Katagman Festival

Katagman Festival is the yearly cultural festival and founding anniversary in the town of Oton in the province of Iloilo, Philippines every May 3. It is a week-long celebration, and the events are participated by the representatives of all constituent barangays.

History of Katagman Festival

Katagman Festival was launched in 2003. It comes from the word Katagman, which is the old name of the town and refer to what is the village called San Antonio. Previously, it was called Ogtonganon Festival, but its name was changed to what it is known today when the ancient name of the town became known. In 2020, the event was cancelled due to Covid-19 threat and it was revived in 2022.

Golden death mask of Oton

The beginning of the festival is the discovery of a gold death mask in a grave in 1973. Now kept in the National Museum of the Philippines, it was described to be from late 14th to early 15th century and composed of two delicate golden pieces with intricate embossing: one an overlay to cover the pair of eyes of the deceased and another to cover the nose. The burial practice of the covering the eyes, nose, and mouth are believed to have been performed in China and by Filipinos. It would protect the dead from being possessed by malevolent forces that can enter through these orifices.

History of Oton, Iloilo

Katagman Festival is also a celebration of the establishment of the town. The history of Oton in Iloilo goes back before the Spanish conquest. According to oral tradition, the island of Panay was inhabited by Malays who migrated from the nearby Borneo. They put up settlements in lowland territories reportedly acquired through a peaceful transfer from the aboriginal people, an event famously called the barter of Panay.

By 1226, Katagman was ruled by Datu Paiburong and considered the center of power at that time. Archeological findings that were done in the 1970s suggested that it was a thriving community. Historical relics that were dug up included beads and gold pieces, iron tools, pottery, and weaponry belonging to the Ming dynasty, indicating that its people had engaged in trading with foreign merchants in the olden times.

The coming of the Spaniards signaled the beginning of the spread of Christianity. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who was in the headquarters in Cebu gave Mateo del Saz a mission to explore other places. They landed in Araut, the present-day Dumangas, in 1565 where they gathered much-needed food and other provisions. And the following year they sailed to the island under the leadership of Luis de Hoaya. In 1570, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and his forces moved to the island.

The provincial government of Iloilo as well as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines indicated that the town of Oton was organized in 1570, the first and oldest town in Panay.

Katagman Festival, on the other hand, reckons its annual festival based on year of 1572 as shown in an article by Daily Guardian and 2019 calendar of activities. That was the year that the Immaculate Conception Church was declared a parish.

Moreover, the Augustinians put up their provincial presence in Oton on May 3, 1572, a date that coincidentally falls within the festival schedule and when the founding day activities are held.

Katagman Festival Activities

Katagman Festival activities begin in the last week of April. Opening events are slated in April 30 which would include parade, mass, and the unveiling of agri fair. entertainment, cultural shows, art, awarding ceremony of outstanding individuals and institutions, Laro ng Lahi (traditional games), motorboat race, street dance, and a competition of music, dance and theater. The last one is a combination of performance and theater. Each dance contingent is made up of barangays that are grouped into tribu Katamnan, Kanipaan, Mandaragat, Malaca, Nakatundan, Paraw, and Parayan. They exhibit the rich culture, history, and heritage such as the rural life, tribute to the gold death mask, the pre-Hispanic trading, archeological finds, and the beginnings of Christianity. Finally, May 3 is the day for activities meant to commemorate the founding of Oton.

How to reach Oton, Iloilo

Book a flight to Iloilo International Airport, and it is about 20 kilometers away from Oton. You can take a ride via taxi, car, or bus to the town.


Katagman Festival Summary

NameKatagman Festival
CelebrationCulture, Founding, History
Contact(033) 335-1014
DateMay 3
Duration1 week
LocationOton, Iloilo
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Oton
Previous NameOgtonganon Festival