Tuesday, January 26, 2010

103. Fantasmagoria on Wheels: CARNIVAL FLOATS, I

Of the scheduled Carnival attractions, the “Gran Paradas” (Grand Parades) stood out for sheer spectacle and visual bravura, as they featured imaginative floats on wheels of the most fantastic variety. In the first Carnival of 1908, 3 Grand Parades were held over the course of the Carnival Week: Gran Parada de Aquatica (the fluvial parade), Parada terrestre, desfile military y civil (military and civil parades on land) and the most awaited of them all— Gran parada de carrozas iluminadas (grand parade of lighted floats).

The grand parade of floats never failed to capture the attention of the Carnival visitors of all ages; some were animated, with elaborate mechanisms, while others featured bizarre designs and unique crowd-drawing elements like live mascots and local beauties. Corporate sponsors, large private companies, government bureaus, schools and provinces all had exclusively-designed carrozas that showed off their products, services and causes.

Some of the descriptions of the elaborate floats have come down to us through the coverage of El Renacimiento and the Philippine Magazine, which carried detailed accounts of the Feb. 29, 1908 proceedings:

“Yesterday’s procession of carrozas unprecedented in local history. It left Tanduay, as announced, at 4:00 p.m. Then it went to Novaliches, Ayala Bridge, Concepcion, Arroceros, Colgante Avenue, Aguados and Luneta. The sidewalks were full of people. The carriages had no place to park.

The carrozas of the Orient and the Occident were allegorical in their splendor. First came the King of the Orient and his court. It was shaped like a Turkish half –moon, with a terrible Chinese dragon, Japanese fans and lanterns to give it character.

The float of the Rulers of the Occident was of European in character, protected by two splendid lions with mouth agape. Trumpeters heralded the arrival of the King who was seated beneath a rich canopy.

The float of Albay featured the Mayon Volcano made from abaca fiber. In front was a model of a caravel dancing on the blue wave, a replica of the original boat used by Legaspi and bearing the legend “ Consigned to Admiral Evans”.

Cebu’s was decorated as Pearl of the Southern Seas, with fair damsels seated in the midst of flowery masses on a ship molded after Magellan’s. It was an instant “object of interest” to the amazed crowds.

Iloilo had an abundance of fruits, flowers and beautiful maidens. There were live butterflies flying about and every square inch of the float was occupied with maidens, cornucopias and blooms.

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