Festivals of Negros Occidental
As the Panaad sa Negros Festival, held every third to fourth week of April, celebrates its silver anniversary, it opened with a bang with the Festival Dances Competition right after the Opening Ceremony. It featured 22 festivals of various cities and municipalities in the province of Negros Occidental. Bacolod City’s MassKara Festival was a guest performer.
If you plan to travel to this Philippine province, known as the Land of Sweet Surprises, you might want to check the calendar of festivals of the 13 cities and 19 municipalities of the province and see which ones pique your interest. They say that one of the best ways to see a place is to see how they celebrate. A festival is a good way to see how the locals have fun. Plus, it’s an occasion with a good vibe, great food, and rich in history.
January 5, Bailes de Luces – La Castellana
La Castellana’s Bailes de Luces marks the charter day of the municipality. A Spanish phrase that literally means “dances of lights”, the festival is one of the most sought-after events in the town. In fact, it has gained fame that it has even won a competition on national TV. Dancers use colors and lights to capture the delight of their audience.
January 25, Lubay-Lubay – Cauayan
Cauayan got its name from “kawayan”, which means “bamboo”. And like the resiliency of the bamboo, the locals celebrate this character through the Lubay-Lubay Festival, the word in itself is the swaying of the bamboo. Performers dance to the beat of bamboo sticks and poles. They portray the way the Cauayanons face both adversities and prosperity, as well as exhibit unity and thanksgiving.
Last week of January, Dinagsa – Cadiz City
Cadiz City is one of the many places in the Philippines that honors the Feast of the Sto. Niño or the Holy Child Jesus. But the name of the festival was coined after the Hiligaynon word “dagsa”, which meant arriving in droves. This referred to the 1967 incident when whales came to the shores of Cadiz in hordes. The feast started in the 1970s, which was originally named as Ati-Atihan of Cadiz, and it was renamed in 2002 as Dinagsa. One of the highlights was the smudging of paint on the faces of revelers, which is referred to as “Lamhitanay”.
February 2-9, Bulang-Bulang – San Enrique
Negrenses are known for its penchant for cockfighting or “bulang”. The dance of the festival is centered on the characteristics of the gaming fowl. Thus, a derby is one of the main attractions of the revelry. Still, this fiesta is a religious celebration as it honors the patron of the town, which is the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria.
Second week of February, Kali-Kalihan – Don Salvador Benedicto
The upland town of Don Salvador Benedicto celebrates the Kali-Kalihan Festival, which mirrors the culture and heritage of the place through the “kali”, which is also the popular Filipino martial art called “arnis” or “escrima”. The dance parade won’t be absent from the festivities, along with the search for the “Diwata sang Kali” and cultural presentations.
February 11, Dinagyaw sa Tablas – Candoni
The celebration in this southern town is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Coming from the Hiligaynon word “dagyaw”, which symbolize unity, cooperation and teamwork to get a particular task done. That spirit was particularly highlighted when they settled in the Tabla Valley in 1934, which later became Candoni.
February 15, Salapan – Pulupundan
As a coastal town that thrives on fishing, Pulupandan’s Salapan Festival centers on this means of livelihood. Salapan comes from the words “salap”, a Hiligaynon word for fishnet, and “pandan”, a local plant. It is said that the town’s name was derived from “Pulo sg Pandan” or isle of pandan. Apart from the street dance and other performances, other attractions during the fiesta are the fishing tournament and the regatta.
February 19, Babaylan – Bago City
Bago City is the next city south of Bacolod City. It was chartered on February 19, 1966, and the Babaylan Festival is its way of revisiting its past before the Spaniards came. Babaylans led various rituals and ceremonies at that time. This scenario is relived through its fiesta.
February 28, Pasundayag – Valladolid
Valladolid is marked by its coastal view by the highway where the neighboring Guimaras Island is visible. Honoring the town’s patroness, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, residents of Valladolid celebrate their good harvest through Pasundayag Festival. As a thanksgiving, locals go to the streets for a street dancing competition.
