There’s more to Capiz than its famous shell

Published December 24, 2020, 3:01 PM

by Nick J. Lizaso


Nick Lizaso Column Box
Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso,
NCCA chairman and CCP resident

The province of Capiz can be found at the northeastern portion of Panay Island, bordering Aklan to the north, Antique to the west, and Iloilo to the south. 

Capiz is synonymous with its trademark product, the brilliant shell that has a luster similar to the mother of pearl shells. Capiz chip-made products have made their way to the other parts of the world, ranging from lanterns, lamp shades, window panes, faux chandeliers, curtains, picture panels and frames, plates, decorative bowls, candle holders, tiles, flower vases, wind chimes, soap dishes, pendants, necklace decors, beads, bird cages, floor lamp holders, gift boxes, collection item racks, and many more. 

Because of its brackish waters, Capiz has abundant marine life. Its growing economy relies heavily on seafood trade and business. This is why it is now known as the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines.” They even have a Talahong Festival (talaba and tahong) in May to celebrate the province’s abundance of shellfish production and promote its seafood produce, such as oysters or “talaba,” clams, mussel, greenshell or “tahong,” angel wings or “diwal,” bangus, king crab or “alimango,” blue crab or “kasag,” shrimp or “pasayan,” prawn or “lukon,” squid, tangigue, scallops, seaweeds or “gulaman,” lobster, and lapu-lapu. During Capiztahan, the annual fiesta of Capiz province, visitors can treat themselves to mounds and mounds of seafood such as prawn, talaba, and other shellfish.

Sinadya sa Halaran Festival, which celebrates the riches of the seas in Capiz

The luster of Capiz shells is reflected in the way the native Capiznon would readily greet his neighbors or engage in casual banter with ordinary folks such as peddlers, hawkers, and tricycle drivers. It’s a bright and friendly place indeed.

The birthplace of President Manuel A. Roxas, the first President of the Philippine Republic, Capiz also enjoys the distinction as the native home of two National Artists: Daisy Avellana and Jovita Fuentes who were both born in Roxas City, the provincial capital. Jovita Fuentes, dubbed the First Lady of Philippine Music, made a name for herself in European opera at a time when the Philippines was hardly heard of in the region. Daisy Avellana was a pioneering actress, director, and writer whose career spanned the emergence and flowering of modern Philippine theater. She was the wife of film and theater director Lamberto Avellana, also a National Artist. They were the Oliviers of their day, producing and writing material for all available media, from stage to radio and film.

But aside from one President and two National Artists, there’s a long roster of personalities who trace their roots to Capiz. Among these are Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 1973 Margie Moran, now CCP Chair; Gina Alajar and her two sons Ryan Eigenmann and Geoff Eigenmann; director Charlie Davao, and actors Ricky Davao and Bing Davao; Barbie Almabis-Honasan of Barbie’s Cradle; Sharmaine Arnaiz; and Edu Manzano, whose mother is from Roxas City.

What this tells you is that Capiz is a fertile breeding ground for talented performing artists, on stage or in film and television.

The peculiarity and beauty of the culture of its people is expressed aesthetically through various art forms. This is best seen in music and dance. Capiznon dancers exhibit graceful orchestration of body movements. In fact, Capiz has given us many Visayan folk dances such as “Tinolabong,” “Gayong-gayong,” “Timawa,” “Dagit-dagit,” “Beneracion,” “Tatay Meroy Cariñosa,” “Pukol,” “Habanera Capiceña,” “Cabatingan,” “Saad,” “Pitik Mingaw,” “Kuratsa Capiceña,” and “Palomita Coquitana,” to name a few.

Blessed with an abundance of sea harvests and native artists, the luster of Capiz glows and gleams beyond its world-renowned shell.

The folk music and dance tradition lives on in the cultural performances of various groups in the Province at the Capiz Provincial Park, Roxas City–an activity organized by the Provincial Government and by the Organization of Tourism Officers of Capiz. 

The best time to see the various works of Capiznon artists is during the colorful Fiesta Taliambong, a regional event that gathers indigenous and contemporary art groups in Western Visayas to showcase works on visual arts, music, cinema, literary arts, theater arts, and dance.

Dagway Sigmahanon, Inc., a community based theater from Sigma, Capiz is one of the most-sought after cultural groups in Capiz and in the country. It is into advocacy on social issues through the performing arts. Performers are out-of-school youth, students and professionals.  Dagway has garnered awards for its cultural presentations which help promote tourism and local culture.

Although it doesn’t have as many cultural heritage sites as other places, Capiz nevertheless boasts of being the home of the largest Catholic Church bell in Asia, which can be seen at the famous coral-stone Santa Monica Church in the town of Pan-ay. The bell was made from 70 sacks of gold and silver coins donated by the townsfolk. Measuring seven feet in diameter, five feet in height, and weighing 10,400 kilograms or just over 10 metric tons, the Pan-ay bell is popular among tourists visiting Capiz.

Colorful costumes from one of the provinces major festivals

Capiz now ranks as one of the country’s top tourist destinations. I’m not surprised because its tourism and cultural affairs office is indefatigable and dynamic. It has been vigorously promoting tourist destinations in the province and organized them into five tourism clusters featuring ecotourism, farm tourism, and culture and heritage tourism, a strategy to increase the total number of visits to all the destinations within the circuit as well as provide tourists with a more rewarding experience and value for money by providing a mix of attractions and activities in a destination. 

It even features native Capiznon artists on their social media channel. Even in the midst of the pandemic, the said office organized successful online musical concerts called Baganihan and Tukar tukar Band Performance.

Blessed with an abundance of sea harvests and native artists, the luster of Capiz glows and gleams beyond its world-renowned shell.

Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso is the chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).