It took me 12 years before I stepped my foot on back to the island of province of Catanduanes. And what better time than in the midst of their festivities. The 2018 Abaca Festival is on their 3rd year. The month long celebration aims to showcase their native abaca fiber or Manila hemp which is one of the main products of the province and source of livelihood. The month-long festival have pockets of activity culminating towards the 4th week of May. One of the much awaited is the Bicol Festival of Festivals Showdown where contingents from Bicol region participate in a dance showdown. A colorful revelry with heart pounding beats and awe-inspiring performance. An exciting return to what is now known as the Happy Island!
Abaca Festival in Catanduanes
Formerly known as the Catanduanes Abaca Festival, the province simply used “Abaca Festival” for the 3rd straight year as they are recognized as the biggest Abaca producing province in the country. Concerts, trade fairs, athletic competitions and exhibits events are spread out during the month. While the main event is in Virac, several municipalities coincide their celebration with the Abaca festival. Like in Caramoran where they has their Palumbanes Festival which includes a miniature paraw painting and paraw regatta race.
Bicol Festival of Festivals
Probably the most awaited activity in the 2018 Abaca Festival is the Bicol Festival of Festivals. It’s a street dance and dance performance. It isn’t as grand as the other festivals in the country yet but they contingents sure are enthusiastic and gave their all in their performances. It’s simple, raw and fun which I like from small festivals like this. Only five contingents this year and performances last an average of 5-minutes each. Iriga made a guest performance to open the show.
First in line was the Sto Domingo Sarung Banggi Festival with their pink and purple Filipiniana-inspired costumes and dance reflecting their beloved ballad from Albay.
Second performance was an eyeful props-filled and lavish. Tiwi’s Coron Festival didn’t hold back to showcase what they are good at, making clay pots and are creative at it.
Caramoran’s festival aims to sweep the competition, literally. Walis or broom inspired customes with headresses and even a 4-way broom as props was amusing.
Fourth on the line is the Palong festival from Capalonga Camarines Norte with their bright gold and red costumes and a sparkling performance.
Virac’s Burac Festival was full of colors and a real flourishing performance. A sequence that’s both amusing and pleasing to the eye.
I’m glad the performances were short as the whole program was done before the evening settled in. After much deliberation from the judges, the winners were also announced that evening. And the winners are:
- First Place: Tiwi’s Coron Festival
- Second Place: Virac’s Burac Festival
- Third Place: Palong Festival from Camarines Norte
Festival Queen: Sarung Banggi Festival
Congratulations to this year’s winners! Looking forward for a grander and bigger Abaca Festival 2019!
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.