21 August 2009

Historic past combines with modern present in Subic Bay festival

While a Hollywood-inspired parade spiced up this year’s “Karakol” festival in this free port, the original religious message of thanking Subic’s patron saint San Roque remains the core of the festivity.

In the street dancing activity that kicked off the Karakol celebration recently, characters from hit movies like “Grease,” “Sister Act,” “The Matrix” and “Moulin Rouge,” as well as Miss Universe “contestants” assembled at the San Roque chapel here, their attractive costumes lending color and fun to the otherwise sedate occasion.

The cast of Hollywood characters were actually employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and students of schools here, who donned well-prepared costumes and heavy make-up in an effort to please the crowd of tourists that looked forward to the annual Karakol festival.

However, the festivity has not abandoned its original religious purpose despite the modern elements, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

Arreza said the modern celebration only reflects the Subic lifestyle, which he described as a merger of the past and the present.

“You can call this a strategy to catch the younger generation’s attention, so that they are introduced to their historical roots,” Arreza said.

“But that is just like icing on a cake. The celebration’s core message— the spiritual significance— remains unaltered,” he added.

Arreza noted that this “past-present strategy” is applied by the SBMA even in the physical development of the Subic Freeport, wherein modern facilities are being constructed to blend with historical landmarks that date back to Spanish and American periods.

Raul Marcelo, SBMA deputy administrator for tourism, said the Karakol festival is one of the most awaited events held annually at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

He said SBMA departments and business locators here took turns sponsoring the week-long mass offerings at the San Roque chapel, which was built for Spanish sailors and Filipino converts to Christianity during the 1800’s.

Enshrined in the chapel is an image of San Roque from Segovia, Spain, which was given as a gift to the people of Olongapo by a prominent resident of Cavite in 1905.

Marcelo added that while modern facilities mushroomed here in the past two decades, historical landmarks such as the San Roque chapel were preserved, thereby providing a venue for residents and visitors alike to trace the cultural roots of the Subic Bay area.

Aside from the San Roque chapel, other top historical attractions here are Tappan Park, the oldest park in the Subic Freeport-Olongapo area; the Spanish Gate, the main gate to the Naval Station built here by Spaniards; and the Admiral’s Guest House, which was built during the early American period.

These structures are all within the central business district of the Subic Bay Freeport and are now easily accessible to tourists.

Outside of the business district, historical attractions include the World War II-era battery installations at the Grande Island, as well as several shipwrecks at the bottom of the Subic Bay. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Modern festivities blend with religious tradition in the Karakol Festival, which honors Subic Bay’s patron saint San Roque.