Of our 42,000 major and minor festivals in the Philippines, which is the one that you miss the most? If you’re from Bicol, you might be hankering for the Ibalong Festival, an annual weeklong festival celebrated every August.
Here are five things to know about the festival that runs from August 10 to 19 this year:
Ibalong Festival: It is not a religious festival
While most festival in the Philippines are religious in nature (such as those that honor a patron saint) or held in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, the Ibalong Festival is described as celebration of the socio-historic-cultural heritage of Bicolanos. (Read: These Summer Festivals Are Canceled Once Again – And We’ve Never Been Sadder)
Ibalong Festival: It highlights the strength and bravery of three warriors
The festival is based on the Ibalong Epic, a story of how the fearless Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong faced and fought the tandayog (wild boar), oryol (woman serpent), dambuhala (Cyclops), rabot (giant), and other supernatural creatures that disrupted the peace and quiet in the community.
Translated by Franciscan missionary Padre Jose Castano and the traveling poet Cadungdung, the three-part epic ends with Bantong’s slaying of a man-beast. (Read: Mercedes FISHtival: A Thanksgiving Celebration of Fishermen For The Blessings in Seafaring)
Ibalong Festival: It is held in Legazpi City, Albay
Back in the day, the Bicol Region was known as Ibalong (or Ibalon) and its center was said to be either in Libmanan, Camarines Sur, or in Magallanes, Sorsogon, the latter being the first Spanish settlement in Luzon.
However, the Ibalong Festival has been celebrated in Legazpi City, Albay, since 1992. The belief is that Legazpi City is one of the most typhoon-hit areas in the country, yet Bicolanos remain resilient (much like the legendary warriors) in the face of disasters and devastation. (Read: The 3 Basic Rules in the Reopening of Cagsawa Ruins in Albay)
Ibalong Festival: There are lots to look forward to
A lively parade with participants in full costume signifies the start of the festival. Thereafter, the celebration unfolds with a beauty pageant, bazaar, and weekend market featuring the local wares of vendors.
Ibalong Festival: You can catch it virtually
Curious to see how Bicolanos mark the Ibalong Festival? Check out these 2019 clips: there’s the elaborately prepared dance by Legazpi City High School, the first runner-up performance of Ligao National High School, and the impressive delivery by Rapu-Rapu National High School.