Bagasumbol Festival

Bagasumbol Festival is a cultural and religious festival in the municipality of Naval of the province of Biliran, Philippines held every 6th of October. It lasts for two weeks with opening activities beginning in the last week of September. It is held in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary and as a founding anniversary celebration.

History of Bagasumbol Festival

Bagasumbol Festival is conducted to venerate Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, the patroness of the town. It is likewise a celebration of the town’s “culture, history, and legend” and its foundation day is commemorated every 26th of September.

Bagasumbol Festival comes from the word Bagasumbol, the name of the town of Naval in the olden times. The town is presently the capital of the province of Biliran. It may originate from tangbo, a grass that find home in swamps and which are raw materials for soft brooms. Or it could mean “a somewhat pointed place”, referring to the geological feature particularly in Inagawan Point.

It is thought that Thomas Cavendish referred to the plains in Naval when he described the island of Biliran, called the island of Panamao in the ancient times, in 1588.

A shipyard already existed in those times whose location was postulated to be in the present-day Sitio Ilawud in Barangay Caraycaray. It was visited by the Jesuits that made a mission station in Carigara, Leyte. Reportedly one of the ships built there transported Jesuit friar Fr. Pedro Chirino from the Philippines back to Europe.

The settlement around the shipyard eventually became the seat of the government when Biliran was established as a separate pueblo on September 10, 1712. In 1735, a petition was sent to the gobernadorcillo for the people from Leyte to move to the island which was reputed to have become the haven of fugitives.

It was however exposed to seaborne assaults perpetrated by Moro pirates, particularly the devastating raid in 1754. During the time of Fr. Gaspar Ignacio de Guevarra, the parish priest of Biliran Church in 1765, the pueblo was transferred inland to the present-day town of Biliran and the settlement around Sitio Ilawud henceforth became known as Binungtuan (meaning, a former town).

The fertile plains of the settlement attracted migration that its population grew in the 19th century. It was inhabited by migrants from Cebu, Bohol, Panay and Negros. In 1859, Bagasumbol was renamed Naval and made into a town on September 26, 1860. This is the date commemorated by the Pueblo Day.

Devotion to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Devotion to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary began during the colonial era.

The name of the town was inspired by the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1859, Bagasumbol was called Naval after its patroness, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, and inspired by the La Guerra Naval de Manila in 1646 where the Spanish fleet defeated the Dutch forces through the intercession of the patroness.

Jesuit missionaries visited the island of Biliran during the first decade of the 17th century.

Its church, whose patron is St. John Nepomucene, was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Cebu. It was transferred by Fr. Gaspar Ignacio de Guevarra when the pueblo was moved farther from the coast in 1765.

In the next century, the church in Naval was re-established through the efforts of Fr. Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia. Fr. Garcia was an assistant and later parish priest of Biliran between 1848 and 1861. He took charge in calling for people to migrate from nearby towns and islands to take advantage of the fecund lands in Naval.

Placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, its church became an independent parish by virtue of the Superior Approval issued on May 26, 1860. The secular clergy through the Diocese of Cebu formally inaugurated the parish on September 26, 1860 and Fr. Santos de Santa Juana became the first parish priest.

The church was placed under the Diocese of Calbayog when it was canonically erected in 1910 and under the Diocese of Palo starting in 1937. It became a cathedral when the Diocese of Naval was created on November 29, 1988.

Bagasumbol Festival Schedule of Activities

Bagasumbol Festival has many activities of fun, entertainment, cultural shows, and religious activities. Novena prayers begin in the last week of September and are said every day for nine days until the day of the fiesta. There is a town parade, Miss Naval (beauty pageant), Festival Queen, and sportsfest in various events like basketball, volleyball, e-sports, etc.

Here are some of the highlights.

Pueblo Day

Pueblo Day is the foundation day celebration. It remembers the establishment of Naval as a town. It is scheduled every 26th of September. Various activities are held including the Pueblo Night, which caps off the day with presentations that depict the history of the town.

Tsinelas Party

Tsinelas Party comes from tsinelas, the local word for slippers or flip-flops. Considered the people’s party, it welcomes revelers regardless of their social and financial background since 2007. It was also the same year that the festival was rescheduled back from January to October. As an event, it was established as a response against exclusive, invitation-only events in previous festivities.

How to reach Naval, Biliran

One can book a flight to Tacloban Airport and ride a bus to Biliran. Sea-based travels are also available and shipping vessels embark at the port of Naval and other ports in Leyte.


Bagasumbol Festival Summary

NameBagasumbol Festival
CelebrationCulture, Founding, Religious
Duration11 days
LocationNaval, Biliran
OrganizerCity Government of Naval
PatronOur Lady of the Most Holy Rosary
ReligionRoman Catholic