Palawan is not just an island of beauty and abundant resources but a place with colorful and creative culture.
This article is a quick introduction of the Best Fiestas and Festivals that are being held both in the city proper of Puerto Princesa and in the other municipalities in Palawan.
In these festivals, the people of Palawan would usually conduct colorful street parades and wear creative costumes. These street dances are one of the most awaited competitions during festivals.
The people of Palawan are given the opportunity to exhibit their unique culture, each municipality’s delicacy, and products and many other things related to the festivity.
Puerto Princesa City Foundation Day and Balayong Festival
The founding anniversary of the “City in the Forest” Puerto Princesa City, is celebrated on the 14th day of March – the day when the cityhood of Puerto Princesa was declared. During this day, the city government funds various activities where teamwork, camaraderie, skills, and talents of the city’s constituents are being shown and furtherly explored. Activities such as sports competitions, parades, street dances, beauty pageants, and quiz bees are conducted.
This founding anniversary is being celebrated along the celebration of the Balayong Festival which highlights the Palawan Cherry that is quite similar to the Cherry Blossoms of Japan. The flowers of this tree only bloom during the month of February and March – approximately during the spring season for non-tropical countries.
These festivals have become one of the most awaited events in the city because of the beautiful costumes that are worn by those who participate, these costumes are – most of the time – Balayong inspired.
Some of the parade participants wear costumes with lots of artificial balayongs in their outfit while others would dress like forest maidens – goddesses or spirits who protect the forests and the resources that are found in it. Sometimes, there would be judges along the route of the parade who would rate the participants and then, later on, choose among the groups of participants as to who will win prizes that they have prepared beforehand.
Aside from these entertaining activities, trade fairs and job fairs are also available. Fisherfolks, merchants, and other businesses partake on the event. These fairs are popular with tourists and locals, others enjoying with the eye candies while most are looking for a job that would fit their skills and capabilities.
The Puerto Princesa City Foundation Day celebrates the declaration of the city of a Puerto Princesa as a highly urbanized city (HUC), which separates it from the province of Palawan, after it qualified in certain requirements by the local government code of the Philippines under Section 453 such as number of constituents and the amount of the city’s annual income – which, in Puerto Princesa’s case, came from tourism.
The Balayong Festival, on the other hand, was proposed by the City First Lady Ellen Hagedorn. Due to the fast-paced improvement of the city’s economy and infrastructures, the light pink blossoms of the Balayong was left in the sidelights. However, in Ellen’s concept, she has put the Balayong tree back into the limelight which she thought would further improve the image of the city. Cherry Blossoms in a tropical country? Indeed, something new!
Pista Y ang Kagueban
Pista Y ang Kagueban or Feast of the Forest, when translated into English, is one of the city government of Puerto Princesa’s means of conserving the nature and enriching its forests.
This activity is a way of preservation of the environment which is a priority of the government of Puerto Princesa who spearheads the tree planting every third week of the month of June.
Years back, Pista Y ang Kagueban has been conducted at Sitio Magarwak in Bacungan – northern part of the city proper but was later on transferred to a forest near the Irawan Watershed to help the river rejuvenate due to its water providing the function in the city.
Pista Y ang Kagueban is a tree planting activity that is being participated by not only the citizens of Puerto Princesa but even by tourists, government officials, celebrities, beauty queens and other environmental advocates.
One does not have to worry about the seedlings to be planted because it would already be provided by the staff of the event. You will only have to get to the site, get some seedlings and find a good spot to plant it. Be reminded, however, that the road to the planting site will be muddy and slippery since the event usually takes place during the rainy season.
You will also have to cross streams occasionally to get to the planting site, but all the hardships of getting to the site will be paid off once you get to accomplish your goal of planting that seedling that would definitely be a great help to the environment. As what the previous mayor once said, “Environment preservation starts with one seedling and one person who cares”.
Love Affair with Nature
Doesn’t it sound great to start your Valentine’s Day by doing a good deed that would be for the greater good? Every 14th of February, the citizens of Puerto Princesa expresses love in an extraordinary way to an extraordinary someone; Mother Nature – unique isn’t it?
