Negros Occidental

Bago City Charter Anniversary

Bago City Charter Anniversary is celebrated every February 19 in the city of Bago, Negros Occidental, Philippines. It is a commemoration of its cityhood and often dubbed Babaylan or Babaylanes Festival. February 19 can be a holiday such as Proclamation No. 656-A issued on February 15, 1970 and Proclamation No. 887 on January 14, 2020.

History of Bago City

Bago first entered into recorded history as an encomienda of Juan Gutierrez Cortes on September 6, 1571. Then in 1575, Augustinian friar Fr. Geronimo Marin arrived from the nearby Binalbagan and put up a church that was placed under the patronage of St. John the Baptist. It is also the year that the town was considered to have been first organized. Subsequently, historian Angel Martinez Cuesta stated that Bago was one of several villages in Negros island by the 17th century. Officially, its pueblo was recognized by the colonial government in 1800 when its population along the banks of Bago River increased.

Furthermore, the secular clergy who administered the church until 1882 was replaced by the Augustinian Recollects.

Towards the end of the Spanish rule, its townspeople joined the revolution. On November 5, 1898, General Juan Anacleto Araneta declared the entire island Republica de Negros. A historical marker commemorating the event was placed in the town plaza by the Philippine Historical Institute in 1951.

Republica de Negros ended during the American occupation, and the municipality was headed by a succession of appointed and elected leaders. Its progress was disrupted with the coming of the Japanese forces in World War II, with recovery and reconstruction only possible after its liberation on March 29, 1945.

The town developed in post-war years. Finally, it was converted into a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 4382, otherwise known as An Act Creating the City of Bago, which was approved on June 19, 1965. Its inauguration took place on February 19, 1966, the date that Bago City Charter Anniversary commemorates every year.

History of Babaylan Festival

Bago City’s Charter Anniversary is marked by Babaylan Festival (also known as Babaylanes Festival) which was first held in 1998. It celebrates the babaylan, the matriarchal religious and community leaders of pre-Hispanic Filipinos.

The word babaylan is used in Visayas, in other places people playing such historical role were called shaman, katalonan, etc.

Before the archipelago was transformed by western conquest and Christian influence, the natives embraced animism and ancestor worship. They believed in spirits that lived in the natural world, and praying to them could give protection from dangers, grant favors, or lead to a great harvest. Their ruler was the datu who led settlements which may comprise a dozen households or could be made up of a large population of dwellers. The authority of the datu was not only political but also supernatural, for the leader was believed to possess powers such as causing harm on enemies with just a stare.

The babaylan, meanwhile, were women and effeminate men endowed with natural and spiritual gifts. They were revered and respected members of society, and their role was crucial in the life of the community. As mystics, they could access the spirit world and spoke the language of the spirits. So they could pray to them or drive evil away, something that was crucial when clearing lands for agriculture or preparing for the planting season.

Likewise, babaylan were healers who used their knowledge of the natural world for remedies and medicines, and they perform healing rituals for sick people. As priestesses, they led in performing rites in religious ceremonies and important communal celebrations. And as courtiers, they were well-versed in oral history and esteemed advisers to the ruling nobles.

The position that babaylan once held, as well as the belief in animism, was threatened during the time of the Spaniards. One babaylan in Bohol named Tamblot incited opposition against the colonizers in what is now known as Tamblot Uprising. But in time the influence of babaylan in general lessened and suppressed as Christianity began to spread, eventually fading into the outskirts of culture and society.

Yet traces of these age-old beliefs and the powers attributed to babaylan persist in some form such in the Folk Healing Festival in Siquijor and, of course, Babaylan Festival in Bago City. These fests are part of the larger movement in reclaiming lost culture, tradition, and identity.

Bago City Charter Anniversary Activities

The calendar of Bago City Charter Anniversary activities vary from year to year: from February 1 to February 19 in 2019 and from February 10 to March 6 in 2021. Its highlight occurs on February 19 when the charter day program is held that recalls the transformation from a municipality to a city. Moreover, it is also the day that the city witnesses the parade, Babaylan Street Dance, and Babaylan dance drama or stage competition that remembers the history of the babaylan.

Other mainstays are the Agro-Industrial Cultural and Educational Trade Fair and the prestigious beauty pageant called Diwata Sang Bago. In addition, the city gives out the Gawad Bagonhon awards to outstanding citizens who have demonstrated excellence in their fields, taxpayers, and stakeholders of the city.

Other events may also include cultural programs, workshops, sports, concerts, variety shows, live band, job fair, cookfest, music fest, arts fest, comedy shows, inter-barangay competitions (such as Best Product Search)
party, fireworks display, etc.

How to reach Bago City, Negros Occidental

Bago City is over an hour away from Bacolod-Silay Airport.


Bago City Charter Anniversary Summary

NameBago City Charter Anniversary
Contact(034) 447 8181
DateFebruary 19
Historical eventCityhood of Bago
LocationBago City, Negros Occidental
OrganizerCity Government of Bago