Negros Occidental

Kali-Kalihan Festival

Kali-Kalihan Festival is the annual celebration of culture, bountiful harvest, martial arts, tradition, and founding anniversary in the town of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, Philippines every February 9.

It commemorates the founding of the town by virtue of Batas Pambansa Bilang 336 in 1983.

In addition, it pays tribute to the ancient Filipino kali martial art and incorporates ancient customs and beliefs.

It is also conceptualized as a thanksgiving merriment to express gratitude for a good harvest and to recognize the work of farmers.

History of Kali-Kalihan Festival

Kali-Kalihan Festival was first held in 1991 as a founding anniversary celebration.

Its name kali-kalihan refers to reenacting the movements, gestures, and fighting stances of the age-old native martial art called kali.

When it was launched, it was marked with people walking on live charcoal as a demonstration of superhuman abilities to the general awe of spectators.

Kali martial arts

Kali is an ancient martial art indigenous to the people in the Philippines and parts of Indonesia.

It is characterized by physical engagement in close combat unarmed (using bare knuckles) or armed (using sticks or bladed weapons). Its techniques involved around attacking, neutralizing, defending, parrying, gripping, and taking down an opposing party.

Its name may be derived from a type of sword called kalis, and over time people chose not to pronounce its last sibilant letter. Alternatively, its etymology could be the result of combining kamot (which means hand) and lihok (which means movement), indicating an origin from the southern Philippines.

In the Philippines, it dates back to the pre-conquest times with some accounts placing its beginnings anywhere between the fifth and seventh century. However, not much else is known about its origin.

That may be partly on the account that it was a well-kept secret guarded among Filipinos who passed down the skill from one generation of kin to the next. Sharing to outsiders was discouraged, they kept the knowledge within families, clans, or tribes.

Experts believed that it was either developed by the natives that was then touched by outside influence brought by people from foreign lands they had contact with for trade. Or that it was learned from migrants that was adapted and imbued with indigenous elements.

Moreover, kali was employed in various circumstances. It may had been used to protect the family and/or their possessions, defend one’s honor, settle scores, or gain renown by vanquishing one’s enemy.

It is inferred that it could have been used by Lapu-lapu’s soldiers when they overthrew Spanish foreign rule by defeating Ferdinand Magellan in the battle of Mactan (see Kadaugan sa Mactan) in 1521, the numerous uprisings against the Spaniards, Philippine Revolution, and guerilla attacks against the Americans and the Japanese.

During Spanish colonial period, new martial arts such as eskrima and arnis rose that came from kali.

Eskrima was derived from the Spanish esgrima, which means fencing, and is often associated with central Philippines.

Arnis (from Spanish arnis, which means hand armor) is associated with Luzon.

History of Don Salvador Benedicto

Kali-Kalihan Festival also remembers the establishment of Don Salvador Benedicto, a municipality in the northern side of the Negros Occidental.

The town was carved out from the upland territories that previously belonged to Calatrava, Murcia, and San Carlos City.

It is comprised of Bagong Silang-Marcelo, Bago-Lalong (from Calatrava), Pandanon, Igmaya-an (from Murcia), Kumaliskis, Bunga and Pinowayan-Prosperidad (from San Carlos City).

These lands were far from the centers of their respective local government units. Law enforcement and delivery of public services faced some difficulty.

Their mountainous, rugged terrain became known as a lair of the communist insurgency and had witnessed bloody encounters between the Philippine military and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the decades-long armed conflict.

A bill was introduced in Batasang Pambansa by Alfonso Garcia and Jose Valera Jr. to create a municipality out of the above-mentioned barangays for better governance and implementation of peace and order.

Thus on February 9, 1983, Don Benedicto Salvador became a municipality by virtue of Batas Pambansa Blg. 336, otherwise known as An Act Creating the Municipality of Salvador Benedicto in the Province of Negros Occidental. This is the date that Kali-Kalihan Festival recognizes as the foundation date.

Nehemias G. Dela Cruz was appointed as the first mayor and succeeded by Ricardo T. Arnaldo. Dela Cruz eventually won the elections in 1988, becoming the first elected mayor.

Presently, Don Benedicto Salvador is dubbed as the Summer Capital and the Little Baguio of Negros Occidental for its cool, climate with temperatures ranging between 16 and 27 Celsius.

Vice Governor Salvador Benedicto

Additionally, the town was named after Vice Governor Salvador Benedicto.

Born on March 31, 1889, he was famous as the central figure in the guerilla movement in Negros island against the Japanese forces in the Second World War. He put up Negros’ revolutionary government in Igmaya-an.

He died on November 28, 1956.

Kali-Kalihan Festival Activities

The calendar of Kali-Kalihan Festival may begin in the last day of January or the first day of February and culminate in Februay 9, making the event either a nine- or ten-day affair.

It has several highlights such as street dance competition, cultural competition, beauty pageants (Diwata sang Kali, Zootah sang Kali), food and trade fair (Agri Trade Fair and Pista sa Banwa Food Fair), public services, farmers’ day (Adlaw sang Mangunguma), and Awarding of Outstanding Taxpayers.

Other activities include boxing matches, live band, variety show, sports, parade, photo contest, online games, traditional games (Laro ng Lahi), mass wedding, and talent competition.

How to reach Don Salvador Benedicto

Book a flight to Bacolod-Silay Airport, which is about 60 kilometers away. Ceres buses have regular trips from Bacolod City to Don Salvador Benedicto.


Kali-Kalihan Festival Summary

NameKali-Kalihan Festival
CelebrationCulture, Harvest, Martial arts, Thanksgiving
Contact0907 615 5002
DateFebruary 9
Duration9 days
Historical eventFounding of the municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto
LocationDon Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Don Salvador Benedicto