During early mornings of Valentine’s day, constituents of Puerto Princesa gathers in a beach in Barangay San Jose to plant mangroves along the shore to preserve the marine ecosystem, probably the marine counterpart of the Pista Y ang Kagueban – of course, it is not only the forests that we should preserve but the marine biodiversity as well. Similar to Pista Yang Kagueban, this event is also attended by locals and tourists and even prominent personalities in the country.
But it’s not only the mangrove planting activity that is being marked on this day but the mass wedding as well; yes, mass wedding. For many Filipinos, mass wedding is probably common since it is being done in some other provinces and cities as well, but Puerto Princesa’s mass wedding is a wedding with a purpose I should say. Not only will you get married but you will be able to contribute something good to the environment.
Making Valentine’s Day more than just intimate dates, fancy restaurants, flowers, chocolates, teddy bears, and the butterflies fluttering in your bellies. Something more meaningful.
Light a Tree
Christmas! Who would forget about Christmas? Definitely not the people of Puerto Princesa – this could be seen by just looking at the gigantic Christmas tree that they light up annually at the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk along with their beautiful Pyro Musical. This event is one of the most awaited events for every Puerto Princesans during the first day of December.
Years back, the light a tree is conducted at the Mendoza Park but was later on moved to the Puerto Princesa Baywalk to be able to accommodate more spectators who wish to witness the lighting of the giant tree. While waiting for the lighting of the tree, spectators are entertained by choirs from various schools composed of both elementary, high school, and college schools and universities.
There are also speeches from the officials of the local government, especially of the mayor.
Along with the lighting of the Christmas Tree is the opening of the fair and mini-carnival in the area where there are few carnivals rides such as the Ferris wheel and what locals call “Centipede” which is quite similar to the roller coaster but is lower and smaller. There are also carousels occasionally. Most of the visitors in the are, however, prefer the betting games where they get the chance to let their money grow as the game goes on.
The fairs and mini-carnivals last throughout the month of December along with performances and various programs every night until the year ends.
Paskuhan Sa Kapitolyo
Paskuhan sa Kapitolyo is the provincial government of Palawan’s counterpart to the Light a Tree Program of the city government. In this, the activities are held at the Provincial Capitol which is located in the city of Puerto Princesa. Like in the Baywalk, there are programs held in the capitol complex every evening where most is an exhibition of the constituents of Palawan of their talents in various fields mostly in music.
Some of the highlights of this event are the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Capitol Park Square and the New Year Countdown with a magnificent fireworks display looming over the capitol grounds which caps the month-long Christmas celebration.
Baragatan Sa Palawan
Baragatan sa Palawan is a week-long celebration of the founding anniversary of the civil government of the province of Palawan, thus, showcasing its rich history, culture, and the life of the people who have long inhabited the area. During the
Baragatan sa Palawan, locals from all over Palawan gather at the City of Puerto Princesa where the Provincial Capitol is and celebrates the anniversary of the world’s best island.
For some, Baragatan is an opportunity for thanksgiving while many find it a good chance to exhibit what Palawan has, especially from those who came from far municipalities who brought their products along with them.
Baragatan sa Palawan which is celebrated every third week of June is probably one of the most significant events for the constituents of Palawan. This week-long event commonly opens with a Eucharistic celebration, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a grand parade where colorful floats, perfectly choreographed street dances, and angelic voices usher the guests and tourists to a festive week that is ahead of them.
After the grand opening, numerous activities are lined up to ensure that everyone in town will be able to participate and enjoy the festivity. Activities such as photo contests, sports competitions, concerts, quiz bees, and beauty pageants are already prepared by the staff of the provincial government.
There are also huts that are built within the capitol grounds which may be rented either by vendors or delegates from other municipalities who have brought the pride of their municipalities with them.
Baragatan serves as a big opportunity for those from far municipalities to show what products they have and what they can offer. Some of the products of other municipalities do not reach the city proper due to the distance and the time it takes to deliver them which is why traders from other municipalities grab the opportunity to exhibit their products.
Baragatan would be a very great time for tourists to look around and scan through the products Palawan could offer. Local products such as handcrafted accessories, bags, wallets, and baskets as well as woven items are the stars of the show. The Palawan cashews and other Palawan delicacies also serve as major head-turners during Baragatan.
The Arawedan Festival is a celebration that is being held from January 23 to January 24 in Port Barton in the Municipality of San Vicente.
