Bailes de Luces, also called Bailes de Luces Festival, is the yearly light and Christmastime festival as well as Charter Day celebration in the town of La Castellana, Negros Occidental, Philippines every January 5. With a weeks-long schedule, its calendar stretches from the second of December to the first week of January of the succeeding year.
History of Bailes de Luces
Bailes de Luces translates to “dances of lights.” It is a celebration during the yuletide season in December to the first week of January in La Castellana and this yearly event is meant to express hope and thanksgiving of townsfolk for year-round blessings.
It was conceptualized in September 1999 within the term of Mayor Enrico Roa Elumba together with Ali Sarrosa Guanzon and Apol Oebanda Embang. The first ever Bailes de Luces Festival was organized the next year in January 2000.
Its concept was inspired by the merry-making that farmers engage after they receive their compensation from their work. They gather around a campfire and share a drink, and as they go home at twilight their way is lit by fireflies and torches (called sulo).
So light is a mainstay in the fest’s calendar of activities and it is the primary prop being utilized in its parade and performances. Performers also wear costumes and carry accessories, and the participating floats during the street, that are kitted out with LED lights.
Moreover, the fest is also considered a part of yuletide season with activities that begin weeks leading to Christmas and the turn of the new year.
The dance contingent representing the festival that is likewise called Bailes de Luces has been invited in various high-profile events in and outside the Philippines, and in turn the town and its annual fest have gained prominence in the local and international scene.
Firstly, it was regarded the most unique festival by the Tourism Council of the Philippines in 2006. In 2011, it burst into the mainstream when it joined and became a finalist in the inter-town dance contest in It’s Showtime, a noontime show on national TV. Then it participated in the fifth season of Pilipinas Got Talent in 2016.
Abroad, the contingent performed in Germany in 2018. Next, it was adjudged the best in foreign category at the Wonju Dynamic Dancing Carnival in South Korea in September 2019, earning the first place award. Thereafter, it received invitation to grace the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival and All Dance Intercontinental in Rome, Italy in 2020. It received the best foreign performer excellence award at the Chungjang World Festival of Recollection held in Gwangyu City, South Korea in 2022.
Due to Covid-19, the fest was suspended in 2021 and 2022. Restaging would take place in 2023.
Charter Day of La Castellana, Negros Occidental
In addition, the fest marks the Charter Day of La Castellana. In the past, it was part of the municipality of Pontevedro. Later, it became a town during the American colonization through Executive Order No. 101 signed by then Governor General Francis Burton Harrison on December 19, 1917. It took effect on the New Year’s Day of 1918.
A bust of Harrison was revealed to the public in time for the town’s centennial year in April 2018 and installed on June 12 coinciding in the same year the nation’s observance of Independence Day.
Bailes de Luces Activities
Activities of Bailes de Luces stretch from weeks before Christmas until January 5 when culminating activities including the Bailes de Luces Arena Showdown and Charter Day observance are held. Street party and entertainment often open up its schedule, followed by turning on the Christmas lights in various venues of the town such as Paskwa sa Panorama and opening of Festival Food Park.
One of its distinct elements is that the street dance and parade, generally reserved as culminating events on the last day in other festivals in the country, take place on December 30. Such year-ender schedule makes it possible for returning Filipinos from abroad to participate and witness the event.
Meanwhile, the float competition was first introduced in 2002 and it has since enlivened the parade with floats of the most creative illumination. The parade, joined by participants in lighted costumes and props, also transforms the town into a visually dazzling nightscape.
Other events include job fairs, contest, and variety show presentations by various organizations.
How to reach La Castellana, Negros Occidental
La Castellana can be reached via the airport in Bacolod City. The trip from the city to the town is about 60 kilometers and may take over an hour to two hours.
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- No Bailes de Luces next year for La Castellana. Negros Now Daily. December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2022
- Dolly Yasa. Bailes de Luces kicks off. Daily Guardian. December 16, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2022
- 20th Bailes de Luces Festival seen to boost anew La Castellana tourism. Sunstar Bacolod. January 3, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2022
- La Castellana Executive Summary. Commission on Audit. 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2022
- ‘Father of La Castellana’ honored. The Visayan Daily Star. April 21, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2022
- Bailes de Luces. Bailes de Luces Festival. January 4, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2022
- Bailes de Luces: A celebration of hope. Sunstar. January 8, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2022
- Erwin Nicavera. La Castellana’s Bailes de Luces cancels trip to Rome dance tilt. Philippine News Agency. May 4, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2022
- Carla Gomez. Bailes de Luces of Negros Occidental wins in South Korea festival. Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 17, 2022. Retrieved December 10, 2022