Balamban Festival

Balamban Festival, previously called Balamban Butterfly Festival, is the founding anniversary of Santiago City in the province of Isabela, Philippines every May 5. Also referred to as Balamban Dance Festival or Butterfly Festival, it has a five-day calendar that starts on May 1st, which is also simultaneously Labor Day in the country. The 5th of May is sometimes declared a special non-working holiday, as what occurred in 2022.

The city previously celebrated the Pattaradday Festival, but it was switched to Balamban Festival beginning in 2015. The city also observes the yearly religious patronal feast of St. James the Apostle every July 25th.

History of Pattaradday Festival

Previously, Santiago City held the yearly Pattaradday Festival. It was launched by Mayor Amelita Navarro in 2000 and organized by the Santiago City Pattaradday Foundation Inc. in cooperation with the local government. Its name comes from pattaradday, a word in Ibanag language that means unity.

It was a showcase of harmony among its diverse people particularly its fourteen ethnic groups that called the city home. It was awarded Best Tourism Event by Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines from 2006 to 2008.

The highlight of the revelry was the dance competition participated by contingents from different places in the country.

The last time Pattaradday Festival was conducted was in 2013. In 2014, the founding anniversary was simply referred to as Cityhood Anniversary. In 2015, it was replaced with Balamban Festival as discussed above.

History of Balamban Festival

The first Balamban Festival was held the following year in 2015 within the term of Mayor Joseph Tan during the 21st founding anniversary of the city. Its name comes from balamban, which means butterfly, and it refers to the folk dance performed among Christian inhabitants in the flat plains on wedding occasions. Its signature steps are said to mimic the flapping of wings of butterflies found in Dariuk Hills.

History of Santiago City, Isabela

Santiago City is geographically part of the province of Isabela and it is an administratively independent city. It is located in Region II bounded by Sierra Madre and Cordillera Mountain Range. It is regarded as a vital city because of its location as a ‘jump-off point’ in Northeastern Luzon.

Its origin began as an area called Carig, a name inspired by the presence of trees as it was densely forested in the past. It was then renamed after the patron saint and known as Pueblo de Santiago Apostol de Carig upon the arrival of the Spaniards. As time passed by, it was called simply Santiago.

Then Jose Miranda led the push for the cityhood of the town through Executive Order 92-05. The order formed a working group that examined the viability of such proposal.

Balamban Festival remembers the historic transformation of the municipality of Santiago to an independent component city. It was made possible through Republic Act 7720 approved under the administration of Fidel V. Ramos on May 5, 1994. And a plebiscite held on July 6 of the same year ratified the law.

Later, Republic Act No. 8528 was passed that converted its status to a component city of the province of Isabela approved on February 14, 1998. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and affirmed with finality Santiago City as an independent city on September 16, 1999.

Balamban Festival Activities

Activities of Balamban Festival, which are scheduled from May 1 to May 5, are geared towards proud display of the cultural identity of its people, foster unity, thanksgiving to the valuable work of farmers and for abundant harvest, and a toast to indigenous people.

Among the highlights are the Santacruzan (a cultural-religious pageant commemorating the finding of the Holy Cross), Mutya ng Balamban (Miss Balamban, a beauty pageant), agro-industrial trade fair (that showcases the products of the city), grand parade, and street dancing. It also features kite-flying, a recreation that traced back to the Spanish colonial period and re-staging of of traditional games (Laro ng Lahi). There are also competitions (cycling, airsoft), cook-fest (that challenges participants to come up with tasty versions of native dishes), and awards night.

Other events include entertainment, concerts, and fireworks display.

How to reach Santiago City, Isabela

One can take a bus from Manila to Santiago City (Victory Liner, Five Star). The trip would take about seven to eight hours. Another option is take a flight to Cauayan Airport and a land trip of over an hour and a half covering a distance of 40 kilometers.


Balamban Festival Summary

NameBalamban Festival
CelebrationDance, Founding Anniversary
DateMay 5
Duration5 days
FounderJoseph Tan
LocationSantiago City, Isabela
OrganizerCity Government of Santiago
Other NamesBalamban Dance Festival, Butterfly Festival
Previous NamePattaraday Festival