IRIGA, CAMARINES NORTE, MARCH 29, 2012 (STANDARD) Written by Isah V. Red - Nestled south of Pili, capital town of Camarines Sur, Iriga City is a thriving commercial and agricultural center in the Rinconada district of the province.

It is the birthplace of Nora Aunor, the country’s first and only entertainment superstar and other movie stars like Zaldy Zhornack and Jaime Fabregas.

It is also the hometown of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Recently, Iriga held the annual Tinagba Festival, also hosting the “Festival of Festivals Showdown” that saw the best of the Bicol region’s festivals in a street dancing competition.

The city invited stars from Manila to judge the competition like Boy Abunda (photo), Derek Ramsay, Xian Lim, Gladys Reyes and husband Christopher Roxas.

The stars also provided entertainment while the tabulators are totaling the scores to determine the winners.

The competition started shortly after lunch, under the searing Bicol sun, the dancers from all over the Bicol peninsula turned Iriga’s main street into a sea of colors amid a background of drumbeats.

For the next five hours or so, each of the festival dancers showed the audience of Irigueños and guests from other towns and provinces the kind of fun they’d get in the city.

Even the tennis players from the Pacific Oceania who were there for their matches against the Philippine team for the Davis Cup looked entranced by the dancing of the participants.

In the end, the dancers from Masbate province were declared the champion, winning half a million peso. They bested the best from Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon.

This year’s Tinagba Festival 2012 was part of Gayon Bicol and Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen wanted it to be truly world class.

Apart from the “Festival of Festivals Showdown,” the weeklong event had all the trimmings of a carnival with the park turned into an exhibition site to showcase the products from the city’s baranggays.

Also, the Davis Cup with the Philippine team subduing the Oceania was witnessed by Irigueños at the University of St. Anthony indoor court.

The star of the Philippine team was the Filipino American Treat Huey who prevailed upon his opponent from Oceania.

The festival was capped with a spectacular fireworks display that lit up an otherwise dark sky.

Iriga has had many Irigueños living abroad coming home for the annual Tinagba Festival.

In fact, hotels in the city are always booked as early as December of previous year in time for the February event.

Neighboring towns of Nabua and Baao have been getting a fair share of the business each year, with new hotels rising in and around Iriga.

But now that Mayor Gazmen is on her last term, the constituents are asking, “Will this continue after 2013? We kind of wonder, too. Will it?”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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