The life, struggles of Lumad Basakanon’s lead dancer

TWO steps forward, one step backward.

This movement, which has been heavily associated with the Sinulog dance, has become part of Maria Rosejane Arreza’s life, being the lead dancer of Lumad Basakanon of Barangay Basak San Nicolas in Cebu City.

Arreza, 42, has been dancing the Sinulog for 25 years already and serving as the contingent’s festival queen for 19 years.

It was in 1997 when she first danced for Lumad Basakanon. She was 16 years old and did not know what was in store for her and her team.

In 2022, Lumad Basakanon gained international fame after it clinched the gold in the international category of the Daegu Festival in Daegu, South Korea.

Arreza said since she joined the group, she has not missed a single performance. She danced even when she was pregnant.

“Even when I was pregnant, I continued to carry the Sto. Niño. I was praying then for my baby’s safety. I really wanted to dance for the Child Jesus. That has always been my vow,” Arreza said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

Since 2004, Arreza has held the image of Sto. Niño as Lumad Basakanon’s lead dancer.

Their elaborate choreography, which involved lifting and jumps, looked beautiful to spectators, but to dancers like Arreza, it was no easy feat.

She said her 19 years of experience as lead dancer does not exempt her from the pressure that they feel as the presentation day nears.

“There really is pressure because you need to exceed the expectations of the public who has standards, and you need to do more,” Arreza added.

The Lumad Basakanon group has won several accolades aside from their numerous victories during past Sinulog festivals. They were awarded with the Hall of Fame title from the well-known Aliwan Festival after it won several championships.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, during the Sinulog Festival 2023, Lumad Basakanon went home with smiles as it won first place in Best in Musicality and second place in the Free Interpretation category of the ritual showdown and street dancing competitions.

Arreza said they gave their all for the Sinulog Festival 2023 Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown on Sunday.

“We did our best, all the dancers. Though naay mga hardship or naay mga complications along the way na amoang nahaguman, but we are lifting it up to Señor Sto. Niño, and I think nahatagan man namo og justice ang among sayaw, and we are just hoping for the best,” she said.

Arreza said she will continue to dance the Sinulog in the years to come.