Negros Occidental

Hugyaw Kansilay Festival

Hugyaw Kansilay Festival, also known as Kansilay Festival, is a cultural festival and charter day anniversary every June 12 observed in the city of Silay, Negros Occidental, Philippines. This yearly event celebrates the conversion of then town of Silay to a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 1621 in 1957.

The date of the celebration may be declared a holiday, such as Proclamation No. 734 issued in 2019 and Proclamation No. 217 in 2023. June 12 is also the Philippines’ Independence Day.

In addition, the city holds the religious fiesta in honor of patron San Diego Alcala every November.


The fest’s name is taken from hugyaw, a local word that refers to uproarious fun or merriment, and Kansilay, the princess-warrior whose heroism is contained in the mythical origin story of Silay. Kansilay also refers to the name of an indigenous tree and which the name of the city comes from.

Legend of Kansilay

The Legend of Kansilay is an oral tradition that describes the mythical beginnings of the rise of Silay. It also plays a central role in the annual Hugway Kansilay Festival and is retold through music and choreography in the grand street dancing competition and arena dance drama.

Kansilay was a beautiful maiden who was the daughter of Bubog, the chieftain of Karobkob. Karobkob was believed to be the village of the first settlers located along the coast.

Kansilay was in love with and promised in marriage to a young, good-looking man called Lawaan. Prior to their wedding, he joined a band of men in a hunting trip (called pangayam in the mother tongue).

While the men were away, the village of Karobkob was attacked by pirates led by the fearsome leader named Lunok. Kansilay was given the aid of a Diwata, a fairy of flowers, who bestowed upon her a sword called talibong.

She gathered the villagers and fought bravely to defend their homes against the pillagers. The men returned from hunting to see their village under attack, and with their combined efforts they dispelled the pirates back to the sea.

Unfortunately, Kansilay was fatally wounded and died. Victory was mingled with inconsolable grief as Lawaan and the villagers mourned her passing and she was laid in her final resting place.

Upon her burial spot a tree grew and it was called Kansilay after the much-beloved princess. The settlement became known as Silay, itself derived from the name of the tree and the princess.

Experts state that this origin story may be older than the time of rajahnates that ruled the archipelago before the Spanish conquista. The story may contain a glimpse into the culture and way of life of first settlers long, long time ago.

History of Silay City

Hugway Kansilay Festival is also an opportunity to take a walk through history as it remembers the colorful past and the cityhood of Silay.

The entire island of Negros was called Buglas in pre-colonial period (see Buglasan Festival). The first settlement in Silay was a coastal place called Carobcob, which no longer exists presently. It became an encomienda given to Cristobal Nuñez Paroja in 1571.

As was similar case elsewhere in the island its population dwindled and Spanish presence was tenuous, not least due to rampant banditry by sea pirates and lack of colonial personnel. Subsequently, colonial government was strengthened and defenses were constructed to protect the populace from being vulnerable to coastal attacks. And in 1760, Silay became a town.

In the latter half of the 18th century, Alejo Severino was appointed as its gobernadorcillo. In the following century, an influx of people from Iloilo came and the population grew. It was also around this time that its local economy was invigorated by sugar production. A sugar mill was erected in 1846 by the famous sugar baron, Yves Leopold Germaine Gaston.

As the Spanish colonization came to a close, people in Silay rose in opposition against colonial rule. Spearheaded by Vicente Gamboa Benedicto and Juan Olaybar, Filipino patriots marched to the garrison to confront the Spanish forces.

No blood was shed on November 5, 1898 when Spanish guardia civil Maximiano Correa submitted to the revolutionaries. The historical event, called Cinco de Noviembre, is a feature in the annual commemoration every November.

Silay is also famous as the last bastion of the Imperial Japanese Army in Western Visayas. In 1945, the Nagano unit retreated to Mt. Silay in Patag and held a defensive position against the advancing US 40th Infantry division, Filipino military, and guerilla warriors. The Japanese were defeated, ending their occupation in World War II.

Legislation to convert Silay to a city was introduced by representatives Carlos Hilao and Jose Puey in House Bill No. 6069. It became a city with the passage of Republic Act No. 1621, otherwise known as “An Act Creating the City of Silay”, that became a law on June 12, 1957. This is the date that Hugyaw Kansilay Festival

Silay is a third-class city of Negros Occidental, and it is a part of Metro Bacolod that included the neighboring cities of Bacolod and Talisay. It is known as the Paris of Negros for its lively arts, culture, and heritage scene. It draws visitors to its many magnificent ancestral houses particularly along Rizal Street that form part of the National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 1990.

Hugyaw Kansilay Festival Activities

The festival is usually longer than a week. In 2019 for instance, its calendar was from June 3 to June 13. Its program see sixteen constituent barangays participating in various activities, with the highlight being the grand street dancing and arena presentation.

According to Pacete, the cultural dance features the Legend of Kansilay that “… follows storylines complete with setting, characters, plot, sub-plots, conflict, climax.” Performers interpret the story through dance movements, choreography, costumes, and music. The air is filled with cries of “Hugyaw Silay! Hugyaw kay Kansilay!”

How to reach Silay City, Negros Occidental

Silay City is accessible through the Bacolod-Silay International Airport.


Hugyaw Kansilay Festival Summary

NameHugyaw Kansilay Festival
CelebrationCity Charter celebration every June 12
Contact(034) 495 5269
DateJune 12
DurationOver a week
Historical eventConversion of Silay to a component city of Negros Occidental
LocationSilay City, Negros Occidental
OrganizerCity Government of Silay
Other NamesKansilay Festival