Exhibit featured Parañaque dolls and the ‘sunduan’ tradition

Published March 5, 2021, 11:01 AM

by John Legaspi

Capturing an age-old romantic custom

Tradition and heritage are among the vital things that makes a place, a society unique. Unlike natural resources, the two are lived by the people, creating a social personality that identifies a specific area. For Parañaque City, it is the centuries-old custom of “sunduan” that makes it among the early romantic cities in the Philippines.

In the “sunduan,” a gentleman fetches his lady love at home to bring her to the church or town plaza. To impress his lady love and her parents, the gentleman brings with him a marching band that accompanies the couple on their walk to the church. The romantic tradition dates back to the Spanish colonial period, with the very first “sunduan” recorded in 1876 in Barrio La Huerta in Parañaque. This practice that later spread to nearby barrios. The chivalrous tradition is kept alive today with the city’s Sunduan Festival where men dressed in barong escort the community’s loveliest ladies dressed in elegant gowns in a colorful parade.

To celebrate Parañaque’s 23rd anniversary, SM City BF Parañaque recently showcased the city’s rich cultural tradition and artistry with a Sunduan Dolls exhibition at the Ground Level, BDO Wing at SM City BF Parañaque. The exhibition, which is part of Para Anya: Parañaque Arts and Culture Festival, features the iconic Sunduan dolls from Parañaque’s Livelihood Resource Management Office.  

The ornamental dolls were fitted with delicately hand-sewn Barong Tagalog and Maria Clara costumes using local fibers and intricate embroidery style. What made the Sunduan dolls unique and creative was how the faces were designed distinctively from one another—no two dolls were alike. Each Sunduan doll was meticulously crafted, taking up to 33 days to complete. As part of its limited edition, Parañaque City Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez and wife Janet were also featured as Sunduan dolls in the exhibition.

Likewise, SM Malls in the south metro area celebrated Parañaque’s cityhood anniversary with exhibitions. These included SM City Bicutan’s Para Anya photo exhibit that showcased Parañaque’s dynamic and rich culture through the years; and SM City Sucat’s Obra, a group art exhibition presented by one of the city’s leading art groups, Visual Artists of Parañaque.

Para Anya: Parañaque Arts and Culture Festival 2021 is presented by SM City BF Parañaque, SM City Bicutan, and SM City Sucat in partnership with the Parañaque City Government and Tourism Office. The exhibition ran from Feb. 12 to 28, 2021.