Tabak Festival is the annual founding anniversary and religious festival in Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines every June 24. The date of its yearly celebration coincides with the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city since the Spanish times. Its calendar often spans for two weeks, and the feast day may be declared a special non-working holiday as was the case in 2021 through Proclamation No. 1164.
The city also celebrates the Tabaco City Charter Day every March 24.
The word tabak, from which the festival’s name comes from, refers to the indigenous blade made by the people of Tabaco. It is also from where the name of the city is derived—“Tabak ko” which translates to “My sword.”
History of Tabak Festival
Tabak Festival was first conducted in 2002, a year after Tabaco was organized as a city through Republic Act No. 9020. Otherwise known as “An Act Converting the Municipality of Tabaco, Province of Albay into a Component City to be known as the City of Tabaco,” the law was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 5, 2001 and enacted by favorable turnout of a plebiscite on March 24, 2001.
Devotion to St. John the Baptist
Devotion to St. Joseph began in Tabaco City with the introduction of Christianity during the Spanish colonization and it is closely tied with the history of the city itself.
As early as 1569, Albay was explored by Spanish colonizer Luiz Enriquez de Guzman. Later, Franciscan missionaries evangelized the settlement in Cagsawa (see Cagsawa Festival) in 1587 and from which Tabaco was its visita. Afterwards, a church was erected in Tabaco in 1616 and presided by Fr. Pedro de Alcareso. It became an independent parish in 1664 under the titular, St. John the Baptist.
The colonial-era tower clock was constructed beginning in 1750. An earlier church did not survive the eruption of Mt. Mayon in 1814. The construction of the extant church began in 1864 by engineer-soldier turned priest Fr. Fermin Llorente and was completed in 1879. Its dark stones were quarried from volcanic-rich sources in surrounding areas, as are some of the Spanish-era churches in Albay.
St. John the Baptist Church of Tabaco City was declared a National Historical Landmark firstly, then it became a National Cultural Treasure through the declaration of the National Museum of the Philippines on July 31, 2001.
Tabak Festival Activities
Over the years, Tabak Festival has been enlivened with exciting events and activities. This yearly event is a proud display of the city, its people, culture, and heritage.
Its prominent feature are the rich history, industry, and artistry in the making of tabak, a product of the blacksmiths particularly those who hail from Barangay Cobo. Another is its street dance. It is much-awaited for its grand scale, talent of performers, and visual presentation.
Sibidan Race. The boat racing competition has become a tradition in the city. Its name comes from the small, slim, wooden, outrigger fishing boat called sibid-sibid. It is an opportunity to showcase the speed, navigation, and skills of fisher folks and to promote awareness, protection, and conservation of aquatic resources.
In 2018, the race which involved a pair of paddlers began in the shores of San Miguel Island and the finish line was at San Roque Port. Separate events were held for men and women. It also included a separate category called Palayag Race for bangkang de layag or outrigger sailboat.
Padyak Race. Tabaco City is famous for padyak, a three-wheeled mode of transport that is made from a bicycle modified with a sidecar for passengers. The padyak has become a visible fixture in traveling short distances within the city that it has become known as the Padyak Capital of the Philippines. The race is participated by a padyak driver with a passenger, and the winner is whoever can complete a pre-determined route with the shortest time.
Other activities of the fest are beauty pageants (Ginoong Tabak, Mutya ng Tabak), cooking contests, and various cultural presentations.
How to reach Tabaco City, Albay
Book a flight to Legazpi Airport and take a ride to the city in an hour trip that is about forty kilometers in distance.
- Tabak Festival. Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines. Retrieved July 9, 2023
- Tabak Festival. Legislative Digital Resources. Senate of the Philippines. Retrieved July 21, 2023
- TABAK FESTIVAL – TABACO, ALBAY (June 16 – 25). Provincial Government of Albay. July 9, 2023
- Tabak Festival. City Government of Tabaco. Retrieved April 9, 2023
- History of Tabaco. City Government of Tabaco. Retrieved April 9, 2023
- Republic Act No. 9020. Official Gazette of the Philippines. Retrieved July 9, 2023
- Bandila: Tagisan sa pagsagwan, tampok sa Tabak Festival sa Albay. Bandila. ABS-CBN News. June 21, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2023
- Quick Facts on Tabaco City. Abay Tourism E-Data. Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved July 9, 2023
- Church of Tabaco. National Historical Commission of the Philippines. October 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2023
- Albay Heritage Month Feature: St. John the Baptist Church of Tabaco. Provincial Government of Albay. . Retrieved July 9, 2023