Bangus Festival is a yearly cultural and food festival in Dagupan City in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines held every April 30. It is a celebration of the city’s production of the fish named bangus and many of its related products. A month-long festival, it is established as Dagupan City positions itself as the bangus capital of the Philippines, a tribute to the residents’ resilience, and a boost to the local economy.
The festival, officially named Dagupan City Bangus Festival, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. April 30 is usually declared a special non-working holiday in the city of Dagupan.
History of Bangus Festival
Bangus Festival comes from the word bangus, the local name for milkfish (scientific name chanos chanos). It can be raised in salt, fresh, or brackish water, and it is available to consumers either fresh or frozen. It is prepared in various ways such as smoked, fried, filleted or dried.
Bangus is considered one of the most cultivated fishes that can be found in all regions in the country except for Cordillera Administrative Region, placing the Philippines second place in terms of its production. The fish is also popularly considered the Philippines’ national fish, although there is no legislation that officially declared such statement according to National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
The province of Pangasinan is dotted with aquaculture ponds that cultivate the fish and produces over 27% of the country’s supply annually.
In Dagupan City, particularly, Bangus Festival was started by then mayor Benjamin Lim in 2002. It was established as the city’s annual festival and as a celebration of its production of bangus. The kind of bangus that it produces is renowned for tasty quality that is said to be brought about by its waters and the presence of algae called lablab that grows in the bed of the ponds.
Guinness Book of World Records 2003
On May 3, 2003, organizers were successful in their bid to break the Guinness World Record of the longest barbecue grill. They failed in their first attempt the previous year in breaking the record then held by Peru of 613 meters with 536 grills. They achieved the feat by extending the grill line up to 1,0007.56 meters. Their record was later broken by the town of Bayombong, also in Pangasinan.
Bangus Festival was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic.
Bangus Festival Schedule of Activities
Bangus Festival features a busy a calendar of activities such as trade fairs, entertainment, cultural and variety shows, and youth festival. It is usually graced by several artists and musical acts that are known nationally. Competitions are also open for the arts, cuisine, sports.
Here are some of the highlights.
Bangus Rodeo is a competition of the best quality bangus. Several categories exist. A category called ‘pretty bangus‘ chooses winners based on the freshness and appearance of the entries of the fish and longest bangus picks the entry with the most length. Skills in handling the fish are also part of the contests: bangus deboner, a race of who can debone the fastest; bangus-eating contest; and fastest bangus classifier, that is one who can separate fishes into specific weight categories.
Gilon-Gilon ed Baley Street Dancing
Gilon-Gilon ed Baley Street Dancing is a street dancing competition involving 31 barangays of Dagupan City. Its name means harvesting or catching of bangus. The competition is characterized by nimble dancers in colorful costumes moving to the beats of the drums and the presence of milkfish as props.
Additionally, the gilon-gilon dance is a series of movements that depict the steps in harvesting milkfish, and it was introduced in 1997 as part of the city’s 50th year anniversary of its founding.
Kalutan ed Dalan Street Party
Kalutan ed Dalan translates to barbecue on the street. It is the pinnacle of the festival where visitors can drop by a line of bangus being grilled on spitting coals along the streets of the business district of the city. Moreover it is also a street party. Various musical acts would grace the events to entertain visitors.
In 2023, Bangusan street party was part of the calendar of activities.
Pigar Pigar Festival
Pigar Pigar Festival is a cooking contest of the eponymous specialty dish and street food that has become a favorite and popular. Its recipe is deep-fried thin slices of water buffalo meat and liver served with aromatics (garlic and onion), assortment of vegetables, and sauce. Pigar pigar means to turn over, which is the process of cooking the dish.
Pisasalamat ed Ilog
Pisasalamat ed Ilog translates to river thanksgiving. It is an event in the festival that highlights the river systems in the city, which are source of livelihood for many of its residents particularly the Dawel-Watac River where mangroves abound.
Where to go
Most activities happen in major thoroughfares in Dagupan City such as Jose de Venecia Extesnsion and AB Fernandez Avenue, as well as in People’s Astrodome, indoor arenas, City Plaza, etc.
How to reach Dagupan City
Dagupan City can be reached via air and land-based trips. The nearest airport is Clark International Airport, which is about 100 kilometers away. Buses and vans are available to travel to the city.
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