Tinagba Festival commemorates the pre-Hispanic thanksgiving ritual performed by Bicolano ancestors who offer a portion of their harvest to the gods. It is an annual cultural celebration held in the city of Iriga, Camarines Sur, Philippines every February 11, which also coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The date is often a special non-working holiday in the city be virtue of presidential proclamation issued yearly, one of the earliest of such declarations took place in 1981 through Proclamation No. 2055.
Tinagba is from the root word tagba. It is a tradition of ancestors who believed in animism and offered the first pickings as a way to express their gratitude for the bountiful harvest and as a prayer to continue blessing them with abundant yields in future harvests.
This offering was called atang and made to Gugurang, who according to the ancient Bicolano belief-system dwelt in the heavens and the god of goodness. The atang was led by an effeminate prayer leader called asog with a female assistant and it was performed in a temporary shrine called gulang-gulangan that was built with coconut leaves and bamboo. After the ritual, revelry followed where people joined the feast to eat, drank alcoholic beverages, and engaged in merry-making.
When the influence of the Spanish colonizers took hold, the ritual was co-opted into Christian practices. Tinagba was held in the occasion of the feast of Corpus Christi and transformed into a blend of Catholicism and native beliefs.
History of Tinagba Festival
Tinagba Festival revived this age-old custom for the contemporary times by its annual reenactment of the harvest ritual.
The first Tinagba Festival was launched in 1974. It was developed by Jose Calleja Reyes, a lawyer and a businessman. The fest was conceptualized as a promotion of Iriga as a tourist destination (and in the process Reyes’ entrepreneurial initiatives), an expression of veneration to Our Lady of Lourdes, and a celebration of the Bicolano customs and tradition.
The ancient ritual of tinagba was no longer in time with Corpus Christi’s feast but with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (of whom Reyes was a devotee). Its official start was the tolling of a gong called patong, thereupon the harvests of farmers which were contained in carts drawn by carabaos (water buffalo) were shown to the public through a parade in the city’s streets.
The parade concluded at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes located in Calvario Hills. It was followed by a mass where the fruits and vegetables were blessed. After the religious service, they were given away to charity.
Over time, the annual observance evolved. It incorporated the Mardi Gras-like street dancing within the administration of Mayor Emmanuel R. Alfelor in the 1990s that was influenced by festivals held elsewhere in the country (such as the Sinulog Festival, Ati-Atihan Festival) and introduced the parade of beautifully decorated floats in main thoroughfares.
In 2010, it became a regional festival when the city of Iriga became the host of Gayon Bicol Festival of Festivals.
Tinagba Festival Activities
Tinagba Festival is often a week-long celebration; in 2023, it had a month-long calendar. Major activities fall on the eleventh of February. It is marked with the famous bullcart parade of fruits, vegetables, and agricultural produce pulled by farm animals, which has become a competition and a festival mainstay. Moreover, it is also marked with performers in grand, colorful costumes during the street dance event.
Other activities include the opening of the Tinagba Agri and Food Fair, live bands, sports, traditional games, art exhibit, medicla mission, and Farmers’ Day.
How to reach Iriga City, Camarines Sur
One can book a flight to Naga Airport, which is over 30 kilometers away and an hour trip to Iriga City.
- Tinagba Festival. City Government of Iriga. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Tinagba Festival. Tourism Promotions Board Philippines. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Tinagba Festival. Senate of the Philippines. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Michael Jaucian. City in Bicol pushes through with festival. Philippine Daily Inquirer. February 11, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Brief History of the Tinagba. City Government of Iriga. Retrieved from original article on February 12, 2023
- Jordan Clark. Bicolano Pantheon of Deities and Creatures | Philippine Mythology. Aswang Project. February 8, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Iriga celebrates Tinagba Festival. The Philippine Star. February 10, 2010. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Marilyne Antonette Adiova. Music, Dance, and Negotiations of Identity in the Religious Festivals of Bicol, Philippines. Deep Blue Repositories. University of Michigan. 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2023
- Emerald Grotto. City Government of Iriga. Retrieved February 12, 2023