tradition as follows:
The Daygon sa Pagkatawo, shortened as “Igue-Igue”, tradition features the biblical Holy Couple, pregnant Mary and meek Joseph, being refused a room in several houses before finding a stable for the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a folk version of the various incidents before and after the birth of Christ based on a selection of the oral tradition as practiced every December in Toril, Maribojoc town, and other parts of the island from the 1940s to the 1980s.”
“It belongs to a different genre from the “pastores” or “rico-rico” which features mainly dancing pastores (shepherds) and girls in multicolored clothes, or sore homeowners, not the whole cast of characters of the bible-based Christmas story.”
A comparza (composed of 2 banjo players, 2 guitarists, a bass player and sometimes a ukulele player) traditionally accompanies the “igue-igue” carolers.
“Musical clans, privileged of being handed down the oral tradition, usually keep copies of the Daygon or Igue-Igue script, which contains the songs of each character (minus the music notes). In Toril, three clans have been known to hold the script of the Igue-Igue, including “original” knowledge of the tunes and movements of the community musical theater tradition. They are the Hibayas, the Recamaras and the Borcelas clans. Each clan had an ancestor who either were cantores of the chapel or was into writing and directing theater productions.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Resabal also notes in his 2018 study that the tradition faces the threat of discontinuity. Factors range from a lack of interest from the youth to the influences of modern music. This year, though we may not be able to observe many of our Christmas traditions, let us take it upon ourselves to reflect on why ought to preserve our Intangible Cultural Heritage.