March 19, Sinigayan – Sagay City
As a tribute to its patron, St. Joseph, Sagaynons celebrate life and promote its cultural heritage through the Sinigayan Festival. Through its activities, such as the street dancing competition, Sagay highlights its rich marine biodiversity. This is no surprise because Sagay itself came from the Hiligaynon word that refers to a small shell.
March 21, Kadalag-an – Victorias City
“Kadalag-an” is a Hiligaynon word that means “victory”, which is where Victorias got its name. Chartered as a city on March 21, 1998, Victorias City celebrates this milestone through its Kadalag-an Festival. Locals revel for their victory against challenges and adversities through colorful merrymaking and celebration of life.
March 25, Kisi-Kisi – Ilog
Ilog is the first capital of the Negros province in the 18th century. Locals celebrate the Kisi-Kisi Festival, which comes from the Hiligaynon word “kisi-kisi”, which describes how shrimps, prawns and fishes move rapidly. Given that, the street dance parade features the rich marine resources of Ilog. Because Ilog is known for its talaba or oysters, this seafood also takes center stage in the festivities. Also, it honors the Sto. Niño, therefore the parade also dramatizes how the Holy Child of Jesus saved the villages from the attacking Moro pirates.
Last week of March, Magayon – Moises Padilla
The old name of the municipality of Moises Padilla is Magallon, thus its fiesta is called Magayon Festival. It is often referred to as the Magayon Hinuptanan Festival, wherein “hinuptanan” is a Hiligaynon word referring to farm animals in one’s care. Moises Padilla is known for its livestock, thus, the carabao’s head is its town’s emblem. As such, expect various farm animals to be represented in their street dance parade performances.
March 31, Pasaway – Sipalay City
Pasaway Festival falls during the charter day of Sipalay City. It is now a favorite destination for beach lovers. Used to be home of copper mining before it closed down, Sipalay celebrates its charter as a city through the Pasaway Festival, the Hiligaynon word “saway” means “copper”.
April 22-30, Hinugyaw – Hinigaran
The town’s fiesta is held in honor of its patroness, St. Mary Magdalene. It is called Hinugyaw sa Hinigaran, coming from the Hiligaynon “hugyaw “, which means to celebrate or rejoice. The festival is the locals’ thanksgiving to St. Mary Magdalene, who was believed to have provided the natives protection from the raiding Moros.
April 24, Pagbanaag – Hinoba-an
Hinoba-an is the last town of Negros Occidental in the south. Pagbanaag Festival marks the Foundation Day of Hinoba-an. The festival name comes from a Hiligaynon word “banaag” which refers to a light shining. It symbolizes the locals’ love for revelry from sun down till sun up.
April 24-29, Himayaan – Himamaylan City
Himayaan comes from the Hiligaynon word “himaya”, which means glorify. The festival is a way of giving thanks to the heavens for a rich harvest. This is brought to life through the street dance parade, which is always the highlight of every fiesta.
Last Sunday of April, Pasasalamat – La Carlota City
As the word suggests, Pasasalamat Festival is a thanksgiving to the gods that provide bountiful harvest. La Carlota City has a beautiful view of the Kanlaon Volcano and the festival is an extension of an age-old tradition of thanking the god that lived inside the volcano. Street performers dress up in colorful elaborate costumes to wow the crowd and add spice to the revelry.
May 1, Ugyonan – EB Magalona
Ugyonan Festival is celebrated in the town of EB Magalona, formerly Saravia, during Labor Day, which marks the feast of the town’s patron, St. Joseph the Worker. The festival name comes from the Hiligaynon word “ugyon” or to cooperate.
May 6-9, Handurayo – Pontevedra
Pontevedra brings together colors , beats, and music through its Handurayo Festival. The fiesta is celebrated in honor of its patron, St. Michael, the Archangel. Locals hit it to the street for the parade and lots of merrymaking.
