Abrenian Kawayan Festival is a cultural festival and founding anniversary celebration in the province of Abra, Philippines held every March 9th. It was previously known as Arya Abra Festival until 2009. A five-day affair, it celebrates the ubiquity of bamboo, the province’s bamboo industry, and its establishment as a province independent from Ilocos Sur in 1917.
History of Abrenian Kawayan Festival
Abrenian Kawayan Festival comes from the words Abrenian, referring to the people of Abra, and kawayan, the local name for bamboo. The festival was previously known as Arya Abra, which means “Onwards Abra”, an exhortation of progress and forward momentum. It was its name as found in Republic Act 7682, which was signed into law on February 23, 1994 that made March 9th a non-working holiday in the province and henceforth known as Arya Abra Day.
Then in March of 2009, it was rebranded to what it is known presently during the administration of Eustaquio Bersamin. It was conceptualized as a platform of Abra’s reputation as a major player in the production of bamboo and bamboo-related/derived products in the northern side of the country.
A new law was also passed in 2016, Republic Act 10774, that expanded the holiday to not only include workers but also students. They were given a day off from school in celebration of the Abrenian Kawayan Festival.
History of Abra
Abra is a province that is part of the Cordillera Administrative Region that also includes the provinces of Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. Its dates back to a time when it was part of Ilocos as of the early 19th century. When the old province was split in 1818, it belonged to the newly organized Ilocos Sur.
It was one of the areas that allied with Diego Silang when he instigated an uprising against the Spaniards in the 18th century. Gabriela Silang, Diego’s wife, took charge of the rebellion upon his death. She escaped to Abra to regroup but was killed in an encounter with the forces led by Manuel Ignacio de Arza.
Spreading the Christian faith among its inhabitants was noted at the start of the Spanish conquest. For instance, Bangued was organized by the Augustinian friars in 1598. Spanish religious officials also undertook Christian mission in earnest in the 19th century. Several towns were formed such as Tayum (1803), Pidigan (1823), La Paz (1832), and Bucay (1847).
Abra became a “politico-military” province since 1846. During the American occupation, the province was led by a civil government established in 1901. However, it was absorbed again to Ilocos Sur in 1905. It was not until March 9, 1917 that it was established as a separate, independent province by virtue of Act 2683. And thus March 9th is the founding date of Abra as well as the date of Abrenian Kawayan Festival.
Abrenian Kawayan Festival Schedule of Activities
Abrenian Kawayan Festival had a full schedule of activities. It has evolved significantly through the years such that a few activities are continued, halted, or created. In some years, there are various competitions and sporting events. There are also many variety, musical, and cultural shows.
Here are some of the consistent highlights.
Beauty pageants are a fixture in Abrenian Kawayan Festival. These beauty-and-brain contests can be quite inclusive, there are years when candidates included pregnant women, male, female, and LGBT folks. Some of the beauty pageants are the following:
- Search for Mrs. Buntis in 2009 (pageant for pregnant mothers)
- Ms. Gay Abrenian Kawayan Festival 2016 (LGBT)
- Mr. and Ms. Abra 2018
- Queen Festival 2018
Grand Parade occurs as the culminating activity and one of the pinnacles of the festival. It is where float competition happens, thus colorful and largely decorative moving floats grace the streets of Bangued, the capital of Abra.
The annual trade fair is a platform to showcase the different products, arts, crafts, tourist spots, agricultural produce, and others that put a spotlight on the citizen’s creativity and industry. These include such locally produced products made of bamboo, honey, and novelty items. The fair, which usually lasts the entire calendar of the festival, is participated by local government units of the province where they display what is known as one-town, one-product. Micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises are also part of the event. Up for sale too are indigenous materials such as accessories, tribal cloths, and traditional woven handicrafts.
Iloko-Tingguian cultural show
Iloko-Tingguian cultural show is the annual presentation of the culture, art, heritage, history, and tradition of the province particularly Iloko and Tingguian traditional practices.
Silnag, Parade of Lights
Parade of Lights, also called Silnag that translates to illumination, is another must-see activity. Occurring in the evening, it is a competition characterized by a parade of contingents in their traditional wear bearing lighted mascots and props. Participants are cities and municipalities of Abra. The spectacle is an awe-inspiring display of creativity and craftsmanship.
Every March 8th, the world celebrates the International Women’s Day. Abrenian Kawayan Festival accommodates such observance by creating a space in the calendar that highlights women empowerment.
Where to go
Most activities happen in Bangued Town Plaza, Abra Sports Complex, and other locations in the province.
How to reach Abra
One can book a flight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport and ride a bus to Abra. Others may also start their journey at any point of Luzon on bus trips connecting from various origins.
- History. Provincial Government of Abra. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Awesome Abra: Abrenian Kawayan Festival 2020. Provincial Government of Abra. March 12, 2020. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Beñas, Maritess B. Abra marks 89th founding anniversary. Philippine Information Agency. March 14, 2006. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Beñas, Maritess. Abra celebrates 1st Abrenian Kawayan Festival. Philippine Information Agency. March 7, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Ms. Universe Catriona Gray’s trainer: Abreňos are joyful and with strong cultural values. Provincial Government of Abra. February 19, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Republic Act No. 7682. Official Gazette. February 23, 1994. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Tibaldo, Art. Tibaldo: Remembering the Gran Cordillera Festival. Sunstar. September 28, 2020. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Republic Act No. 10774. The Corpus Juris. May 3, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Act No. 2683, March 09, 1917. Supreme Court E-Library. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Tubadeza, Christian Allister. Abra Kawayan fest trade fair registers P5.9M sales. Philippine Information Agency. March 11, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Comanda, Zaldy C. 8th Kawayan Festival to highlight Abra industry and culture. Manila Bulletin through Pressreader. March 6, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Kawayan Festival slated March 6-9. Sunstar. March 5, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2022
- Census of the Philippine Islands taken under the direction of the Philippine Legislature in the year 1918. Archive.org. Retrieved October 19, 2022