Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The Dotoc is probably one of the most colourful and the most fun novena-procession amongst all religious activities in the Philippines. Growing up in Baao, I remember Dotoc being the highlight of our baranggay’s summer festivities. What I remember most about it is the part where the soloist, usually a girl with a really beautiful voice, stands up and everyone gets quiet and listens to her sing.

The Altar is usually made up of anahaw and coconut leaves, flowers, banana trunks serve as the cross, and an image of the Holy Cross sits on top of the altar.)

In Baao, we call the guitar player, Titinggit, an onomatopoeia of the sound the guitar strings make when plucked. And because the dotoc is usually held in an open area, it's not strange to find dogs roaming around.

We call the performers Paradotoc and humorously, the freeloaders as Paragotoc, which literally means eaters. A play on the word Dotoc and a slang of word Kaon or Eat. Those we call (jokingly and affectionately, of course) Paragotoc are usually the neighborhood kids who attend the event, run around when they get bored or sleep the entire time and wake up just in time for the feast.

There's a part in the Dotoc where the performers from the back row shower the performers in front petals from different flowers gathered by the neighborhood kids.

The older women prepares the food which the people will feast upon after the novena. The star of every Dotoc feast is the ginalpong, a local delicacy made of rice flour, young coconut meat, and sugar wrapped in young coconut leaves and shaped like a pentagon.
According to Professor Jasmin Llana from the Aquinas University, who wrote lengthily about Dotoc in her dissertation titled “The Bicol Dotoc: Performance, Postcoloniality, and Pilgrimage:
The dotoc is a religious devotion to the Holy Cross. Every year in April and May, communities in the Bicol region of the Philippines perform the dotoc for nine days. Women cantors take the role of pilgrims who journey to the Holy Land to visit the Holy Cross or re-enact the finding of the Cross by St. Helena. A variant of the santacruzan described by Tiongson (1975), the dotoc differs from the more popular May processions that feature local beauties as queens in the santacruzan entourage.
Dotoc’ in Vocabulario de la Lengua Bicol is a verb, ‘nagdotoc’ being defined as ‘llegar, o acercarse a alguna parte’ (Lisboa 1865, 128). Mintz and Britanico (1985, 279) provide a translation: dotoc, spelled ‘dutok’, is ‘advent, coming’ and ‘magdutok’ means ‘to come for something or for a specific purpose.’ The term ‘dotoc’ then is an archaic Bicol word for pilgrimage, the narrative contained in the dotoc as cultural performance.
The Dotoc is not just a religious devotion, it’s also a familial and communal activity. Everyone in the community participates in the dotoc: the young men get coconut leaves and banana trunks for the altar and the cobacho; the young women are in charge of adorning the altar with flowers; the older women are in charge of the food preparation; and everyone – from the children to the adults – attends and sings and performs. The dotoc is a symbol – a kind of an exclusive language – of the community’s identity and rich culture.

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