Celebrating Mud: Mambukal Resort’s “Mudpack Festival”
There are many ways to imagine the impact of mud in one’s life – one, for example, is to see it as disgusting, wet soil after a long bout of rain, ruining your favorite pair of shoes and making the ground slippery and difficult to navigate. Others are even less flattering, imagining scantily-clad women cavorting in muddy rings for the entertainment of an audience, or the squalor of poverty in less-developed areas, where children wallow in mud as poorly-developed shanties collapse under the weight of rain. And there are those who have to crawl through mud and grime and they trek through mountains and forests, braving the harsh elements, adventurers and soldiers both.
It then becomes easy to imagine mud as dirty and disgusting, something to be shunned. And yet, as the Mambukal Resort’s “Mudpack Festival”, now in its 18th year, strongly urges us to remember, mud and clay is part of our life, part of living on the Earth – that there is nothing dirty in communing with nature and becoming muddied. In fact, with performers covered from head to toe in multi-colored clay, rendered in artistic, colorful designs, it becomes difficult to imagine them being covered in what we traditionally consider disgusting, dirty mud.
Mudpack Festival Body Paint Competition:
Mudpack Festival History:
The history of the Mambukal Resort’s “Mudpack Festival” begins, as theatre director-actor Rudy Revenche recalls, “in the summer of 1986,” where, with fellow theater actor-director Louie Dormido, the two “spent two months at Mambukal Resort in Barangay Minoyan Murcia town, Negros Occidental to recharge.” Soon joined by various other friends (Milton Dionzon, Jerry Magoliman, Pancrasio Arimas, Greg Diocadez, and others), the motley group developed a name for themselves touring Negros Occidental as the Kabataang Bodabilista.
The two took interest in Mambukal’s clay, used by children as makeshift toys and pottery for their various games. With the abundant multi-colored clay found in Mambukal, Revenche and Dormido began to see the potential for creating art – embarking on instructing children on how to do well-crafted decorative jars and other such pottery projects.
With this in mind, Revenche and Dormido focused on reviving the summer festivals in Mambukal resort, a fond memory and part of Revenche’s childhood and elementary education. The first festival, not called “mud pack” back then, featured a bathing beauty showcase and performances from Revenche and Dormido’s theatre group, as well as from their circle of friends. And of course, Mambukal’s clay featured heavily in the performances.
Revenche recounts, under the influence of alcohol, that “we would dab our faces and bodies with clay, which Louie nonchalantly called “mudpack,” amidst spirited shouts of “Halleluiah, bulan (moon)!” They were assisted by the same children who introduced them to Mambukal’s clay, working feverishly on the nights of full moon, planning out and rehearsing their performances while preparing for the logistics and materials needed to carry out the first Mambukal festival.
And so, when the Negros Integrated Development Corporation (NIDCORP) began plans for an annual festival centered in Mambukal in 1997, and the two were tapped to make the vision possible, the two knew where to focus their efforts: on Mambukal’s distinct multi-colored clay, allowing for a showcase of artistic sensibilities unique to the area.
As Revenche recalls, “It was on those wild nights that the multi-colored clay of Mambukal would leave its indelible mark in our lives.” Today, the festival is a 2-day event, with numerous events held for people of all ages – poster-making contests for children, drum beating and tribal dance competitions, parties, runs to raise environmental awareness, installation art, and so much more. Centered around Mambukal’s famous multi-colored mud and clay, the current Mudpack festival is certainly a wondrous sight to behold, with participants clad in colorful clay, dancing to rhythmic music and screaming “hallelujah, bulan!” at the moon, like its founders many years ago.
Mudpack Festival 18th year:
This year’s festival, the 18th festival, was held last June 21-22, timed to coincide with World Environment Month, as well as a Provincial Environment Week. As such, the festival organizers have made it a point to center each festival around an environmental theme – for this year, the theme was “Saving, Healing and Celebrating Mother Earth”. An apt comparison, certainly, as the Mudpack festival emphasizes man’s harmony with nature, as seen in the symbolic union of man and clay, a reminder of man’s reliance on the earth to give him life. It’s all very appropriate imagery, considering all our myths of being borne from clay, of being given life from clay.
As the Mudpack Festival seeks to remind us, there is beauty to be found in nature, in all its forms, even in the most innocuous things like mud and clay, traditionally shunned and considered dirty. As the Mudpack Festival for this year winds down and its participants return to their everyday lives, it’s good to remember all they stand for and where this all started.
Mudpack Festival Solo Dance Competition: