Pamugsay Festival

Pamugsay Festival is a religious and cultural festival in the town of Pilar in Camotes Islands of Cebu, Philippines every December 2. It is one of the cultural fests that participates in Pasigarbo sa Sugbo, and its date coincides with the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the town.

What is Pamugsay Festival?

The festival comes from pamugsay, which means to row. Its root word is bugsay, the local word for wooden paddle that is used in propelling a boat out to the sea by means of rowing.

Hence, the fest “…gives credit to Pilar’s ancestors and the present-day Pilaranons.” It gives a nod to the livelihood and way of life of its people who are dependent on and thankful for the bounty of the sea.

History of Pilar, Cebu and Devotion to St. Francis Xavier

According to oral tradition, Pilar was named in honor of a spouse of a renown chieftain although certainty of this claim is doubted. It may have been inspired from a popular devotion to Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

Nevertheless, Pilar first appeared in written history through the account of Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian scholar who joined the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. It was known as Pozzon/Posong, which is a word that means brave.

Pigafetta wrote:

From this island of Mazzabua to that of Satighan there are twenty leagues, and on leaving Satighan we went by the west; but the King of Mazzabua could not follow us; therefore we waited for him near three islands, that is to say. Polo, Ticobon, and Pozzon. When the king arrived he was much astonished at our navigation, the captain-general bade him come on board his ship with some of his principal people, at which they were much pleased. Thus we went to Zzubu, which is fifteen leagues off from Satighan.

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

The growth of Christianity in Pilar was credited to the Augustinian missionaries. The church that they founded was a visita of Poro (established in 1847) that was formerly a visita of Mandaue (established 1638).

Its church, placed under the advocation of St. Francis Xavier, became a parish by virtue of a Royal Decree on October 4, 1859 and confirmed through a Bishop’s Decree on November 9, 1859.

Pamugsay Festival Activities

Festival events include foot procession, and street dancing and cultural dance competitions.

How to reach Pilar, Cebu

Book a flight to Mactan International Airport and take a bus or cab to Cebu North Bus Terminal. Take the bus to either Danao or Liloan Port, where a ferry trip is available.


Pamugsay Festival Summary

NamePamugsay Festival
CelebrationCulture, Religion
ChurchSt. Francis Xavier Parish
DateDecember 2
LocationPilar, Cebu
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Pilar
PatronSt. Francis Xavier
ReligionRoman Catholic