Maitum Bangsi Festival
Recently, our camera club has been invited to participate in the 9th Bangsi Festival at Maitum, Sarangani Province, Philippines, last January 27-29, 2016. As a relative newbie to the industry, I was pretty excited to take part in the celebration as an active participant (as a photographer), not just a spectator.
Since most of our companions were busy with their jobs, we decided to head to Maitum on the day of the festival itself. We decided that we should take off at the wee hours of the morning so that we could arrive just in time for the festivities to officially start. Last minute cancellations by some members led to many plan changes but we still were able to push through with our original plan.
And so we left Davao City at 0200 hours, with that early start we expect no traffic on the road so we were able to make good time with a safe pace. We had our first break at General Santos City at 0430 hours for coffee, then pushed on through to Maitum, passing through a spectacular sunrise along the coastal road before finally arriving at 0645 hours.
We stopped to relax at the Town Hall, before contacting our liaison Ma’am Beth Ramos, announcing our arrival and registering for the festivities. She then invited us to have breakfast and relax before heading out to observe and shoot the various festival activities.
Once we got settled in, we headed on to start our coverage, with one of our number being the guide since he was able to come to the festival last year. We got a little bit lost along the way, since we were not informed that the venue has been changed so we had to backtrack and headed to their Pawikan Sanctuary.
Upon arriving, we met and mingled with fellow photographers from different clubs, then started documenting the official opening of activities. After a few words from the Mayor, the activities went underway: Sayawan sa Baybay, Sand Sculpture Contest, Bankarera, and the Fluvial Float Parade.
We then retired for lunch, have a short break because of the heat and power blackout, and then we arranged our accommodations for the night. After we got things settled, we went out to buy some supplies, then went out and headed for the Bat Sanctuary just in time for sunset. We didn’t get into their caves since the locals informed us that due to human activity, the bats have moved to the trees. We got some shots in, enjoyed the sunset, and headed on back to Maitum.
After dinner and socials we went back to the lodge to freshen up, but since it was still early to settle down, we went out for a walk and headed on to the gym where they held the Munting Mutya ng Maitum, take some shots and went out again for a walk about before finally heading back to get some sleep. We didn’t have a dedicated driver for the car so we had to rest as much as we can.
 hours, we were up and about, we packed up, loaded our gear to the car and headed out for breakfast. We then got ready, and at  hours the festival parade started, culminating at the gymnasium. After the people got settled, the event proper started, with selected local politicos giving their speeches thanking everyone for participating and making the festival a huge success.
The guests and photographers were treated to an awesome dance contest by different local groups, celebrating the Municipality of Maitum and paying homage to what makes their place bountiful. When the contest ended and the winners crowned, we headed out to the municipal hall where the biggest draw was: rows upon rows of grilling stations, with baskets filled to the brim with local bangsi (flying fish).
What was unique to this festival was that all the fish caught would be shared with everyone FOR FREE; people could just come up, take some fish and grill it for lunch! It was quite a sight, seeing a horde of people grilling by the roadside, eating, laughing and sharing the bounty of the sea. Photographers were having a good time, shooting people here and there and marveling at the awesome display of friendship and camaraderie among the locals and guests.
We started trickling back to the photographer’s base, we had a sumptuous lunch before submitting our entries for the Photo Safari Contest. It was a fun afternoon, photographers mingling and sharing stories and experiences, relaxing in the shade before we started packing up and preparing for the long ride home. And finally at around  hours we said our goodbyes, leaving a little piece of our hearts behind.
We would like to thank Ma’am Beth Ramos and the Municipality of Maitum for inviting us all to participate in the 9th Bangsi Festival, for the hospitality and excellent accommodation, for taking care of us and showing us the beauty that is Maitum.