2022 Philippine Elections

Dagupan City’s Kalutan comeback turns into Uniteam rally

Ahikam Pasion
Dagupan City’s Kalutan comeback turns into Uniteam rally

POLITICS IN FOOD FESTIVAL. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte shows support for the slate of Dagupan City incumbent Mayor Lim's ticket during the April 30 Dagupan Bangus Festival.

Public Information Office - Dagupan

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, vice presidential candidate of the Uniteam, uses the Bangus Festival stage to appeal for votes on behalf of the their slate

DAGUPAN, Philippines – What should have been the climax of this city’s grandest celebration turned into a political event as national candidates took to the stage at the Kalutan ed Dalan (Barbecue on the Street), the highlight of this city’s Bangus Festival, on Saturday, April 30.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, vice presidential candidate of the Uniteam ticket, was the festival guest of honor. 

Robin Padilla and Harry Roque, two members of the Uniteam senatorial slate, also appeared on stage with tarpaulin backdrops showing national and local bets.

Rapper-comedian Andrew E., a regular face in Uniteam rallies, was present, as was Aubrey Zubiri, wife of reelectionist Senator Miguel Zubiri who was recently kicked out of the Leni-Kiko senatorial slate.

Duterte’s speech was largely an appeal on behalf of the Uniteam slate.

Kalutan ed Dalan was the brainchild of the late Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Saplan Lim, the father of incumbent Mayor Marc Brian Lim. 

The festival gained global fame when Dagupan’s 1,007.56-meter grill toppled Peru’s Guinness world record for the “longest barbecue grill.”

While Dagupan City later lost the record, its festival has maintained its fame. The festival also resumed this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HEAT. Dagupan City’s Bangus Festival earned controversy this year as politicians turned the food event into an elections circus sideshow.

Former mayor Belen Fernandez simultaneously launched a week-long Arts and Music Festival, finishing the event with a grand concert on the other side of the city.

In promoting the artists for the April 30 grand concert, Belen said that no politician will come onstage to speak, even if her party mate and ally presidential candidate Isko Moreno will be in Pangasinan on the said date. She stayed true to her word.

Fernandez is the main opponent of Lim for the mayoralty position here.

This is their second face-off as Fernandez lost to the incumbent – edged by 1,239 votes – in 2019.

In a statement, Fernandez said the festival was made to complement, not compete with, the Bangus Festival.

Lim’s allies were angered and posted an open letter on Facebook, urging performers to back out of an event that “directly clashes with and intends to compete” with the Bangus Festival.

Netizens were divided. Some called the open letter “hypocritical,” as the Kalutan had Sara Duterte. Others agreed with the open letter’s call. Some said both sides can do whatever they want, while others called out the two camps.

Lim did not answer Rappler’s question in the aftermath of the festival but in a press conference last April 1, he said the city welcomes everybody.

“Of course, walang (there is no) prohibition for candidates to go to the Bangus Festival, but what we can do is expressly prohibit them from campaigning,” he said.

“We will ask Comelec about it for them not to politicize the Bangus Festival,” he added. – Rappler.com

Ahikam Pasion is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.