Higantes Festival

Higantes Festival is a month-long artistic, cultural, and religious festival held in the town of Angono, Rizal, Philippines every November.

Dedicated in honor of St. Clement of Rome, also known as Pope Clement I, and as thanksgiving for good harvest, it is known for its grand fluvial parade in Laguna Lake and colorful giant puppets made out of paper machie.

It is one of the Philippines’ intangible cultural property and listed on the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region.

History of Higantes Festival

Higantes Festival comes from the word higante (loaned from the Spanish word gigante), which means giant. Records of a church in the town of Angono dates back as early as 1571 as documented by Fr. Gaspar San Andres in Conquistas delas Islas Filipinas.

It is the only church in the Philippines that is under the patronage of St. Clement of Rome, the patron saint of mariners and fisher folks.

For years during the Spanish rule, the town’s yearly fest did not include any giant puppets as part of celebration. The life of St. Clement and its commemoration precluded any use of them.

The puppets were introduced by the townspeople eventually. Exactly how, when, and why are inquiries that open up to multiple, varying accounts.

One possible explanation provided is that they were instruments of protest against abusive land-owners towards the end of Spanish colonization. Giants were made to look very much like the prominent elite in town, making available a language with which the poor can register their mockery.

However, James Owen Saguinsin of Far Eastern University demurred and mentioned that such vindictiveness was directed against a certain Karias Tangkad. Karias Tangkad was a caretaker of a property who was known to be bad-tempered and unpleasant, a man described to be a giant.

In another but related story, his name was a mean-spirited Zacarias Tangkad. He was not a mere caretaker but a land-owner to whom many in town had displeased enough that they made mocking effigy of him during the fiesta.

Another account stated that common folks were forbidden to hold more than one fiesta. They then made the most out of this restriction of their public and social life that they raised paper-machie higantes, a skill that was taught by Spanish friars.

Higantes, just like the claim above, were made to resemble the wealthy, ruling families of the time that was taken as a good-natured, half-meant retort. In time, the paper giants were presented as groups of three representing father, mother, and child.

It is said that in 1897, Perdigon Bolacan took the initiative to conduct the first ever Higantes Festival.

One last account is that the phenomenon of giant puppets is a rather recent development in post-war period. Saguinsin expressed it was Carlos Francisco, national artist, who asked the first ever puppet-creator Artemio Tajan to make higantes to enliven the festivities.

In 2013, the local government of Angono officially organized Higantes Festival.

Higantes Festival was one of the country’s festivals featured in commemorative stamps issued by the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) on November 22, 2014.

And in 2020, activities were available for streaming online to avoid crowds in response to COVID-19 pandemic. In the next year, visitors were discouraged from attending and only a select number of townsfolk were part of the activities.


Higantes are over ten feet tall and have a girth of about four to five feet. They mostly are human in form in the likeness of prominent people in society, but plenty of them are in the shape of animals, objects, and vegetables.

Towering, imposing, and multi-colored, they are eye-catching and impressive as as hundreds of them come down the streets during parades. Materials are traditionally paper mache and wood, while there are creations made of aluminum and fiber.

Devotion to St. Clement

Angono was called Hacienda de Angono during the Spanish colonial period.
According to Fray Gaspar San Andres in his work Conquistas delas Islas Filipinas, an early church was built in Biga in 1751. Its titular was San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Laborer).

In 1863, it was damaged from a powerful earthquake. Repairs were not carried out however. Instead, the church built in Ibaba became the new center of worship. Its titular was St. Clement.

According to oral tradition, a fisherman hauled the image of St. Clement in one of his trips out in the sea. It was first brought to the church in Biga and then to Ibaba.

The church in Ibaba was expanded beginning in 1865. Works were completed the next year, and it was constructed out of mulawin posts, cogon (for its roofing), and bamboo.

On July 2, 1881, a permit was issued by Archbishop Pedro Payo de Felix to built a more permanent house of worship. The bell tower was added in 1930.

Higantes Festival Schedule of Activities

Higantes Festival have many events lined up leading to, during, and after the feast day. Competitions are launched in the categories of cooking, dance, singing, and street dance. There are also shows in fashion, art exhibits and fairs, concerts, fun runs, fireworks display, and music fest.

Here are some of the biggest events.

Fluvial parade

Fluvial parade occurs on the feast day after the Holy Mass. The image of the patron is brought to a floating bamboo raft bedecked in flowers and decorations as it makes its way along Laguna Lake. It is followed by other boats that are as richly decorated.

A foot parade follows with parehadoras, kids wearing traditional costumes, paddle, and traditional footwear called bakya, and devotees wear the traditional costume of their trade complete with fish nets, paddles and traps. Participants engage in basaan where they sprinkle, shower, or douse others with water as an expression of celebration and in giving blessings.

Serenata ng mga Banda

Serenata ng mga Banda is a musical fest that occurs in the Church of St. Clement. It boasts of the popular Angono Symphonic Band and Angono Concert Band.

Higantes Grand Parade

Higantes Grand Parade happens a week before the feast day. It is conducted to such merriment and joviality with the higantes taking center stage. It is also the venue of various important contests such as marching band, drum and lyre, higante stop dance, and higante palaro.

Ginoo at Binibining Angono 2019

Ginoo at Binibining Angono are beauty tilts for men and women that were established in 2014. Winners are judged the best of the year’s candidates and who represent the virtues espoused by the festival.


Higantes Festival Summary

NameHigantes Festival
CelebrationArts, Culture, Religion
ChurchDiocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement
DateNovember 23
LocationRizal, Angono
OrganizerMunicipality of Angono, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement
PatronSaint Clement of Rome
ReligionRoman Catholic