Negros Oriental

Tawo-Tawo Festival

Tawo-Tawo Festival is a cultural and religious festival in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, Philippines every February 18. Through the symbol of tawo-tawo (scarecrow), it is a celebration of agriculture and bountiful harvest in Bayawan City, touted as the Rice Granary of Negros Oriental, and simultaneous with the feast day of St. Thomas of Villanueva, the patron of the city.

The date may be declared a special nonworking holiday by virtue of executive issuance (such as Proclamation No. 1292 in 2022).

Bambanti Festival of the province of Isabela every last week of January is also based on scarecrow.


Tawo-tawo Festival comes from Cebuano word tawo-tawo, which means in literal sense man-like and refers to scarecrow.

Bayawan is a largely agricultural city. Its farmers make tawo-tawo to protect the rice stalks heavy with grains in the fields from the birds, particularly the small birds called maya.

History of Tawo-Tawo Festival

Tawo-Tawo Festival came about as a secular aspect of the annual religious observance of the feast day of St. Thomas of Villanova.

The people of Bayawan had been celebrating the fiesta since colonial era, and it was not until 1986 that Tawo-Tawo Festival was organized by the civic organizations Bayawan Health Club and Bayawan Habagat Jaycees. In the following years, these organizations mounted the fest.

The local government unit took over in organizing the festival starting in 1990, making it an institutional event integral to the yearly festival.

The fest has drawn visitors who come to see the colorful, spectacular street dancing. It also commemorates the agricultural industry, particularly in the production of rice. Bayawan City is one of the twenty-two localities that were said to be “key rice production areas.”

Devotion to St. Thomas of Villanova

Devotion to St. Thomas of Villanova, locally called Santo Tomas de Villanueva, started during Spanish colonization. In those times, Bayawan City was called Tolong and its territory included the town Santa Catalina. It was made into an independent pueblo in 1872.

Its church whose titular is St. Thomas of Villanova was founded by Augustinian Recollects. It became a parish four years after the town was established, in 1876, with Fr. Eusebio Baztan assigned as its first parish priest.

While a place of worship existed before it gained parochial status, it was replaced by a church made of stone by Fr. Angel Maestro (1882 – 1889) and it was dedicated in 1890.

The Recollects left Negros in 1898. They also abandoned Bayawan Church, which was absorbed by the parish community of Siaton. The Recollects resumed their mission during the American colonial period, and they handed over the spiritual administration of the parish to the diocesan clergy in 1961.

Unfortunately, the colonial-era church was destroyed in 1907. The present-day church was constructed by Fr. Juan Rodriguez in 1925.

Tawo-Tawo Festival Activities

The heart of the fest is the grand street dancing that features various symbols of farming culture: water buffalo (carabao), scarecrow (tawo-tawo), bird (maya), and farmers. The choreography also reflects the labor and the joy in the bountiful harvest, a reality of the city’s many farm workers.

The highlight is the presentation of the story that explains how Bayawan acquired its name. The story goes that when the first Christian missionaries set foot in Bayawan, they were not welcomed by the natives. While some natives lived under foreign rule and converted to Catholicism, others retreated to remote interior lands to escape from the clutches of the Spaniards and remained opposed to colonial authorities.

One day, a holy mass was offered in the church. As the priest was about to raise the Holy Eucharist, he was struck by a lance that led to his immediate death. From then on, the town was called Bayawan from the word bayaw, which means to raise.

Other events of the fest include cultural shows, sports, parties, tournaments, beauty pageant (Miss Bayawan), workshops, exhibits, competitions,

How to reach Bayawan City

Bayawan City is about two to three hours away from Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport.


Tawo-Tawo Festival Summary

NameTawo-Tawo Festival
CelebrationCulture, Religion, Scarecrow
ChurchSt. Thomas of Villanova Church
Contact(035) 226-3105, (035) 422-4168
DateFebruary 18
LocationBayawan City, Negros Oriental
OrganizerCity Government of Bayawan
PatronSt. Thomas of Villanova
ReligionRoman Catholic