XO?'s Pilgrimage to Bacong, the birthplace of PantaLeon Villegas aka Leon Kilat

The Sigbin or Sigben is a Visayan mythological creature that is said to be a pet of sorcerers, witches and/or people who have unexplainable longevity or success. It is said to walk backwards with its head lowered between its hind legs, resembling a kangaroo or dog with considerably long hind legs. The Sigbin is also said to have powers of teleportation and can transport its master to places in an instant.

The hero, Pantaleon Villegas aka Leon Kilat was said to have owned a Sigbin himself, allowing him to fight the Spaniards in the 1898 revolution in different places in the Visayas at a time.

Canada-based performance artist and fellow XO? member RoyLu's occasional visits to Cebu are almost always never complete without a performance show with the group. This time, we managed to do two events: first was a small showing at Kukuk's Nest North entitled Open XO?urce. The other was a far more ambitious undertaking- a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Visayan Hero Leon Kilat in Bacong, the pilgrimage would be called sigbiniKilat.

We arrived in Dumaguete City in the dead of the night and decided to stay put while some of us, including yours truly, went out for an early breakfast and to look for accommodations. Our first event for the day would be an ambush performance by the city's famed Boulevard- a park bordering Dumaguete's most prominent coastal road.

After we had settled in our rooms at Ildesefa Inn, we went out and did our individual preparations for the show at dusk. I had initially planned to show B. Niyaan since the boulevard seemed perfect and deemed to be one the most cinematic sites for B. Niyaan to lose herself again in her memories. We stationed ourselves by the monument of the Nuns right across Mamia's Cafe and began the show with Raymund Fernandez and Budoy playing aleatoric music.
A crowd quickly began to flock around us. Raymund Fernandez did a performance tribute to Leon Kilat where he delivered an old verse about the Hero: Si Leon Kilat, Naglatay-latay sa dagat, Walay laing gisugat, Gyera ug gubat (Leon Kilat over water walking, Does not meet anything, But battle and fighting). As he was doing this, a Remote Controlled toy car draped in black fabric zoomed around him just like a sigbin would swoosh about. After this performance, I followed suit and did a condensed and modified version of B. Niyaan.
I sang the chorus of Usahay instead of the usual modified lyrics of Antony Hegarty's I fell in love with a dead boy and ended the performance by tying a red scarf around my neck and pulling it up as if it were a noose. I had overlooked the scarf as I was changing into my "normal" clothes and putting back B. Niyaan's garb in her overnight bag. The modification had to be done to keep the cinematic "perfective" flow of the performance. By the time my performance as B. Niyaan was done, the crowd had already covered the street from view. Chai Fonacier ended the show by singing a song A Cappella whilst facing the sea and only turning towards the audience after the song ended.

We had little time to rest as we headed to the nearby Jutsz Cafe to do the second show for the day and have our drinks and dinner. There were already Jutsz Cafe patrons having their early dinner when we arrived and so we had our fill of food and rest as we waited for our invited guests. We started the show with a repeat of the Leon Kilat tribute performance Raymund and I did in Open Xo?urce show in Cebu. I had left the mask I used in the first staging of this performance so I opted to use Lucid's face which I had painted with a layer of chrome. I welcomed the change and the experiment and the performance turned out be as affective as its first staging.
Chai did a set of beat poetry followed by original songs sung and composed by Dumaguete-based Jana Jumalon-Alano. I followed with B. Niyaan again, this time without having to change in front of the audience. I did a similar version to what I did in Ayo Cafe for Ms. Merlie Alunan in Tacloban City but ended the performance in the streets as they proved so inviting. Chai did another set of long form improv followed by a performance piece by RoyLu. Raymund capped the show with a rendition of Imagine which had everyone in the cafe sing along. The staged was then opened to everyone and was quickly occupied by a Silliman fine arts student who played some beautiful classical guitar.

The next day was set for the actual pilgrimage to Leon Kilat's Bacong. We were to head to Bacong after lunch and create Installations on the spaces surrounding the monument of Leon Kilat. We first did a short artist talk for the students of the Silliman University fine arts program in the morning. And after lunch and coffee, we then proceeded to Bacong to start on our installations and prepare what we need for the performance at dusk . Most of us had to get acquainted with the space even more (despite the ocular the day before) while some spent a few moments by the beach to rest from the heat. The installations we made were to be part of a "Sigbin Museum". Raymund drew sigbins with plastic straw rope while I made a white sigbin out of an old jar the town had been using as a trash bin. Tonton and Benz made a sort of sigbin "nest" while RoyLu planted a small shrine within one of Raymund's installations on the grass.

As Budoy and friend Nico were setting up the sound system, a horde of high school students fresh out of the day's classes noticed Budoy and very soon a considerable crowd of uniformed juveniles were hovering about our found stage and enjoying Budoy's celebrity presence. Raymund and Budoy then began the show with some aleatoric music as the students buzzed half-listening but still in the moment. RoyLu did a new performance piece involving an improvised toy rat as a sigbin while being followed around by his flip flops as he made footprints the color of blood. The kids were rather noisy but gave a decent applause after the performance.

Benz followed through with another performance. Unfortunately I couldn't see it since he was surrounded by the crowd and I was trying to figure out where and how I can change into my sigbin costume. I finally managed to change into my costume, crouching behind UP FASO Alumni Yvette Malahay-Kim(she'd brought her students to watch the show with her) just outside the stage near the installations. As soon as I heard Budoy calling out Naay muabot nga sigbin! Sigbin! I charged towards the stage, quickly answering the call of my master with the saxophone. I stayed with him (Raymund) and walked by his side until he gave me away so that he can finally rest and die. The kids were both frightened and delighted with my version of the sigbin and we ended the show with that performance.

The crowd quickly dispersed right after as storm clouds heralded heavy rains. We went straight to Hayahay to have our dinner and I had to do a short performance after to sort of "pay" for our dinner. I didn't necessarily enjoy that but was glad to have a bit of practice with the two-faced figure dance and expel whatever's left of my energy for that day. All in all, the trip was a victory for performance art in the regions and for XO?. It was an honor to perform and talk about art alongside people I consider mentors, as well as a great pleasure to share art in Dumaguete and Bacong and celebrate a Hero that I hope will live on in the memory of the Visayan pysche.

Raymund Fernandez and Budoy start the show at Dumaguete's famed "Boulevard"; B. Niyaan continues her lament by the sea; filmmaker Joanna Arong documented the entire pilgrimage; B. Niyaan at Jutsz Cafe; Chai Fonacier as Kurdapya Dimaculangan; RoyLu during his performance piece; RoyLu after his performance piece; Raymund Fernandez heading the artist talk at Silliman University; sigbiniKilat in Bacong; final performance at Hayahay.

PHOTO Credits: Jana Jumalon-Alano, Chai Fonacier & Yvette Malahay-Kim
The XO? pilgrimage to Bacong, Leon Kilat's birthplace was composed of a fellowship of 10:
Raymund Fernandez, RoyLu, Budoy, Chai Fonacier, Joanna Arong, Tonton, Benz, Anne Germaine, Luz, and myself.