Kaplag Festival

Kaplag Festival, also known as Kaplag Buwad Festival, is a cultural, historical, seafood, and religious festival in Barangay San Nicolas, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines every April 28. It is an annual commemoration of the finding of the image of Sto. Niño in a hut in Cebu by a Spanish colonizer who was part of the expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565.


Kaplag Buwad Festival comes from kaplag, a word in Cebuano language that means finding or discovery, and buwad which means dried fish.

History of Kaplag Buwad Festival

Many believe in the oral tradition that the parish in Barangay San Nicolas, a southern barangay of Cebu City, was the original site where the image of the Holy Child was found by the Spanish colonizers in 1565. Fr. Venerando Reynes, the parish priest of the Archdiocesan Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino between 1942 and 1965, was known to be one of its proponents.

Experts, however, established that the Basilica Minore del Santo was the site where the wooden image of Sto. Niño was found by Juan de Camus.

The kaplag tradition began in the 1990s during the time of Bishop Precioso Gandillas in what was then San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish and it was conducted in partnership with the Augustinian rector of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.

In 2008, the first Kaplag Festival was mounted.

Devotion to Sto. Niño

At the core of the Kaplag Festival is the devotion to Sto. Niño, which started at the beginning of the Spanish conquest.

Spanish colonizer Ferdinand Magellan set sail in an expedition paid for by the Spanish monarchy from Europe on September 1519. His goal was to find a westward path to the Moluccas for trading spices that would be an alternative to the sea route ruled by the Portuguese.

On March 16, 1521, he reached Homonhon Island, Samar. He continued his journey and landed in Mazaua Island. On March 31, 1521, the chaplain Fr. Pedro de Valderrama celebrated the First Mass in the Philippines in Mazaua Island on an Easter Sunday.

They went to sea again and landed in Cebu on April 7. Magellan converted the natives to Christianity and baptism of Cebu settlement chieftain Rajah Tupas and his people took place on April 14. After baptism, the consort-queen Hara Humamay was gifted the image of Sto. Niño and renamed Juana, a historical event that is recalled in Sinulog Festival.

Magellan would later die at the hands of Lapulapu and his men at the Battle of Mactan on April 27, a reenactment of which is held in the yearly Kadaugan sa Mactan.

Finding of Sto. Niño

After over four decades later, the Spaniards sent an expedition to the Philippines led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. He reached Samar in February 1565 and then Limasawa Island of Southern Leyte.

His fleet arrived in Bohol on on March 25, 1565 where Legazpi entered into a blood compact with Datu Sikatuna, a historical event that is remembered in the annual Sandugo Festival.

On April 27, 1565, Legazpi and his men arrived in Cebu. They were met by Rajah Tupas, the nephew of Rajah Humabon and the leader of the settlement. After negotiations failed, the Spaniards attacked by blasting at the boats of the natives. The natives fled to the interiors, leaving behind their village in flames which was kindled either from the arms of the Spaniards or razed by the natives to deprive the colonizers of shelter and provision.

The next day, April 28, 1565, a sailor named Juan de Camus gained access to a hut that was not burned in the conflagration. He found a box with “Castilian sailing thread and Castilian cord made of hemp” and inside was another box where he discovered the image of Sto. Niño, Magellan’s gift to the Hara Humamay.

He informed the ship-master Mateo de Saz who then told the news to Legazpi. After learning of the discovery, Legazpi knelt and wept. A procession was held and the location where the image was found a chapel was erected.

Moreover, the finding of Sto. Niño was commemorated every year from that time on, and this is the basis of the kaplag tradition and in turn the Kaplag Buwad Festival.

Buwad Festival

Moreover, the Buwad Festival is held simultaneously as a cultural and seafood aspect of the annual event, lending the limelight to Taboan Market which is the largest marketplace of preserved fish.

According to oral history, Taboan Market began as a location where weekend cockfighting derby was held in 1918. Soon after, the crowd in the weekly gathering (called tabo, hence the name Taboan Market) grew and small businesses thrived.

To prevent overcrowding and maintain cleanliness and order, the derby was stopped. A marketplace was built, but it was damaged in World War II and in a fire in 1962. The local government reconstructed the market in 1967.

It offers two kinds of preserved fish, commonly called danggit: dried-and-salted fish and salted fish. Other preserved seafood are also available such as pusit (dried squid). A study conducted in 1976 recorded 161 suppliers of preserved products from Cebu, Bohol, Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, and Palawan. Most of the supplies are shipped outside of Cebu.

Taboan Market is a popular destination of local tourists who want to buy danggit as a pasalubong before returning home. The marketplace is also known for a strong, sharp scent in the air from the dried seafood products. The local government also aimed to make Barangay San Nicolas as the Buwad Capital of the Philippines.

Kaplag Buwad Festival Activities

One of the religious activities of the Kaplag Buwad Festival consist of the traslacion where the image of the Holy Infant in Basilica del Minore del Sto. Niño pays a visit to the Archdiocesan Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino. A procession is also held, as well as a reenactment of the baptism in 1521 and the finding of Sto. Niño in 1565.

Secular activities include street parade in the Buwad Festival, which is mounted as a way to give thanks for blessings received. Another mainstay is the Tartanilla Festival (a tartanilla is a horse-drawn carriage) which gives a toast to the culture and tradition of the barangay.

How to reach San Nicolas, Cebu City

Take a cab straight from the Mactan International Airport. Alternatively, take the bus to SM City Cebu and then get a ride to San Nicolas.


Kaplag Festival Summary

NameKaplag Festival
CelebrationCulture, History, Religion
ChurchArchdiocesan Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino
DateApril 28
Historical eventFinding of Sto. Niño by Spanish colonizer Juan de Camus on April 28, 1565
LocationBarangay San Nicolas, Cebu City, Cebu
OrganizerLocal government of Barangay San Nicolas
Other NamesKaplag Festival
PatronSto. Niño
ReligionRoman Catholic