Buglasan Festival is the ‘festival of all festivals’ in Negros Oriental, Philippines that is scheduled every last week of October. It is a grand celebration of culture and heritage in the province that is held mostly in its capital, the city of Dumaguete.
Initiated and funded by the provincial government, it is a ten-day gathering of its towns and cities showcasing the best of what they offer and the uniqueness of their local cultures. Main activities fall on every last Sunday of October; the last Friday of the month of October is at times declared as a special non-working holiday.
In 2022, its schedule ran from October 23 to October 30.
History of Buglasan Festival
Buglasan Festival derives its name from “Buglas.” “Buglas” or “Buglas Insulis” was what the island of Negros was called in pre-Hispanic times. The word refers to tall weeds that look like sugarcane or “marsh grass” which grew in abundance in the island.
Along with this historical tidbit, frequently cited is the Povedano map purportedly created in 1572 that showed the island and its ancient name. Historians have long confirmed that the document was a hoax by Jose E. Marco.
During the beginning of the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards saw that the island was settled by aboriginal natives and hence they named the place “Negros.” In that time, it was sparsely inhabited.
It appeared only Managuit, the ancient name of Dumaguete, was where people chose to reside and build a thriving community; yet the population remained small and scattered. Its other towns were established late into the colonial era.
In the course of its history, it had been vulnerable to attacks by sea-borne Moro pirates. A network of defensive system was put up where watch-towers ringed the coastal areas. One of the most famous is the Dumaguete Belfry that also functioned as a watch-tower.
The entire Negros island was part of the province of Cebu. It became a separate military district in 1734 and became an independent political entity in 1856. Migrants from nearby provinces of Antique, Capiz, and Cebu came into the island, and the population grew as a result.
Just like its sister province Negros Occidental, it was one of the provinces that were created a few years before the Philippine revolution broke out that spelled the end of the Spanish rule.
Buglasan Festival began in 1981. It was created out of a need to choose representatives to be sent for the Philippine Folk Arts Festival. A news report in 1999 stated that it was on hiatus for ten years, and the provincial government of Negros Oriental decided for it to be revived.
Previous iterations of the annual fest were held in January to coincide the founding of the province, which was on the New Year’s Day of 1890. Then it was moved to September and finally to October since 2002. City of Dumaguete meanwhile has its own celebration called Sandurot Festival every September.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Buglasan Festival was not celebrated in 2020. And in 2021, events were held online and broadcast live via the Facebook page of the provincial government. In 2022, the festival was re-staged in full.
Buglasan Festival Schedule of Activities
Buglasan Festival boasts of a jampacked ten-day calendar that blends proud celebration of identity of the province and its people together with a commercial goal of stimulating the local economy through tourism. And there are some events that start early, even several months ahead of the festivities. Therefore, it has a lot to offer that can attract residents, local tourists, and foreign visitors alike. Concerts, cultural shows, fun activities, entertainment, live bands, performance arts, and vibrant nightlife are held throughout the duration of the festival. Numerous stalls are available too for people seeking to enjoy food thrills.
Buglasan Festival King and Queen
Buglasan Festival King and Queen is a competition in search for male and female representatives who are handpicked from the dance showdown and street parade contingents. In the finals event, they don Filipiniana and street-dance costumes.
Buglasan Lutong Garbo
Buglasan Lutong Garbo is a cooking tilt that started in 2006. Contenders are culinary experts who prepare dish with ingredients that are locally sourced and indigenous in their locality. Recipes must also strictly adhere to rules including, among other things, refraining from the use of artificial flavors and canned goods.
Buglasan Festival has various competitions that put the spotlight on heritage, skills, craftsmanship, and talents of citizens. One of the biggest draws are the heritage booths of local government units (LGUs) where they put their specialty products available for purchase, and offer enticing snapshots of various tourist attractions within their respective jurisdiction and a proud glimpse into their local identity.
LGUs likewise compete by sending contingents for float, street dance, and dance showdown contests. There are also numerous talent contests in dancing, fireworks, music, photography, sports, and singing.
Launched in 2019, Gandang NegOrense is a pageant exclusive to the LGBT community. A public avenue for celebrating empowerment and discussions of pressing LGBT issues, the competition seeks the best among transgender women contenders from municipalities and cities.
Miss Negros Oriental
Miss Negros Oriental is a prestigious pageant that first started in 2011. Used to be referred to as Miss Negros Oriental Tourism, its rebranding occurred in 2015. The queen who will be crowned the winner begins her reign by promoting the province’s beautiful tourist spots and attractions for an entire year.
Sidlak NegOrense Awards
Sidlak NegOrense Awards is an annual tribute to outstanding organizations and individuals who have shown excellence in their respective fields and brought pride to the province.
Where to go
While festivities are province-wide and activities are slated in various locations, major revelries occur in the Provincial Capitol grounds, Ninoy Aquino Memorial Freedom Park, Lamberto Macias Sports Complex, Sidlakang Negros Village, and the city’s famed seafront Rizal Boulevard.
How to reach Dumaguete City
Dumaguete City can be reached by sea or air transport from Metro Manila and Cebu. It is a twenty-minute ride away from Sibulan Airport. Alternatively, one can travel via sea trips through access points in public and commercial ports.
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