Bantayog Festival is a historical festival and founding anniversary celebration held in the province of Camarines Norte, Philippines every April. It is a festival that gives tribute to the heroism of Jose Rizal and local patriots who took part in the Daet revolt in 1898.
Moreover, it is held to commemorate the creation of Camarines Norte as an independent province.
From a week-long schedule, it has become a month-long celebration and a gathering of cultural festivals of the province.
History of Bantayog Festival
Bantayog Festival comes from the word bantayog, which means monument. The name of the festival and its inspiration are derived from the First Rizal Monument, a historic landmark and marker that was erected in honor of Filipino hero Jose Rizal in the town of Daet, the capital of Camarines Norte.
Rizal is the most famous of heroes in the Philippines. His prolific writings, ideals, and nationalist vision kindled the revolution that eventually toppled the Spanish hegemony that had lasted in the Philippines for over three hundred years.
First Rizal Monument
First Rizal Monument was the very first of its kind and the oldest in the country. Its construction was consistent with one of the decrees issued by the Philippine revolutionary government to honor the life and memory of Rizal and to observe the day of his death as a holiday.
It was put up near the river park along Justo Lukban Street and Jose Rizal Street in Daet. Although Rizal never set foot in the province during his lifetime, Camarines Norte was the first to make an initiative memorializing his heroism through a monument.
Groundbreaking rites of the First Rizal Monument occurred on December 30, 1898, merely two years after his execution and death. It was completed in February of 1899, a few months away from the start of hostilities of what would become the Filipino-American war.
It predated by over fourteen years the Rizal Monument in Luneta in Ermita, Manila, the site of his burial, which was opened to the public for the first time in 1913.
Presently a National Historical Landmark, the First Rizal Monument is a twenty-foot stone consisting of a two-level triangular prism and a tapering pyramid in its topmost level. It sits on a rectilinear pedestal on two increasingly wider bases at its foot.
The prism is ornamented by a horizontal molding, and on each of its three faces its upper level bears gold-painted five-pointed stars in high-relief while the lower half contains “A Jose Rizal” (To Jose Rizal). The pinnacle on the other hand holds an eight-ray sun.
The pedestal, positioned obliquely with respect to the thoroughfares, contains the following inscriptions enclosed in cartouche: historical marker installed by the Philippines Historical Committee in 1961, El Filibusterismo 1891 (novel), Noli Me Tangere 1887 (novel), and Morga 1889. Antonio de Morga, a Spanish colonizer and historian, wrote the 1609 two-volume history of the early years of the Spanish conquest called Sucesos de las islas Filipinas which Rizal annotated in 1890.
The monument is unique in many ways. It does not have any statue of the hero, a prominent feature almost always found in other monuments across the country.
Designed by Lt. Col. Ildefonso Alegre and Lt. Col. Antonio Sanz, its construction was funded by contributions of the people of Camarines Norte. It is renowned for unmistakable symbols of the Masons (of which Rizal, Alegre and Sanz were once part at different times), its similarity to the obelisks of Egyptian influence, and its characteristic lack of embellishments.
Daet war heroes
During the first Bantayog Festival, it paid tribute to the heroic and tragic Daet revolt. The local chapter of the revolutionary Katipunan movement rebelled against Spanish authorities starting on April 14, 1898, occupied the town of Daet, and laid siege to the residence of Florencio Arana where the Spaniards took refuge.
The arrival of a Spanish reinforcement a few days later however put an end to the siege and those who participated were executed. In 1996, a memorial in honor of the fallen heroes in the Daet revolt was erected near the First Rizal Monument.
Founding of Camarines Norte
Bantayog Festival likewise celebrates the founding of Camarines Norte. The province and the neighboring Camarines Sur used to be a territory called Ambos Camarines in colonial times.
Official policies over the years saw a series of their separation and reunification: separated in 1829, rejoined in 1854, broken up again in 1857, and reunified once more in 1893. Finally, it was separated into two provinces by virtue of Act No. 2809 passed on March 3, 1919. And on April 15, 1920, Camarines Norte was organized through Executive Order No. 22.
First Bantayog Festival
First Bantayog Festival was held in April 2005. It was conducted in time for the 85th founding anniversary of the province. Lasting for a week, one of its highlights was the observance of the memorial for the heroes of the Daet revolt in April 14. Culminating activities occurred the next day, the founding anniversary.
Bantayog Festival was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. In 2022, the festival was revived sans parade and street dance.
Bantayog Festival Schedule of Activities
Bantayog Festival schedule of activities has been extended from a week to a month-long celebration that spans the entire month of April. Activities are created to commemorate heroism of Jose Rizal and local heroes. Other events include sports (volleyball, skateboarding, e-sports, fun runs), talks, trainings, workshops, variety and cultural shows, parties, job fairs, trade fairs, pet shows, exhibits, tribute to local heroes, and talent competitions.
Here are some of the highlights.
Binibining Camarines Norte
Binibining Camarines Norte is a beauty pageant and one of the mainstays of the festival. In 2022, it was rebranded as the Search for Camarines Norte Tourism Ambassador.
Grand Festival Parade and Street Dancing
Grand Festival Parade and Street Dancing is one of the highlights of the festival. It is an event that shows the different cultural festivals that are celebrated by various localities. Contingents perform on the streets of the capital wearing colorful costumes.
Parangal sa Natatanging Camnorteño
Parangal sa Natatanging Camnorteño is an award given to distinguished individuals who have excelled in their respective fields and brought pride to the province. It is usually conducted as one of the culminating activities of the festival.
How to reach Camarines Norte
One can travel by bus from Manila. The land trip is going to be an eight-hour travel. You can also book a flight from Manila to Naga Airport in the province of Camarines Sur, and take any of the land-based trips which would be roughly about two hours.
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