You do not need to travel across the Philippine archipelago to experience colorful festivals. You do not need to spend so much money to the world-renowned and highly appreciated Philippine fiestas. You get to experience different cultures and traditions and at their best at the same time in one place during the Aliwan Fiesta in Manila.
Dubbed as the “mother of all fiestas,” the Aliwan Fiesta showcases the richness of Philippine heritage, not only to its people but also to the rest of the world. It is a highly anticipated annual event, with prizes summing up to millions of pesos, whereby contingents from all over the country promote their respective regions, both economically and tourism-wise.
Started in 2003, the fiesta was organized as a visual cultural extravaganza during the Christmas season. It showcases more than two dozen festivals from north to south and has categories: the float parade, the Reynang Aliwan, and the street dance competition. Each region has the option to send two contingents to represent its cultural festival. Likewise, participating regions have the option to send contingents for the float parade and the beauty pageant. However, entries for the street dance competition are limited. As a result, festival organizers screen participants, thus giving the public only the best presentations and performances. Now on its sixth year, the fiesta was slated on May 1-3 and was sponsored by the Manila Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the City Governments of Pasay and Manila.
The float parade is one of the most important parts of the fiesta where participants are only allowed to use locally produced flowers, textiles, vegetables, handicrafts, and other products available in their respective regions to decorate their vehicles. Each float, portraying local folklore and indigenous tradition, is adorned by a muse who will join the search for the Reynang Aliwan. This year, the Pamulinawen Festival of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte was adjudged as the champion, while the Sinulog Festival of Cebu City in Cebu Province and the Boling Boling Festival of Catanauan in Quezon Province emerged as the first and the second runner-ups, respectively.
Pamulinawen, which means “Ilocano maiden,” is a festival celebrated on February 2-11, in time with the Feast day of Saint William the Hermit, Laoag City’s patron saint. Sinulog, from the Cebuano word sulog, which means “like water current movement,” is one of the most famous festivals in the archipelago celebrated during the third week of January in commemoration of the conversion of the Filipinos from being pagans to Christians and in celebration of the Feast Day of Santo Nino, Cebu’s patron saint. Boling Boling, on the other hand, is celebrated from the Sunday to the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, which signals the start of the Lenten season.
Aside from being a parade of culture, tradition, and festivities of the regions in the country, the Aliwan Fiesta is also a showcase of wit, charm, and beauty of Filipinas as they compete for the Reyna ng Aliwan. The beautiful muses represent their respective regions, wearing their respective costume, either traditional or customized but made up of local materials.
This year, Miss Davao City brought home the crown, because of her intelligence, irresistible charm, and statuesque height that captivated the nods of the judges. Her runner-ups were the muses of Pasay City, Cotabato City, Carmen of Cebu, and Kanlaon City of Negros Occidental.
The street dance competition is the main event of the Aliwan Fiesta, where each group, composed of up to 100 dancers and hundreds of musicians and support staff, have to undergo rigorous elimination processes through their local festivals before competing in the grand fiesta. They then try to impress the people, and of course the judges, while parading for four kilometers along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, from the Quirino Grandstand to the Aliw Theater grounds, near the CCP Complex in the City of Pasay. This year’s champion was the Sinulog Festival of Cebu City in Cebu Province. It was tailed by the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City in Iloilo Province and the other version of the Sinulog Festival of the Municipality of Carmen in Cebu Province.
Like the Sinulog, the Dinagyang is also a celebration of the Christian conversion of the Filipinos and a celebration of the Feast Day of Santo Niño. However, the latter is celebrated every fourth week of January, coupled with prayers amid the drum-banging voices of tribe members shouting “Hala Bira” and “Viva Senor Santo Nino”.