Katubhan Festival

Katubhan Festival is a cultural, harvest and religious festival in the town of Medellin, Cebu, Philippines every April 27. It gives a toast to the sugar industry of the town and is an expression of devotion to Sto. Niño, the titular of the parish in Medellin.

It is one of the cultural fests that participate in Pasigarbo sa Sugbo every August.


Katubhan Festival comes from the word tubo, the local name for sugarcane, and katubhan, which means a sugarcane field or place where sugarcane abounds or is cultivated.

History of Katubhan Festival

In the past, the town of Medellin celebrated the Sinulog Festival in time for the feast day of Sto. Niño. It was rebranded to Katubhan Festival, firstly, to re-establish its religious fiesta distinct from Sinulog Festival of Cebu City and, secondly, to give a nod to the history and culture of the town particularly its sugar industry.

During the Spanish period, the Philippines was restricted from global trade except through the Royal Company of the Philippines. This was changed in the first half of the 19th century when the colonial government through a Royal Decree issued by King Charles III on September 6, 1834 opened the ports and trading outposts of the archipelago. The port of Cebu was opened on July 30, 1860 by virtue of a royal decree.

Local agriculture shifted to cultivating cash crop like sugarcane and the sugar industry grew significantly over the following decades. Sugarcane was produced in several towns such as in Mandaue, Talisay, Minglanilla, Carcar, Balamban, and Medellin. Medellin led in its production in terms of volume, and in 1890 it recorded a production of 72,000 picos (a pico was equal to 63.45 kilos).

The Philippine Revolution marked the beginning of decline of sugar industry in Cebu. Two mills remained when the American colonizers came, one in the Cebu north and another in Talisay. Talisay Sugar Mill closed in 1933 and its infrastructure destroyed in the Second World War.

Medellin is the location of the headquarter of the oldest and only sugar mill in Cebu, the Bogo-Medellin Milling Inc. (Bomedco). The company was incorporated on June 4, 1928. Its business core is into milling of “centrifugal raw sugar with molasses as its by-product” with a rated capacity of 3,000 tons of canes daily and its supply comes from over 400 suppliers.

The provincial government touted Medellin as the sugar bowl of Cebu.

Devotion to Sto. Niño

The schedule of Katubhan Festival coincides with the feast of Sto. Niño. Its church was a visita of the Daanbantayan Parish throughout much of its history. It separated from Daanbantayan and was erected into a parish in 1910. Its church was constructed in 1936.

The timing of its fiesta recalls the rich history behind the devotion of Sto. Niño in Cebu, and specifically the discovery of the image at the outset of the Spanish conquista. According to Venetian scholar Antonio Pigafetta who accompanied the Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1521,

The queen, after making a bow to the altar, sat upon a cushion of embroidered silk, and the captain sprinkled over her and over some of her ladies rose water and musk, a perfume which pleases the ladies of this country very much. The captain on that occasion approved of the gift which I had made to the queen of the image of the Infant Jesus, and recommended her to put it in the place of her idols, because it was a remembrancer of the Son of God. She promised to do all this, and to keep it with much care.

Antonio Pigafetta, translated by Lord Stanley of Alderley. The First Voyage Round the World/Pigafetta’s Account of Magellan’s Voyage

The expedition concluded disastrously in Cebu after Magellan was killed by Lapulapu in the shores of Mactan early morning on April 27, 1521, a historical event re-enacted yearly in Kadaugan sa Mactan.

After over four decades, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi led another Spanish expedition and reached Cebu on April 27, 1565. They were resisted by the natives headed by Rajah Tupas. The European colonizers fired from their ships and the natives burned the village to deprive the foreigners of shelter and provisions.

The next day, April 28, 1565, a sailor from the ship Capitana whose name was Juan Camus inspected a hut that was spared from the fire. He found boxes containing several items such as wild boar tusk and bowl, and in the one last box bound by “Castilian sailing thread and Castilian cord made of hemp”, he discovered a box made of pine wood and inside it was the Holy Infant.

He told his shipmaster Mateo de Saz about his discovery, who then relayed the news to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Upon the sight of the image, Legazpi knelt down and wept. A procession was held and on the site of its discovery a chapel was erected.

The event is known as kaplag, a local word for discovery (see Kaplag Festival).

Katubhan Festival Activities

Religious activities are initiated by the parish community of Sto. Niño Parish Church.

Katubhan Festival secular activities are organized by the local government and include beauty pageant (Miss Medellin), street dancing, competitions, talent contests, variety shows, and cultural presentations.

How to reach Medellin

Take a ride to the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City. Get on a bus bound to Kawit, Medellin. The trip is about three to four hours long.


Katubhan Festival Summary

NameKatubhan Festival
CelebrationCulture, History, Religion, Sugarcane
ChurchSto. Niño Parish Church
DateApril 27
LocationMedellin, Cebu
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Cebu
PatronSto. Niño
Previous NameSinulog Festival
ReligionRoman Catholic