During this festivity, the municipality showcases the numerous tourist attractions of the municipality which includes their beaches, marine reserves, and parks. Programs that highlight the cultural features of Palawan are also shown and exhibited during this festival.
The Kulambo Festival is a celebration that is conducted every 15th up to the 18th day of March.
This event is hosted by the town of El Nido – one of the most famous and unique islands in the province of Palawan.
The top attraction during this event is the eye-catching costumes of the participants of the street parade who utilized the use of kulambo, which is also known as mosquito nets, in their attire.
The town fiesta is marked by dancing, singing, and large gatherings and presentation of various types of delicacies in the area.
Pasinggatan Festival is an event that is being celebrated in the Municipality of Taytay in Palawan which takes place from the first to the fourth day of the month of May.
In this festivity, the fondness of Filipinos when it comes to singing and dancing are being highlighted. Although it is done in Taytay, this fiesta is a celebration of the entire culture of the Philippines.
Aside from showcasing Filipino songs and folk dances, there are also programs that display the handicraft skills of Filipinos and the products that they produce.
Anihan Festival or Palay Festival
Anihan Festival which is now known as the Palay Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Narra, where the products of the municipality are being showcased.
Palay Festival takes place in the municipality of Narra which is found in the southern part of Palawan. Narra is dubbed as the “Rice Granary of Palawan” and the Palay Festival is the people of Narra’s way of thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest.
Palay Festival is conducted around the last week of October where the “sights and sounds” of Narra are being presented to the public.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Puerto Princesa celebrates this festival during the eighth of December annually.
The feast of the Virgin Mary which is also observed in other parts of the Philippines continues until the New Year and is marked by series of nightly parades and processions of the Virgin Mary.
Pagdiwata Tribal Ritual
The Pagdiwata Tribal Ritual is one of the festivals that one must not miss when he or she is in Palawan. This event is a tribal ritual that is being practised by the locals in the municipality of Aborlan in Palawan.
In this ritual, the locals give thanks to God for the bounties which they continuously receive and requests for God to heal the ill who resides in the province of Palawan. Since this is a spiritual ritual, the people celebrate this on the month of December when the moon is bright and full.
After observing the ritual, one may opt to go to the beaches that surround Aborlan -a municipality that thrives with agriculture and has a very mountainous terrain. It is surrounded by the Sulu Sea and there are resorts that could be found in this municipality that day trippers would find relaxing. Marine sports may also be enjoyed in this municipality.
The Tarek Palawan Festival is annually conducted during the third week of the month of January by indigenous groups particularly those who belong to the Tagbanua tribe and the Batak tribe. The mean feature of this festival is ritual dances and is also celebrated in the municipality of Aborlan just like the Pagdiwata Tribe Ritual.
This festival is a ritual that is being commemorated by the traditional tribal dances being performed by the indigenous group Batak. Like the Pgdiwata, Tarek is only celebrated under a full moon and is actually a follow-up celebration of the Pagdiwata.
Palawan Tarek Festival is a time when we see the Bataks live up to their beliefs from their woven clothing performing a war dance adorned with handmade accessories. The war dance is supposed to cast away evil spirits that threaten harm to the people and it is a ceremony asking for the continued support of the gods and prosperity.
The municipality of Cuyo in Palawan celebrates its fiesta during the month of August. Their celebration is somewhat similar to the Ati-Atihan Festival. Those who participate in this event blacken their skin and would usually dance in complete abandonment to the musical beat of the drums.
Cuyo is a small island town that is rich in cultural heritage which becomes more evident when the town celebrates its annual feast.
During the Cuyo Fiesta, guests will be able to feast their eyes with colorful parades, dance performances, musical shows, and re-enactment of San Agustin’s confrontation with the natives.
The highlights of the Cuyo Fiesta are the Ati Dances where the participants cover their faces with soot and painting their faces with anyel (indigo) and then wear a colorful headgear made of coconut fiber and chicken feathers, and costumes adorned with coconut leaves.
The men carry spears and bow and arrows; while the women, their necks adorned with native bead necklaces, carry baskets. This elaborate dance consists of the men lined on one side of the street and the women on the other; and both lines do a lively dance mix of hops, jumps, and sways while chanting.
Amidst all this merrymaking, there is a dancing clown who chases the women amidst their shrieks and laughter; and he only ceases the chase when coins are thrown at him.