Pintados Festival, also known as Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival, is a cultural and religious festival held in honor of Sto. Niño in the city of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines every June 27. A month-long celebration, it is also a commemoration of the pre-colonial body-painting tradition of pintados, the name that the Spanish colonizers gave to the native population in Visayas who had permanent tatoos on their face and body as sign of social status and position. It is now known officially as Leyte Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival, a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of the province of Leyte.
History of Pintados Festival
Pintados Festival comes from the word pintados, that is “painted” and refers to people with tattoos.
At the beginning of the conquest when the Spaniards explored Visayas, the group of islands in the central part of the Philippines, they noticed that the native population had face and body tattoos. Almost all natives have them, except children and queer individuals called asug. In an account titled Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas 1668 written by Fr. Ignacio Francisco Alcina S.J. in 1668, they were called pintados.
The act of tattooing coincides with a thanksgiving ritual and celebration of triumph, from tribal war or a minor battle perhaps. Tattoos were not mere decorative doodles. They were an ancestral art form, a marker of tribal identity, and clear, visible sign of stature, might, and achievement. The bravest warrior had the most ink on his body.
Pintados Festival in Tacloban replaced the Sangyaw Festival, which was celebrated every year since 1974 but terminated at the height of EDSA revolution. Pintados Foundation Inc. was organized in 1986, its thrust was to commemorate the historical tradition of pintados and celebrate its cultural heritage. And the group held the first Pintados Festival on June 29, 1987. Meanwhile, the city of Passi in Iloilo also holds their own celebration called Pintados de Passi Festival.
In 2020, the festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Devotion to Sto. Niño
The religious aspect of the fest is the devotion to Sto. Niño that dates back to the Spanish period whose feast day occured every third of January (as do Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival and Cebu’s Sinulog Festival). In 1888, the holy image was lost during its voyage from Manila back to Leyte and at the same time Tacloban was ravaged by a surge of cholera. It was recovered by people of Mindoro and returned to Leyte on June 30, 1889. Its arrival marked the end of the epidemic too. Since then, the festival was moved from January to towards the end of June.
The Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) printed out commemorative stamps of Pintados festival on November 22, 2014.
Leyte Kasadyaan Festival was another fest that gathered together festivities from Biliran, Leyte, Samar, and other Visayan provinces. It comes from the word kasadyaan, which means merriment in Visayan language. It was organized by then governor Remedios Petilla on May 12, 1996. Its objective was to give a toast to diversity of celebrations from participating groups that represent their respective cities and municipalities. In 1998, Pintados and Kasadyaan were held as one month-long festivity, and its schedule was fixed on June 29 every year.
Later, the Marcos-era Sangyaw Festival was revived in 2008. Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival was not held for eight years until 2015 and its schedule was moved to June 27th.
The festival was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pintados Festival Schedule of Activities
Pintados Festival in Tacloban boasts of many exciting, colorful events and activities. It is a time of competitions in sports, games, talent, singing, photography, dance, and photo contests. It also has various trade fairs, music festivals, concerts, arts and variety and entertainment shows.
Here are some of the highlights.
Balyuan is a tradition of the city of Tacloban and Buscada of the town of Basey in Samar. It commemorates the historical exchange of holy images between these two places every June 20. It is also the start of the nine-day novena prayers heard in Sto. Niño Church. In the past, Tacloban was called Kankabatok and part of the territory of Basey. The priest assigned in the parish of Buscada brought their bigger, more elaborate image of the Holy Child, which was donated by a Tagalog parishioner, to Tacloban and in turn Buscada received a smaller image. The exchange was made when Tacloban flourished as a city and broke away from Basey.
What happens during Balyuan? On June 18, a motorcade is organized that a replica of Sto. Niño of Tacloban travels to Buscada, Basey. Upon arrival, it is met with a ritual performed by devotees, followed by a tour around the town, and a Holy Mass celebrated in the parish church. On June 20, the image moves back to Tacloban through a fluvial procession in Cancabato Bay and Balyuan rites are conducted in Balyuan Amphitheater.
Bituon Han Leyte
Bituon Han Leyte translates to Star of Leyte, coming from the word bituon which means star. It is a contest in search for the best lead female dancer. The competition is a showcase of colorful props, spectacular festival costumes, and graceful dance movements of contestants. Winner is selected as the festival queen.
Ginoong Leyte is a beauty pageant for males. It crowns the best male candidate who has heart for advocacy and who can best represent the province of Leyte.
Novena-masses are held for nine days before the feast day on June 30 at the Sto. Niño Parish Church. A pontifical mass is held on the feast day.
Miss Pintados is a beauty pageant for females. It picks the best candidate who exemplifies beauty and has a heart of gold for social causes. A related pageant is Miss Teen Pintados, a search young and beautiful women of Leyte.
Pagrayhak Grand Parade
Pagrayhak Grand Parade, alsocalled Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals Parade, is marked with revelries and street dancing. The word pagrayhak means to celebrate. It features dance contingents in traditional regalia, particularly in the body painting. They perform dance presentations that contain many cultural heritage in Leyte, including the use of indigenous music and pre-Hispanic worship of idols.
Ritual Dance is the dance presentation and showdown of the participating contingents. It is held in Leyte Sports Development Center, also called the Grandstand. Contingents perform and are judged according to a set of criteria, and the winners are declared and received awards and prizes.
Subiran Regatta is a sport competition of one-man, one-sailed boats with outriggers that is held in Leyte Gulf. One of the highlights of the festival, it is a race of the most skilled sailors navigating a traditional sea craft in the eastern flank of San Juanico Strait where the winner is one who can cross the designated finish line first. Its name comes from subiran, a word in Waray language that refers to the sailboat being used in the race.
Where to go
Activities occur in Leyte Sports Development Center – Grandstand, Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival Park (also called Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Plaza), Sto. Niño Parish, and major thoroughfares of Tacloban City.
How to reach Tacloban City
Tacloban City can be reached via air, land, and sea. Flights are scheduled regularly in Tacloban Airport, known as Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. Tickets are also available for people who may wish to travel on sea as ferry schedules are regular connecting from different locations in the country. Buses are also available for land-based trips.
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