May 10-15, Balbagan – Binalbagan
The name Binalbagan is derived from two tales. One is from the local term “balbag”, which is the beating of a tree bark that was done by shrimp workers before. Another one is from the Hiligaynon word “binalabagan”, which is to block a passage that was supposed to have happened in the river by a snake. As such, the dances portray both these tales. Balbagan Festival is celebrated in honor of the town’s patron, St. Isidro Labrador.
May 30, Manlambus – Escalante City
Every 30th of May, locals of Escalante City celebrate the Manlambus Festival, derived from the Hiligaynon word “lambus” which is hitting something with a plank. It is believed that Escalante’s waters were rich with lots of fishes that people can easily catch them by just hitting them with a club. Manlambus is also the old name of the city.
June 12, Hugyaw Kansilay – Silay City
Silay City is a city in the province that has a rich, elegant and colorful history. Hugyaw Kansilay is a celebration that brings to life an old legend featuring Kansilay, the village princess, and several other characters. This is performed through the dance parade. The festival name is the Silaynons’ chant, cheering others on to join in the celebration.
June 25-30, Lilas Pandan – Calatrava
Calatrava is home to many pandan plants, where the name of the festival is derived. Out of those plants, the leaves are woven into various products. Expect a lot of takes on pandan in the festival presentations. The fiesta is also celebrated in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, the town’s patron.
July 1, Sag-ahan -Toboso
The first of July is the charter day of the town of Toboso. If Escalante City catches fish by “manlambus” or clubbing, Toboso, on the other hand, gets its catch by “sag-ahan”, using their bare hands. That heritage of the town and its rich marine resources are depicted through its Sag-ahan Festival.
July 27-August 2, Udyakan – Kabankalan City
The festival is held in time around the city’s charter day. Udyakan Festival speaks for its name because the Hiligaynon word “udyak” describes someone who is utterly enjoying to the point of laughing. Locals head to the streets and bring their celebratory spirit to a playful level.
August 15-16, Manang Pula – Manapla
Manapla got its name from Manang Pula, who was the wife of the town’s first chieftain. The festival is also named after her. Similarly, the celebration also honors its patron, San Roque. The festival is also the best time to sample the best food of Manapla.
September 8-10, Minuluan – Talisay City
Minuluan is the old name of Talisay City. The festival is celebrated in honor of the city’s patron, San Nicolas de Tolentino. The performances are also centered around a local hero, Kapitan Sabi, that fought well to drive the Moro raiders away.
4th Sunday of October, MassKara – Bacolod City
One of the biggest and most popular festivals in the province is the MassKara Festival, which is the fiesta of the provincial capital, Bacolod City. MassKara represents masks of smiling faces, which is the highlight of the festival. It also means “mass”, representing the people, and “cara” or face. The festival is the city’s way to bounce back from some tragedies, such as the sugar crisis and the sinking of the Don Juan ship.
November 2, Kalag-Kalag – Isabela
While others head over to the cemeteries to visit their dead relatives, Isabela turns this occasion into a lot of merrymaking through the Kalag-Kalag Festival. It seems to bring Halloween to a different level, acknowledging the spirits that our ancestors used to believe. “Kalag” is a local word for “soul”. Thus, the town is celebrating life beyond death.
November 5, Pintaflores – San Carlos City
Pintaflores, as the name suggests, combine “tattoo” and “flowers” from the Spanish words. It also brings to life an old lore about a princess that got cured in a disease when a local shaman tattooed her body with flower patterns. As such, the people rejoiced in jubilation when she got healed. Thus, the origin of the Pintaflores Festival.
December 8, Tinabu-ay – Murcia
Celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the town’s patron, Murcia honors it through its Tinabu-ay Festival. It is also a thanksgiving for a good harvest. As an upland town and close to the foot of Mt. Kanlaon, Murcia has one of the great soils that are good for farming.
With this list of festivals in Negros Occidental, you now have the choice when you want to be in the province to experience and witness any or all of these festivals. But if you want to see them under one roof, then the Panaad sa Negros Festival is definitely your sure bet.