Bayluhay Festival is a cultural and historical festival held in the town of San Joaquin, Iloilo, Philippines every third week of January. It is the biggest festival in the municipality of San Joaquin and it celebrates its historic founding in the 13th century with the coming of the Malays. It is a week-long celebration.
History of Bayluhay Festival
The first Bayluhay Festival was held in January 2004. It comes from the word baylo, a Hiligaynon vocabulary that means exchange or barter. It is a celebration of the Barter of Panay.
Barter of Panay
Bayluhay Festival shares similar theme with Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan and Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City. They commemorate the historic land swap that arguably took place before the coming of the Spaniards that is popularly known as the Barter of Panay. It is recorded in Maragtas, a book of legend and oral tradition published by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro in the 19th century.
According to the legend, ten Shri-Vijayan datus and their retinue fled from the despotic rule in Borneo in 13th century. They’re led by Balensusa, Bangkaya, Dumalugdog, Dumangsil, Dumangsol, Lubay, Paduhinog, Paiburong, Puti, and Sumakwel. They escaped from the tyrant named Sultan Makatunao, and they sailed towards the island of Panay.
Upon reaching Siwaragan River, they continued inland along its riverbanks and reached Sinugbuhan, a place near Miagao according to the provincial government of Antique and/or it was called Imbidayan according Bayluhay Festival.
Siwaragan River is where the old name of the town, Suaraga, was derived until in 1801 when it was renamed after its patron during the Spanish colonial era. (Interestingly, according to Binirayan Festival, they landed in the island of Panay in a place called Malandog in Hamtic, Antique. They then proceeded to a place a few kilometers down south called Hamtic where the famous barter occurred.)
Datu Puti met an Ati who was fishing in the waters, and he learned that the land was ruled by an Ati called Marikudo and his wife Maniwantinwan. The Malays sought and were given an audience before the Marikudo. Both parties entered into a contract where the Malay newcomers would inhabit the coastal and flat plains while the Atis would give up their territory and retreat into the interior, remote uplands. In exchange, the Malays gave golden salakot (headpiece) and a golden necklace called manangyad that was so long that it reached the grounds whenever it was worn.
It is not clear why the aborigines would so readily accept such an offer and choose to live in hinterlands, or how the quality of the jewelry that was presented so enticed them to finalize such an exchange. Nevertheless, it was reported it was a peaceful transaction between the parties.
Bayluhay Festival Activities
Bayluhay Festival thus is an annual commemoration of the pre-Hispanic establishment of the town and of the island of Panay. It remembers the original aboriginal inhabitants called Atis, the settlement of the Malay chieftains, and the conquest of the Spaniards starting in the 16th century.
Among the cherished traditions that is said to have been passed down through centuries is the maaram, the name for people engaged in folk healing. Another is the dinapay, a war dance and a rite of passage that was said to have been first performed in the Barter of Panay. The dinapay is also believed to endow the participant with power to be shielded from malevolent forces.
One noteworthy event is the folk-cultural tribal dance competition. It is a performance and street theater where participants are involved in historical depiction. A ritual is offered before the start of the revelry. Such ritual has been observed for years in order to shower the events with blessings and protection Other activities include entertainment, cultural shows, parade, various competitions, etc.
Pasungay, which translates to locking horns, is one of the culminating events of the yearly celebration. It has become famous over the years where bulls fight out in the arena.
Search for Dayang kang Bayluhay
Search for Dayang kang Bayluhay is a beauty pageant that is considered the most prestigious in the municipality. It was also known as Fiesta Queen.
How to reach San Joaquin, Iloilo
You can get a plane ticket bound for Iloilo International Airport and take the bus to the city terminal. From there, you can get a ride for Antique and stop at the town of San Joaquin.
- Marin, Bombette G. Bayluhay: San Joaquin’s Cultural Treasures. The News Today. January 20, 2006. Retrieved October 30, 2022
- Bayluhay and Pasungay Harbingers of Iloilo’s Festive Season. Daily Guardian. January 17, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2022
- Bayluhay Festival kicks off Sunday. Philippine Information Agency. January 11, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2022
- How to get there. The Manila Times. November 7, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2022
- Cultural celebrations and an adrenaline-filled sport event set the energy for the rest of the year. Mabuhay Magazine. January 7, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2022
- Historical Development. Municipal Government of Hamtic. Retrieved October 30, 2022